[hackerspaces] what is your opinion about the closing of 3rd ward?

William Macfarlane wmacfarl at gmail.com
Mon Oct 14 19:35:24 CEST 2013

Right, and 3rd Ward's mistake is probably not that they discontinued an
unsustainable membership practice (obviously unsustainable practices need
to be discontinued or modified), it's that they did so with little-to-no
explanation and in a way that alienated many members of their community.

A lot of what a co-working space is selling is community (and 3rd Ward was
as much co-working space as anything else), so any management decisions
that are harmful to the sense of community of the space make the product
less desirable.

Running a co-working space as a business is super-duper hard, and probably
just a bad idea.  I think it ultimately turns out that there's not a lot of
money to be made in shared artist/coworking spaces, since your target
market is poor and self-starting and reasonably able to form their own
little co-ops that suit their own needs.

Blending co-working, tool-library, and class-running as various kinds of
ways to make money to keep the space running works better, in part because
you just get a lot more utility out of your building (different kinds of
users using it at different times), but also because it makes the space
feel like one big community.

This is something that Artisan's does well that 3rd Ward (I think) did
poorly -- the sense that all of the different kinds of users and members
are variously and legitimately part of the community, and all the parts are
integrated together.  It's cool to take a class at Artisan's in part
because the resources are tremendous and the instructors are good, but it's
at least as important that the class is _in Artisan's_, and when you come
you get to wander around the space a bit, see lots of fun and interesting
people, many of whom are your friends and many of whom you wish were your
friends, making really cool things that you wish you knew how to make.

The "take free classes" "pro" membership at 3rd Ward might have been a
terrible financial decision, but this sort of option does a few neat
things.  It creates a membership tier that means "I'm really super-into
this organization", and does so in a way that creates a sense of
belonging-and-ownership.  There are some problems with this sense of
ownership/entitlement, but I think, at core, the informal "this is my
place" sense is really great and important as long as it's connected with
"I need to help it keep working."  The other thing that this kind of
membership does is it encourages long-time community members to take part
in classes, which are frequently the ways that new people get involved.
 This is neat because connecting new folks to older folks is the best way
to help new folks feel welcome!

I wonder whether a "take free classes" membership policy might be
profitably changed into something that fulfills these goals without being
an economic disaster.  Something like "if, 1 day before it starts, a class
isn't full, then a certain tier of member can take it for free" so that
your free class-takers are neither pushing out payers, nor causing lots of
extra classes to be run.  This doesn't work for some classes, which will
always fill up, but maybe that's okay.

On Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 10:23 AM, Gui Cavalcanti <gui at artisansasylum.com>wrote:

> One interesting piece of information that's pertinent to everyone that
> came out of this is that they were offering a membership with unlimited
> classes built into it - and, furthermore, that the removal of this offering
> after several years is one of the things that got everyone in an uproar.
> When the asylum offered an unlimited class pass, the members who used it
> ended up using 2x the price they paid for the pass in a year in payments we
> had to make to teachers - luckily, we kept the experiment small, and it
> didn't cause any serious harm. Given that 3rd Ward and the Asylum were of a
> similar size (programmatically and physically) I can see no possible way
> such a business plan/offering could've worked out in the long run.
> Navigate such discounts and deals at your own risk, especially as they
> become standard offerings in your space.
> Florencia Edwards <floev22 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Managing  a makerspace or hackerspace is soo hard. I think that this
> happening put the fact out there that its hard and requires subtle work and
> communication. Before this i thought only our makerspace struggled with
> money ,prices ,and how to make everyone welcome but not go bankrupt for not
> charging. This makes me realse we are not alone and that we can learn from
> this mistakes.
> El 13/10/2013 20:33, "William Macfarlane" <wmacfarl at gmail.com> escribió:
>> Yeah, I guess my question was whether there could be a trick of
>> contract-law that resulted in giving membership refunds priority over other
>> debts.
>> I did forget about personal guarantorage, which is a foolish thing to
>> forget about since I'm the personal guarantor on the line for my space.
>> On Sun, Oct 13, 2013 at 7:24 PM, Arclight <arclight at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> There are a few problems with choosing who to pay if you close down.
>>> First, it's become common for corporations, including non-profits, to need
>>> personal guarantors when they sign leases or pretty much do anything these
>>> days as a startup.
>>> Not paying the later rent check might leave your "angels" in a big
>>> financial mess.
>>> Secondly, if you actually need to declare bankruptcy, you absolutely
>>> cannot give preferential treatment to anyone. The court decides who will
>>> get what share and when, regardless of what you think is equitable. If you
>>> accept a preferential payment, you can be forced to give it back later.
>>> And I do agree that not having "the money talk" early and often is the
>>> surest way to fail.
>>> Arclight
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Discuss mailing list
>>> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
>>> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
>> --
>> -Will
>> www.partsandcrafts.org
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