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

Jurgen Gaeremyn jurgen at gaeremyn.be
Sun Nov 11 10:58:48 CET 2018


as we're going through a rough patch ourselves, I can resonate with your 
mail (despite obviously every situation being at least slightly 
different). A great resource we'll be tapping into is the "Hack The 
Hackerspace" resource that our befriended hackerspace of Ghent once 
developed during their rough patch: https://github.com/0x20/HTH

I'll also try answering your questions at the end.

I think we already heard the key issues...

1) this is a growing pain.

A do-ocracy (or meritocracy, or the "be excellent to each other" type of 
rules) works great in a community where every persons gets to interact 
with every other person. Lots of group dynamic theories here, subtleties 
might differ. Won't elaborate. At a given point, different persons have 
a different vision of excellence (or 'doing stuff'). Especially when 
people did big efforts to do things they find important for the space 
(major clean up is a typical example) that others might not notice 
(really? wasn't that table empty all the time?), appreciate (meh, I love 
a bit of a mess) or even not approve of ("wow, I can't find anything 
anymore now" or "who ditched my car I've been planning to work on the 
last 3 years?") - this can get painful. Here are a few of the hidden 
dynamics behind it (that people often aren't aware of themselves): * 
quid pro quo: "I did this effort, so I expect at least the same effort 
from others" * "not maintaining what I did, is a form of disrespect" 
(towards me or towards the space) * failure to see a difference in vision

2) unanimous is a funny thing, it can sting.

People love the unanimous decision, it gives a feeling of agreement. 
Just as a sidenote, it might mean that everyone with different opinions 
already left ship... leaving the hackerspace with a poorer (one-sighted) 
group. If 50% of the members left the space, there's not much pride in 
making an anonymous decision. If this is a critique, it's to our own 
space where I have seen very passionate and skilled people leave because 
of hard confrontations.

So here are your questions:

* How do you organize your hackerspace?

We have a board - it's a legal obligation for running a non-profit.
Some think this board is only a legal vehicle but the voice of the 
commons (regular meetings, open to all) should take decisions.
Some think this board should take leadership.
It's a bit funny if people step into the board with one idea and the get 
hammered for not doing the other.

* Does really anarchy/actocracy work for you or do you have some set of 
more  specific rules?

Won't answer here, what we're doing isn't working. We're in the phase of 
rethinking this.

* How do you deal with mis-behaving members ?

This is a tough one. Define misbehaving.

At one point, we had an issue that went all wrong. This person got a 
calming down period where he could come to the space with non-member 
permissions (his key was revoked). He needed to regain trust again. 
While this person felt hurt by this harsh decision, he decided to stay 
away completely for a while. Then he started coming back to the space 
and got active again. In the group inside the space, this moment was 
also an important moment of introspection: how do we handle small 
conflicts on an individual level (avoidance, discrete note, public 
shaming, ...) and as a group (gossip, creating clans, ...)?

* How do you deal with equipment having damaged/stolen?

Well... there's a huge difference between 3 kinds of breakage: "I fucked 
up" - "Carelessness" - "Malintent" (you could state the same for stealing)
Fuckups... are inherent part of learning and being creative. So let's 
see how we can solve this as a group (person breaking stuff obviously 
chips in)
Carelessness... is a tough one - often there's no real culprit. Thinking 
of machines breaking because of lack of maintenance. I like the idea of 
a responsible for every area (saw this idea in Electrolab Paris too).
Malintent... is often a manifestation of a deeper rooted problem (with 
the individual, like drug addiction - or with the space, like sindering 
conflicts). Often a person leaves after this breach... or you can take 
on a personal and/or group track of restauration.

* Do you reward members having put some efforts in hackerpace running 
or  just all members are equal?

We've tried a few small things - not really worth noting though. The 
most important thing is saying "thank you" and putting great jobs in the 
This can even be a "thank you to the unknown person". Ever sent a 
picture of the cleaned up space you walked into to the mailing list 
adding: "thanks to whoever cleaned up our space! You are excellent." 
Pretty sure the person(s) who did it, will feel great (even if nobody 
knows who it was).

* How do you deal with general mess made by people?

In the past, this was a bigger problem. Currently, it's down to an 
acceptable level. Here are a few thing that help. They're gentlemen's 
- as soon as a visitor is coming (button in the elevator - so this could 
be a member too), a robot voice says: "clean up your mess, we have a 
visitor coming."
- the person closing, takes a quick glance to clean up the last neglects 
(only works if it's within reason)
- unattended personal projects should be in a member shelf at all time
- cut a person some slack if it's a one time slip-up
- address people when stuff is lying around too often
- we have a crate with electro-junk that goes to the dump when it's 
getting full (= free game to recycle).
- sort our other junk

* How do you deal with abandoned dust-covered projects whose owner 
doesn't  care about these anymore?

see above: if they're not in a shelf, a message goes out (personal if we 
know whose it is, otherwise to the mailing list)
There was a post (iirc here on the list) of the board date-tagging stuff 
and if it's not gone after a week (or whatever agreed upon timeslot), it 
goes to the dump-crate

So I'm wishing you all the best with your hackerspace! If your mail 
reflects what is living in your space... organize a meeting (or a few) 
and work towards a solution. There were some great posts on that already.


Op 10/11/18 om 23:47 schreef Robert Holub:
> 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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