[hackerspaces] Order vs anarchy - how do you deal with that

Christopher Agocs chris at agocs.org
Sun Nov 11 05:23:32 CET 2018

At the South Side Hackerspace in Chicago, we started off with a set of
bylaws that defined how the space was going to be run. The bylaws defined a
board of directors, who could appoint members to be responsible for various
spaces within our hackerspace (woodshop, electronics bench, 3D printer
zone, etc.). These "area captains" take ownership in making sure tools are
maintained and things are put away. We believe very strongly in actocracy,
but we also believe that there needs to be some structure to keep
things moving.

The bylaws allow for members to be banned (this has only come up once).
They also allow members to propose rules by which the space must be run.
One of the rules defines a means storing half-finished projects in the
space, so long as there is the owner's name and date they'll finish the
project. If a lot of clutter is building up in the space, a board member
can put tags on abandoned projects, take pictures of them, email the
membership, and give people a week to respond before projects are thrown
out. There's very little email drama around it because people understand
the rules.

We believe that most people are generally doing good, and so any leadership
from the board is a light touch.

The bylaws are available here: https://wiki.sshchicago.org/wiki/Bylaws

To answer your questions directly:

> How do you organize your hackerspace?
We have a group of 5-7 members who serve on the board of directors. The
positions are elected every year, and any member in good standing may run.
The board selects members to act as area captains; they're responsible for
making sure tools are maintained, the areas are cleaned, and supplies are
bought. They spend some of their time at the space taking care of the space.

> Does really anarchy/actocracy work for you or do you have some set of
more specific rules?
More specific. Actocracy works well in early stages when a small core of
people are building the space, but it doesn't scale well I've found.

> How do you deal with mis-behaving members ?
The board has the power to ban a member, but it's only happened once and
after a lengthy series of warnings and uncomfortable conversations. If a
member messes up, we talk to them, explain what they did wrong, and help
them improve. If they don't want to do better, well, that's a problem.

> How do you deal with equipment having damaged/stolen?
Equipment breaks. We set aside some money to fix it. If we find a member is
intentionally damaging equipment, that's a problem that we deal with.

> Do you reward members having put some efforts in hackerpace running or
just all members are equal?
We have two tiers of members with keys to the space: Full members donate
more money every month; they can vote and get a storage locker. Partial
members get keys to the space and access to the tools, but they can't vote
or get a locker. The board can, and does, give people membership upgrades
to taking on additional responsibilities around the space.

> How do you deal with general mess made by people?
We grumble and clean it up. Area captains spend a couple hours a month
making sure their areas are usable. Personally, if I've noticed a lot of
tools left out, I'll spend some time working on tool storage rather than my
own projects.

> How do you deal with abandoned dust-covered projects whose owner doesn't
care about these anymore?
Create a rule that the membership finds reasonable that lets you give a lot
of warning that something will be thrown out if the owner doesn't remove it
or petition for it to be saved in an entirely reasonable amount of time.
Give plenty of warning, and err on the side of leniency, but you can't let
your hackerspace become an unusable pile of electronics waste.

Good luck!

On Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 5:47 PM Robert Holub <mrholub at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Dear all,
> I'm a member of one of hackerpace that is having interpersonal issues now
> that could be described like this:
> Although it has about 50 of paying members, only few of these are
> actually
> active ( i.e at least showing up sometimes in  place).
> It is practically impossible to ban somebody for anything (stealing etc.)
> as there is no any rule for this and as you can imagine single
> mis-behaving person can be a pain and there is no official way how to
> deal
> with it.
> Hackerspace has moved to the new place and it was a lot of work to
> rebuild
> it, some of members has put great effort in that while majority didn't
> care.
> There was a great mess in all of stuff after moving in, some of members
> has categorized stuff like parts, tools, wires etc.
> There were many dust-covered non-working projects project abandoned years
> ago so it was decided put these on the table and put it on mailing list
> in
> order to let owners know and let decide what to do with these.
> There was a huge flame war around this despite the fact that NO creations
> were intended to be thrown away just sort these out somehow (only junk
> like old PC power supplies having wires cut off were thrown out).
> Most of people didn't care about these old projects so these were put in
> the box and again NOTHING was thrown away.
> Now the place is more or less built up but there is no much of activity
> there as there are 2 movements in the hackerspace:
> First movement insists on actocracy but the problem is that leads in
> long-term to damaged projects/equipment of other people etc.
> Other movement would like to set more specific rules, for example:
> - option to ban persons acting against interest of hackerpsace (stealing
> etc.)
> - reward members putting efforts in making hackerspace running etc.
> - avoiding damaging of equipment so members wouldn't need worry about
> having some more sophisticated (and expensive) equipment there.
> It was told that actocracy / anarchy works in other hackerspace but no
> examples were given.
> This has got me an idea to simply ask how this is actually done in other
> hackerspaces.
> As you can probably feel, I'm in movement of setting up some rules in
> order to be able to keep some more sophisticated equipment in hackerspace
> without having it ruined etc.
> My question is:
> How do you organize your hackerspace?
> Does really anarchy/actocracy work for you or do you have some set of
> more
> specific rules?
> How do you deal with mis-behaving members ?
> How do you deal with equipment having damaged/stolen?
> Do you reward members having put some efforts in hackerpace running or
> just all members are equal?
> How do you deal with general mess made by people?
> How do you deal with abandoned dust-covered projects whose owner doesn't
> care about these anymore?
> Thanks in advance for your answers and putting some light in this.
> With respect,
> Mr.Holub
> ---
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