Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Member Relationship Managment (MRM)

So first some helpful links:

It sometimes thought that the existing CRM systems are generally too “feature rich” for Hackspaces needs and that a new one can be set up by a competent coder over a week end.

CRM can start as a spreadsheet with people’s details. And up from there.

It would be interesting to see what the different spaces do and find out if there could be one approach that could fit all Hackspaces.

Hi @amunizp,

I completely agree - at Leigh Hackspace we have a range of user (both member and ‘administrator’) needs around this area, but we haven’t been able to find a suitable ‘off-the-shelf’ product that we could implement. We have a lot of software - probably too much - but we are still lacking that ‘central hub’ or glue layer that would connect them all together.

We use:

  • Wordpress for website
  • Discourse for public-facing discussion/bloggery, and as a place for private discussion that’s more persistent than a free Slack account with its 10K message limit.
  • Slack for real-time discussion, chat, and kitten GIFs
  • GoCardless for membership payments
  • Eventbrite for event ticketing and payment
  • We have a ‘home-rolled’ RFID entry register, but it’s flaky and it isn’t yet trusted to operate the door locks
  • The usual gamut of social media accounts( tw fb ig ), but these can be connected using Zapier/IFTTT and are OK
  • MailChimp for mailing lists and advertising
  • Trello for jobs/todos

The sorts of things that would be nice if they could work:

  • When a new member signs up via [payment gateway] (GoCardless in our case) they are automatically added to our Slack team and given ‘member’ group access on Discourse. (Conversely, when a member cancels via [payment gateway] they are removed form Slack and given ‘non-member’ access rights on Discourse again)

  • We want to be able to see who is in the space at any given time (from RFID entry) so we can track usage, peak times, for fire safety, and security. (Admins should be able to view this info remotely). It would be nice if the fact of the space being open and having [greater than x number of people in it] could trigger a post on social media - ‘come join us we’re open’, kind of thing.

  • We could do with a place to handle management of membership ‘certifications’ ie Big Scary Machine certification, who is deemed appropriate to use and teach what tools.

  • Space access credential management (ie RFID codes for door locks etc) - and possibly slightly more simply for the space like our that use physical keys, management of ‘who has got which key set’.

I know some Hackerspaces (NottingHack) have built their own Hackspace Management System (HMS), we did look into whether we could extend or build on NottingHack’s HMS but we didn’t get far. Maybe as a larger UK Hackerspaces community, this would be a really important collaboration, to build a flexible, extensible, Hackspace management system.

I’ve noticed a lot of Hackspaces (though not all) are using Discourse as an in-house forum, and I have some Ruby/Rails skills, so I was considering building some of these features I’ve mentioned above as a Discourse ‘Hackerspace-Admin’ plugin, since this would reduce the need for another system, and might simplify the integrations. Thoughts on this anyone?

Are there any other HS organisers out there with these needs (and others), who want to collaborate and make something that everyone can use?

And is there anything out there internationally we could get involved in?


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Our (SLMS) membership system was made by @unknowndomain (who’s no longer a member, but still advises on the topic)

IMO, it’s an excellent bit of software.

It handles access permissions (front door, roller shutter, laser cutter, band saw etc.) It includes discourse account linking, and automatic promotion/demotion from discourse groups according to those access permissions

It has an activity log (Joe blogs, opened the door) and this synchs to a chat popup on discourse (using the babble plugin)

It uses Gocardless for payments.

There’s totally a danger of

and the hurdle of data migration is pretty high, but I think this would make a good start for a universal makerspace system.

At Makespace in Cambridge, we have a collection of cardboard boxes tied together with string. We use Recurly to collect payments (except for a few odd cases), and it’s therefore also our de facto membership list, a proprietary access control system (Net2) updated by hand, Meetup for arranging both public events and space inductions and training, an unloved Wordpress site, a wiki which is quite useful especially for equipment info, a Google group for discussions, a mail server where we can set up aliases, and lots of Google docs and spreadsheets.

And it’s still better than the half-finished custom app we used to have, written before my time by some well-meaning member, which tried to tie some of these things together but basically didn’t work.

the hurdle of data migration is pretty high,

The biggest barrier is not data migration exactly, but the leap into the unknown. The system above looks great (I’m sure there are a few systems that look great), but what would we have to do to switch to it? Someone with quite a lot of expertise in the area, but also with enough time (i.e. a non-existent person) would have to research what the system does and how that fits with our existing practices and data, and work out what we could and couldn’t migrate, and how we’d have to change our procedures to fit better with the system, and what could be changed in the system to fit better with us … before we ever got to migrating any data. And probably do the same for three other systems because quite likely the first one we looked at would turn out not to be as finished as it had seemed or not to do what we needed. So before we migrate anything that’s a month’s work for a highly skilled IT professional, and that’s why these things don’t happen.

What could change this is some brave developer taking the plunge and setting up as a consultant for one of these bits of kit, going into a hackspace and working out how they work and what they can get out of the system and setting it up for them. Whether there are enough hackspaces yet, or they have enough money, to make this a viable business I don’t know. I’d suggest it’s something the Foundation should hope to encourage/support at some point.

I think a system for all spaces won’t work, the same way that CRMs don’t fit… Not all spaces are the same, so it would always have extra features a particular space doesn’t need, and as mentioned above, each space would need to evaluate.

We could verify by extending this discussion into a comprehensive survey to find out?

For the record, Swindon did research and didn’t find many googleable/findable systems one can just take and use for this sorta thing (when did the the SLMS one appear? didn’t find it ), and the ones we did find were either too big / much faff or didn’t cover what we were looking for. So we wrote our own.

I suspect any shared system needs to be modular, well documented, and have permanent conultants/advocates.

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This is the problem yes, but the solution really is for a general purpose piece to be made that as you say is flexible enough to extend it, but really spaces need to modify their processes to work with the system they use.

Reality is no one wants to do that.

The Makerspace membership system is on GitHub as always:


  • Local user database, passwords are hashed multiple times with individual 512 character salts per user.
  • Emergency contact details
  • Minimal profile data kept
  • GoCardless payments
  • Discourse integration for controlling access to groups
  • Has permissions system for access control to various types of doors or tools
  • Event logging of what has happened
  • Also able to log data like temprature
  • Has an API for access control and tool control systems
  • Relatively modular although many modules reference each other due to the nature of the system, but it’s easy to add new stuff, less easy to pick out old stuff. But each function is isolated into Express Apps

It’s based on Node.js, using Mongo as a database, Express as the server extension, PUG templating engine, Bootstrap themed.

I’m mostly wondering why our research didnt find it…

Reality is everyone wants to do it, their own way/preferred language. :wink:

@unknowndomain @tomnewsom Thanks for the tipoff about your management system. We were totally looking for something like this. Happily we already use GoCardless and Discourse so it’s a perfect fit. Will Be Installing Soon.

I totally agree that each space has got to find something that suits, but the availability of something that does ‘80%’ of what’s needed, for ‘80%’ of Hackspaces, is useful and we would definitely contribute back to it.


It’s never really been setup by anyone other than me, so may need some help to get it running, and understand some of the undocumented concepts.

looks good @unknowndomain… real shame we didn’t find this when researching a couple years ago. Ah well. That said, would be interested to look at migrating to it… is there a test system we could play with? or even get a temp account on the live system to get a feel for how it works?

If other spaces are looking at installing the SLMS system, we’d be very interested to hear the results of their efforts. The point where a project has to be installable by more than one person, and accommodate more than one organisation’s peculiarities, is a significant milestone. Good luck!

I’ve been trying to resist chipping in on this thread, but I’m curious.

You’ve all said how wonderful it would be to use a solution that does 90% of what you need but a number of you have dismissed CivCRM with no explanation as to why other than “Ewww, CiviCRM”.

So I’ll open the floor to the question, why are people re-inventing something that’s largely been solved by an existing Open Source project with a huge userbase and active development?

Serious question.


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I know you and I have had this discussion before but I’ll summarise what
I can remember from the last time I looked at it so others can join in:

  • civi is huge, it’s a sledgehammer to crack an egg
  • last time I looked civi didn’t do most of what we need for a hackspace
    system (nor for the other community group I was looking at it for) it
    did a tiny fraction of the things we needed and a whole lot of other
    things that we really didn’t.


Ian Norton wrote:

First I’ve heard of CiviCRM, so that’s one reason. A browse around the website doesn’t make it clear that it does much of what we need. Are you asking theoretically or from having used it to run a hackspace? I’d be interested to hear about the experience if so. It might do what we need, but so might lots of things.

I wouldn’t say it’s a sledgehammer to crack an egg. CiviCRM may well be a sledgehammer, but hackspace management, unfortunately, is no egg. It is much harder to crack than that.

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Ref CiviCRM - similar conclusion to @NotQuiteHere … just the effort to work out if it might be suitable for the job seemed more than it was worth. A case study example would really help.

Notes to follow, but yes we will be using it because it does 95% of what we need.

  • Membership management
  • Payment gateway integration with Paypal and also Go Cardless
  • Integration with Drupal, Wordpress or Joomla (though Drupal is the best supported) allows you to restrict areas based on smart groups which know if someone is a paid up member or not
  • Event management which are probably useful to bigger spaces running courses or events and want to support booking places

There’s a pile of other things it does which probably aren’t relevant (but might well be to some spaces), but there’s always the option to turn those things off. A good example might be CiviVolunteer ( which allows tracking and management of volunteers within an organisation. Might be interesting to very large spaces, but we certainly have no use for it in our less than 20 member space :wink:



Good stuff… follow-on questions:

  • Does it allow us to capture RFID tokens against members?
  • Does it offer an API for access control to hook into? i.e. a “is this badge valid” endpoint?
  • What’s the registration experience for a new member like? can it be customised?

It allows storage of arbitrary data against a contact record using custom fields which is my intention for access control tokens.

API access, yes - all REST and everything.

Registration experience is forms in your CMS so whatever you can do with your CMS you backend onto Civi. For Drupal that’s Drupal forms, for Wordpress there is a plugin for it, Caldera.



cool - if you are planning to set this up in near future, would be great if you could do a live demo - perhaps over Hangout / Skype. Similar for South London system - @unknowndomain would you be up for a live demo / Q&A?

We could also record those for other groups to review :slight_smile:

Yup, happy to do that. I’ll be documenting the Civi setup for our use as a case study.

Might be worth while to step back and talk about peoples requirements and things they would assess a possible CRM / MRM against so that we can sensibly discuss those in a new Hackspace Owners Manual section :wink:

This is going to be wide and varied, but I still maintain that my desire with the HOM is to present relevant high level info to people so they know what to look for rather than the specifics, with more details on implementation in case studies. Really need to write that down and add a section on how to contribute too…


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