Membership systems

Following on from a chat on Telegram, moving to a forum chat, notes from this:

  • Conversation grew out of a chat about Vending Machines, but it keeps bubbling up that there should be a census of all the systems and their features, and maybe looking at using ‘the best one’ as a basis for a group to put more effort into getting more spaces onto one system that everyone could use that was better documented for newbie spaces, and existing spaces could put their energies into one really good system, rather than lots of work in progress systems, if they wanted.
  • Alex mentioned Nottinghack, and Swindon’s were on GitHub [as are many others]
  • Paul Britton asked if there was “a de facto standard Hackspace admin system, that handles membership list, training records, authentication and access control interface”.
  • Sci: Not that [he is] aware of.
  • Stuart L: A few have been published but none have been used elsewhere AFAIK.
  • Stuart L: Stuart L, [13 Feb 2019 at 21:52:36]:
    They’re always too specific and/or dependent on tribal knowledge or habits. Loads of the US spaces have published theirs.
  • Sci: Think I said last time this came up, people usually roll their own either because existing options aren’t completely documented or people see features they can add but only by starting from scratch.
  • Paul Britton:I would have thought that this would be an ideal system to crowd collaborate
  • Bob Clough: HacMan are now using Brighton’s membership system
    Tom: has an out dated list
  • Stuart L: Whats the best out there now?
  • Sci: Centralising all the development is positive to some but antithetical to others.
  • Tom points out this conversation has happened before and there is an energy around this idea.
  • Tom suggested an audit of all the systems, Sci said with feature comparisons.

Audit of Hackspace Membership Systems

Distinct from access control systems.

Let’s work on an audit of systems:

Last I checked I thought the LHS used GoCardless for direct debit payments? Not “barclayscrape”, which I haven’t heard of before.

GoCardless is Direct Debit, LHS uses BACs transfer and some software @russ wrote to scrape their bank account for transactions with matching references to the users.

EMF uses GoCardless, as does SLMS.

Is GoCardless still referenced in the LHS code? I had a dev friend look it over last year and GC is the payment processing option they found.

I believe they were looking into enabling it.

p.s. Barclays Scrape:

Talking to @ChickenGrylls a couple days ago for his podcast series, it felt to me like the big chicken and egg situation of all spaces about having income before getting a space, but not having members because there’s no space was solved when someone knocked together the original SLMS membership system as a kickstarter type thing.

I wonder looking through all these spaces (the majority of which don’t have any form of membership system), how many would be happy with anything that reduced the admin burden of a manual process of reconciling PayPal or other payment methods.

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Manually reconciling accounts seems like the only option until you have sufficient IT infrastructure in place.

Are there any banks that have APIs for getting payment info? I know Barclays don’t. They didn’t even know what an API was. How do other subscription-based organisations handle this?

HH uses BACS transfers or cash at the moment,we are looking to move to a cashless payment system, like SumUp in future.

We built our own system at Teesside Hackspace. It’s a bit hacked together at the moment, so not on Github yet, but the cliff notes:

  • Gocardless
  • NodeJS
  • Database uses AWS DynamoDB (free tier)
  • API runs on AWS Lambda (free tier)
  • Auth uses Auth0
  • Sends emails using AWS SES
  • Listens to Gocardless webhooks and updates membership status
  • Stores RFID data for access control
  • Headless API with a separate front-end app integrated in website

Things we (I) like about it:

  • Small codebase
  • Costs nothing except Gocardless fees
  • We have lots of JS experience
  • Super easy to deploy

Things we (I) don’t like so much:

  • DynamoDB - would probably better off with something SQL based
  • Auth0 is a bit clunky and feels like overkill
  • Not much automated testing
  • If I wrote it again (which I was planning to but might wait and see if we arrive at a consensus here) I’d probably use Typescript (+Nest.js?) rather than vanilla JS
  • Decoupled architecture can lead to bugs, inaccessible to users without JS
  • Gocardless abandoned their JS library for some reason

In this Google sheet, are we assuming that because there is no way to join online, that there is no Membership system?

Added a field for whether registration is remote and/or local.

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Short of reaching out to each space that is the assumption I am making, but I am writing down what my findings are in reading their website, we could send our a short survey if we wanted to.

So Hackspace Manchester currently uses a forked version of build Brighton members system tweaked for us to allow for snackspace and fob purchases alongside some general tweaks to make it more relevant for our space.

Things I like about it includes its ability to manage tools and equipment, manage members storage and the handling of all member signups including automatic leaving and suspension if direct debit via gocardless failed or is cancelled and the ability to top up balances and spend that on laser time or snackspace etc

It really has sped up the time we spend on membership administration as members can now do most of the tasks themselves


It was a pain to get working/setup and there isn’t much documentation but I am glad we got over that hurdle as it works well for us

Other downside is we have yet to get the ACS part of it to work for us and had to have a few hacked together scripts to sync with existing systems

We have integrated it with Moodle which we are using for training and inductions including someone signing up for training automatically being enrolled in the correct course on Moodle and hopefully we will be launching the training on that as a live system soon.

barclayscrape is a tool Russs wrote for pulling transactions out of barclays online … iirc they dont use it anymore/now (tho Swindon does)

Re the point Tom made (somewhere) that it seems most spaces dont have a system / its hard to find the registration page - its sorta deliberate - we’d like to meet you before you signup. At least once, so while we have an externally visible URL, its given to you when you visit. It does seem that confuses some of our potential members tho, so I keep meaning to make said system at least more obvious.

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I agree with that, but I wasn’t actually looking for a join form, but a page that says how I would get involved, a lot of spaces hide it in About pages for example.

I’m off to bed, but I’ve got the basics of who has and has not obviously got a membership system that isn’t manual.

There are going to be spaces who don’t have public systems and we can’t see, if we can get a better sense of what we’re trying audit then we could send out a survey to all these spaces and ask them how it works.

Also there is this:

It’s a lot easier finding out about the different systems that exist, when someone just gives you a link that points to a list of links!