[hackerspaces] Need suggestions regarding some issues

maxigas maxigas at anargeek.net
Sat Jan 4 03:12:26 CET 2014

From: Avinash Sonawane <rootkea at gmail.com>
Subject: [hackerspaces] Need suggestions regarding some issues
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2014 19:46:34 +0530

> We are "Hacker's Den", a budding hackerspace at Pune, India. We
> started 4 months back. Currently we are doing fine but we are facing
> some issues (mainly administrative issues). I am here looking for some
> suggestions from the community like how you deal with these
> situations.

In general I would say that if you have so many questions maybe
you have to look for the root of all these problems and address
that one thing, rather then arguing over details.

My feeling, which could be easily misguided (!!!), is that your
"administrative problems" stem from either (a.) weakness of
solidarity between members or (b.) financial insecurity of the
hackerspace, or (c.) both. Any of these problems can be
addressed, but I am sure that you see that they require very
different solutions. Maybe you have to figure out if you really
need more...

 * rules, or
 * shared positive experiences, or
 * money.

Of course it is probably both beneficial and necessary to have
clear and explicit rules for the cases you outline, but if you
have to actually apply these rules in situations which are not
very rare and exceptional then your real problem could be found
elsewhere than the ever expanding bylaws.

Maybe an approach like this would help: do your members generally
know what to do if they break the hammer of their good friend, or
if their good friend breaks their hammer? Can you agree about a
good way to handle such cases between yourselves? So why does
that not work in the hackerspace? Would it be possible to make it
work, even if some members hate each other but all like the

In any case I try to answer your questions shortly, based on what
I have seen in various hackerspaces (mostly in the Netherlands,

> 1) Do you fund members' projects from your hackerspace's account ? Or
> the money in hackerspace's account is utilized only for funding
> hackerspace's projects (like doorbot, hosting charges for official
> website), for buying tools and for arranging events ?

The hackerspace organisation is often in charge of the continued
existence of the hackerspace only. This can be from only making
sure rent is payed through ordering mate to all of what you
write. However, members take an active role in making the
hackerspace. Doorbots are being built from trash, hosting charges
are nullified by donated hosting or setting up cabinets in the
hackerspace, tools are sent from upgraded university
laboratories, etc. Richer hackerspaces can affort to pay for more
stuff, but as long as you can pay the rent collectively, you
should be fine.

> 2) How do you decide to buy a new tool for your hackerspace ? Do you
> use voting or it's absolutely necessary that each and every member
> should say yes for that particular tool since the expenses will be
> paid from the group's account ?

As far as I understood, in RevSpace (Den Haag) there is an
interesting system where members or groups of members buy
equipment themselves, but when they donate it to the hackerspace,
the hackerspace organisation becomes responsible for buying the
"consumables" and for "maintenance".

Then of course the equipment is equally available for all
members, and equally financed by all members regardless of their
usage. That is what I call "solidarity" above. I think the idea
is that even though I am not using the 3D printer, I am still
happy that others are printing funny / politically relevant /
valuable plastic yodas using high-end equipment while I am hand
etching my craft circuits.

> 3) We have a group of members who built a quadrocopter and then they
> donated it to our hackerspace to be used for whatever purpose the
> group thinks the best. So what do you do with the donated hardware
> projects ? Do you give it to other member(s) who want to hack on it
> (and might burn it to ashes in doing so ;) ) on first come first serve
> basis or do you try to retain that project (as it'll continue to
> inspire new members/projects) by asking the interested members to
> built their own replica ?


> 4) Dues Policy
> a) What's your dues policy ? Let's say a member broke some group's
> tool then is it his/her responsibility to repair the same or whole
> group bears the expenses ?

The ideal is for members to repair what they broke, and to build
unbreakable tools. I think in every hackerspace there is at least
one member who will tell you that others are incompetent idiots
and she looses too much time repairing what others break. As I
said above, if you cannot face such problems as a community (even
a grumpy one at that), then maybe it is not about the broken 3d
printer really.

> b) If member has to pay for what (s)he has broken then is it
> compulsory to pay the full expenses or (s)he can get away with it by
> paying just a part of it ? In later case additional punishment can be
> imposed like restricting the access to the space for few days so that
> financially weaker hackers wont have to say bye bye to the space if
> they don't have the full amount.

Punishing your members is not really productive because it
alienates the punished one from other members and from the
collective itself, so for example next time the person will hide
the breakage rather than try to fix it, or at least report it.

> c) If member has to pay for what (s)he has broken but (s)he simply
> refuses to pay and walks away then what do you do ? How do you ensure
> to get the dues from members ? Is there some legal arrangement or
> something?

Membership sometimes involves being officially a member of a
foundation, association or similar. These official organisations
can make their own rules and have their own legal means.

> 5) Borrowing
> a) If a group of members are in great need of a particular tool and a
> member X has that particular tool but (s)he don't want to donate it to
> the space rather (s)he is willing to lend it. Then whom (s)he lends
> the tool? To the space (The org) or to a particular person whom (s)he
> didn't even know and was willing to lend just because those group of
> people were the members of the same organization (s)he was ?

Maybe the owner of the tool can decide which option she prefers?
After some time there could be a shared feeling about which is
the safest bet.

> b) If the tool is borrowed by the Org and not by a particular person
> and then the said tool is broken by a member Y then who reimburses the
> tool to member X ? The space or Member Y ? What if member Y simply
> walks away ?
> c) If space decides to bear the expenses for 5b then what if there are
> number of people who never wanted that tool in the first place and
> neither they used it nor they broke it then how much it's logical to
> pay from the group's account ?
> d) To avoid problem 5c do you take voting ? And then in case of any
> mishap asking the group of yes voters to pay ("member Y walking away"
> problem solved) ? What if a No voter uses that particular tool ? How
> do you restrict the access to Yes voters only (as only they gonna pay
> in case of any mishap) ?

Hm this is getting complicated. Keep in mind that being a member
of a hackerspace somehow means supporting...

a. morally,
b. financially,
c. physically,

...some things you find...

1. unnecessary,
2. utterly boring,
3. horrible and harmful.

Unfortunately, this problematic is not very different from other
aspects of life, like railroad club or your local nation state.
However, a hackerspace should bring you enough interesting /
important / amusing experiences that you can put up with others
being, well... others.

> Please pardon me for so much of text. Looking for your valuable
> suggestions. Thank you!

I think one of the most valuable functions of this list is to
support hackerspaces when they have problems, so you should feel
free to use the time of people here. 

> Regards,
> Avinash Sonawane (RootKea)
> PICT, Pune
> http://www.rootkea.wordpress.com

maxigas, kiberpunk
http://research.metatron.ai/ ← new domain \o/
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