[dms-discuss] Comments on Key Committee and digital access

Tim F davispcug at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 14 00:21:06 PDT 2013

October 13, 2013

Hi gang --

Well, Monday the 14th is the date we agreed to for interested people to comment
on the material posted by the Key Committee. I have enough comments that I did
not think it appropriate to scribble them all over the Key Committe's web page,
so I have put them in this long email. They are in sections like the ones on
that page.

So, grab your scuba gear and dive in:

Section: Key Policy Development

We (all of us in Davis Makerspace) are basically trying to decide how to grant
digital access (as compared to physical keys) to people.

It's an important decision because we need to be responsible tenants in our
rental space, because we have stuff that could be stolen, and because we have
stuff that could be at least theoretically dangerous (for example, somebody
could fall off of our ladder, or hit their thumb with one of our hammers, or cut
themselves with our scissors, and so on... not to mention the fusion reactor
that I hope to build soon...)

Those are considerations of responsibility; access and responsibility are tied

What other related ideas have come up so far in meetings and emails?

James has proposed that "Directors and door maintainers should have a physical
key in case of power outage or misbehaving software, but (anonymous) physical
keys should only be used if (traceable) digital keys are unavailable."

That sounds like a good idea to me.

And I believe that it was James that suggested that we recall the physical keys
from all the other folks, once the digital key system is working well.

That also sounds like a wise thing to do.

Section: Model Options

This is the core of the issue. Assuming that the ideas listed directly above
are accepted, we are "only" left with choosing the policy for granting digital

The simplest policy -- to allow anybody access to the space -- would not work.
There are simply too many irresponsible people in the world for us to let
everybody and anybody have access to the space. For example, a few months ago I
had ask some of the space's neighbors to call the police because some teenagers
were trying to climb onto the roof of one of the buildings near the space...
the same group had already checked out the space's doorway pretty carefully,
and left in a hurry as soon as I walked out into the alley. We should only give
access to people whom we can trust; unlimited access isn't responsible access.
(I don't think it was a real alternative, anyway.)

We do have bylaws about eligibility for voting, so one possible decision method
would be for all eligible voters to vote on granting digital access to a
particular applicant. I don't think that would be responsible access, and I
doubt that we could get the necessary consensus. So I don't favor that "general
vote" method.

One possibility is to have a trusted sub-group actually make the decision on
granting digital access to a particular person. For example, we could leave
that decision to our Board of Directors.

Another possibility is to have some condition(s) that must be fulfilled in
order to gain digital access. Sort of an automatic rule "Do this and that and
the other, and you will get digital access."

But neither of those simple approaches were instantly and unanimously accepted,
so we created the Key Committee and started compiling our thoughts.

James has said that he would "like to see a system where people who contribute
to the space get a digital (and revocable!) key." He listed three kinds of
* Offering to open and oversee the space during "open hours" (i.e., offering to
contribute time, personal energy, and responsibility).
* Coming in to the space to work on the door or fix the wiring (i.e., actually
contributing expertise in the form of real labor).
* Making a financial contribution.

Braden said he would "like to see the general philosophy be:
  * Key access does represent one taking on part of the shared responsibility
for stewardship of the space.
  * Key access does _not_ represent a reward."

And Braden has said that he believes that philosophy "would also discourage
key-holding members from using the space only for personal projects, or a
"co-working" space (e.g. rent-a-desk), or storage, etc., even if they
contributed something else of value to the space (time, money, materials)"

I think that Braden's philosophy of stewardship fits in well with the matters
of responsibility already mentioned. I think Braden's philosophy is the right
foundation upon which to build a policy of granting digital access.

I also think that it is clear that James' second kind of contribution
(actually performing expert labor) is part of being a responsible steward of
the space.

But I don't think James' first kind of contribution (offering to help)
or his third kind of contribution (money) are good enough.

After all, we are talking about granting digital access to trustworthy people.
It's all about trust.

How does an existing trustworthy group (call them "T") decide that somebody
else ("X") is trustworthy?

I don't think it should be a matter of money contributed by "X". Giving "X"
digital access because they contributed, say, $90, doesn't make sense if "X"
then has the opportunity to steal a $600 digital printer. Or to steal a piece of
handmade art that somebody has lovingly hung upon our wall. Or if it gives "X"
the chance to goof around in the space, hurt themselves, and cause lots of
emotional and insurance/financial woe to the group. Money doesn't prove that
you are responsible or trustworthy; it only proves that you have some money.

Similarly, I don't think that it should be a matter of "X" fulfilling a set of
conditions such as "You offered to run the space for 4 hours per week (or sweep
the floors once a week, or whatever), so you get a digital key." That's a
system that can be gamed too easily.

Instead, I feel that, for a group of our type and size, it should be a question
of "T's" experience with people, plus watching for subsequent good behavior on
the part of "X". If all of the members of "T" feel, based on their experience
in the school of life, that "X" is trustworthy of being a steward, then they
should grant digital access to "X" on a probationary basis.

And since "X" is on probation, I don't think that "X" should become a part of
"T"; the new person should not get to decide on admitting other new people.
For that important responsibility, they need to have demonstrated that they
are trustworthy.

This still allows Jordan's "sponsorship" proposal to work. I believe that it
was Jordan who proposed that an already well-trusted member ("T") of the group
could "sponsor" somebody that they they felt needed digital access in order to
do good things for the group. So Braden proposed that Lucian get digital
access, and we voted and accepted it.

I think that it would be better to have the Board make those decisions in the
future: only the Board should act as "T". Otherwise, if all the voting members
act as "T", probation doesn't happen: the new steward gets to vote right away
on giving access rights to other new applicants.

Similarly, I think that only the Board should get to act as sponsors. It
doesn't work to have general members act as sponsors for stewards; after all,
a general member might not be trustworthy themselves, much less their
candidate! Whereas the Board is presumed to be trustworthy (because we all
voted them into office), and so we can assume that they are proposing
good candidate stewards. And to be extra cautious, I think that any member of
the Board should only get to sponsor one or two stewards a year.

I think there can be different kinds of stewards; they are not necessarily
only that group of people who run the space during open hours. For example,
digital access is needed by the people who maintain the door access equipment.
Someday we might have a specialist who knows how to maintain a potentially
dangerous laser cutter; that person might not be a Board member, so they
wouldn't automatically get a physical key. The candy czar needs to be able to
service and stock the snack system. And so on. Note that all of those types of
stewards are primarily concerned with sharing responsibility for stewardship
of the space (Braden's philosophy).

So to summarize (Thank heavens! I thought he would blather on forever!) my
preferences for the Model Options:

* I oppose the Fee Model.

* I propose combining the Volunteer Model and the Sponsorship Model into one
new "Steward Model". It would be rewritten to emphasize a sense of
responsibility (as compared to emphasizing "volunteer tasks"). I think the
explicit and only purpose for granting digital access should be as a necessary
part of being a "steward" for our space. There would be several kinds of
steward; the distinctions would be by their main technical responsbilities
(e.g., Running Open Hours, Maintaining the Fusion Reactor, Candy Czar, etc.).
Only Directors would be able to sponsor stewards. A Director could sponsor at
most one or two new stewards per year. Stewardships would have well-defined
probationary periods, after which their terms would be indefinite periods,
subject to revocation by the Board of Directors. Only the Board of Directors
would vote to accept a sponsored steward.

* I would remove the Combination of Models, replacing it with the new Steward

Section: Responsibilities

Responsibilities are what stewardship is all about, by definition.

The page mentions some specific responsibilities.

* Cleaning the space is good, sure. Some existing key holders do it themselves
pretty much automatically. My life experience says: Encourage such people, but
don't expect to succeed in forcing others to be that way.

* I don't believe that it is practical to have every steward be able to train
people on every piece of equipment. That's one reason that there would be
several kinds of stewards. But every steward in charge of Running Open Hours
should be able to train people on basic nonlethal equipment. Specialists would
be needed to train people for the laser cutter and the fusion reactor, for

* The newly-appointed candy czar (ahem) already has the responsibility for
restocking the vending machine. 

Section: Procedure Options for Gaining Key Access

I've always felt that this section should have been part of the Model Options
section... see above.

Section: Revocation of Key Access

This is absolutely necessary, of course.

* Under the Steward Model the first two reasons would not be needed
(discontinuation of regular donations or regular volunteer activities).

* "Significant violation of DMS rules or policies" would still be needed.

* "Voting". I think this means that the Board could vote to revoke a person's
digital access. This needs some guidelines. Also, should the Board be able
to revoke digital access in a non-public meeting, for example to stave off
a lawsuit?

I think that resigning as a steward should also cause automatic revocation
of digital access.

Since I would think the Board should be the group that votes on stewards
proposed by individual Directors, the Board should also be the group that votes
on revoking digital access.

I believe that our recently revised bylaws would allow any voting member to
bring up a vote on any issue (such as revoking access for a crummy steward) at
a monthly meeting. So "at worst" it should take one month for a general outcry
to cause the revocation of access for a steward, assuming that the Board bowed
to the will of the voting members on the subject ("So passes Denethor, son of

I think it is great that we are discussing these matters that are important
to our group! Thank you Jeff and Braden on the Key Committee, and thank you
to the others who have participated!


-- Tim F

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