Open letter about open evenings

(unknowndomain) #1

We’ve been running weekly open evenings at Makerspace for over 2.5 years in this space every Wednesday at 19:30, we had the same system in our previous space too.

Open evenings allow us to welcome the public into our space on a regular basis which is important, but to many they’ve become like a chore to be done, like cleaning the bathroom, emptying the bins, or tidying the space that almost no one wants to do.

The few people that do actually want to host open evenings are not always available and shouldn’t be relied on exclusively to do this, we should all chip in.

Nearly every week a director has to make a call for members to signup to host open evening and it’s almost always the same group of people who volunteer, and when they don’t as has been the case for at least 3 weeks now, it falls to members trying to use the space to cancel their plans to help out.

Myself and Mark ended up hosting it this week, Paul last, and Mark again the week prior, as it stands right now there is no one on the schedule to host any slot in the foreseeable future.

When I last wrote a similar message about this almost 2 years ago it was because I was that member constantly jumping in at the last minute to plug the gap, and I got fed up of it.

Two years later the same problem still exists and has existed all along, there are times when folks are more proactive at volunteering but generally it’s an issue that never went away and just like two years ago every time someone (usually me) has proposed a variation to the open evening scheduling, an extremely small group of members objected against this.

While I support the idea of some form of regularly scheduled open evening, the solution we have now is by no means perfect, we could focus our energies on more polished, less frequent events, and we could offer events at different times of the day and week to make it more inclusive to parents and shift workers.

I respect that there is a small group of members who have a vision of a weekly open evening however they aren’t usually the ones plugging the gaps when people fail to sign up for their vision, and it has in my view got to the point you cannot even have a sensible conversation about changing open evening.

Two years of often weekly messages chasing signups and last minute filling the gaps shows this isn’t working, we’ve grown to 230 members and we still can’t host a weekly open evening any better than when we were 100 members.

For the next members meeting I would like to see an major agenda item being to discuss this, how could we rethink open evening to make it better?

It would also be really nice to hear peoples views about:

  • What do you like and dislike about open evenings as host and visitor?
  • What prevents you signing up to host more frequently?
  • How often would you be willing to host?
  • What could we do to improve open evenings?
  • Other thoughts about open evenings and scheduling regular events.

(PaulY) #2

I hosted a lot last year. But my working schedule has changed and means I can’t really commit to hosting any longer due to work commitments. Maybe it’s the same issue that other people have?

I wonder if changing Wednesday open evening to another more busy time could help?

Saturday 3-5 maybe. There’s more people around then I think. Less formal. More disturbing. As in if you’re there to work on projects you may well have to show some one round briefly at some point.

Maybe we need to divide stuff up a bit? Could have a Take The Bins Out Rota. A Clean The WC Rota. Separate this from the hosting.

Additionally rotas:

  • Vacuum The Cleanspace Rota.
  • Clear the metal bench rota
  • Clean the Microwave Rota
  • Clean the Fridge Rota.
  • etc

All programme into the membership system and displays on LED board and hooter when you come in. Or something less time consuming to set up…

…also we have the option of trudging on

(unknowndomain) #3

Looking at other spaces Wednesdays are not usually the quietest day, so I suspect it’s more likely that Wednesdays are quiet because of open evenings being disruptive, not the other way round.

You see it when people schedule meetings, they actively avoid open evening.

(PaulY) #4

My point exactly.
Let’s give Wednesday s evenings back to the members to do their stuff.

Make a conserted effort to start a new thing on Wednesdays like a wood work Wednesdays. Or metal Wednesdays. Or whatever. Or just a normal members night.

And shift the Open Time to Saturday afternoon that is a natural time for many people to be down.
As in it’s not on a school night, so more people about more members about.
What I mean is people naturally come down then as it’s the weekend.
Less formal.
I think there’ll be less host dodging as many members have to come then.
If it’s not a tour as such it can be less blah blah.
More people may be available to drop in with a mind for hosting as it’s not a school night.

“Open Afternoon” is a bit of a mouthful though …

(Mark Johnson) #5

Dare I make a suggestion that those that have used the space in the last month are put on a list/ rota to host a Wednesday.
And take off those that have hosted.

Gives those that are using the space a chance to give something back

(unknowndomain) #6

People should suggest away theres no right answer, we just need to be thinking more practically about how to host open evenings, because even right now no one is signed up for Wednesday coming, or any future open evening.

(Dermot Jones) #7

I think we have to actively nudge members to do this – I still believe it feels daunting/choresome to many members to host, when in reality we’ve made it incredibly simple now.

Great to have a discussion around this. I’m in favour of all imaginative solutions that ensure we maintain our ‘open to the curious’ status.

Is there any evidence that members avoid working on projects on open evenings? If that’s the case it would be useful to hear from those members and find out what the perceived issues are – and maybe address those rather than see open evenings as the issue.

We’ve held meetings and working groups during open evenings in the past without issue – the Time to Talk one springs to mind. And there was a Fusion 360 workshop recently. How was that @StudioNelle @Jonathan?

(unknowndomain) #8

Here’s the data, a massive dip mid week on Wednesday inexplicably, and I’m fairly sure Orange Wednesdays isn’t a thing any more :laughing:



Thats great when there is someone to host, but it’s 2 days to go to the next open evening and no one is signed up still…

(Pete Hellyer) #9

the statistician in me isn’t convinced, can we see the error bars?

(Andrew D) #10

There is a larger relative dip in Monday attendance, as well as surges in Sunday and Thursday attendance. Statistical stuff happens. Wednesday is still a more popular weekday than either Monday or Friday. Does the attendance at monthly member meetings on Tuesdays possibly account for the relative popularity of Tuesdays?

(unknowndomain) #11


Having run a number of events it’s generally well known that Monday a bad day to hold events as it’s the first school night of the week, and people don’t show up, you see that in places like Canopy not opening Mondays in spite of staff being there working.

Similarly Friday night is a bad night because people go out to the pub etc…


I’m not saying the data is perfect, however there can’t call for evidence then discard it when you get it.

(Pete Hellyer) #12

I wasn’t dismissing the evidence, I’d just like to see how large the variance in the mean that you present is; I.e. is there a statistical decrease in entries on a Wednesday or is there a large amount of skew in the data relevant to Wednesday?

The ‘average’ value of a dataset hides a lot of relevant information that is more thoroughly described by presenting the variance as well as the mean.

(Chanelle) #13

It worked really well, visitors looked on as we worked through fudion and had a few questions about what we were up to. I think it created a nice community atmosphere. I don’t feel the session interfered with the open evening.

I do think a rota could be an option. I’m not sure this is the best space discuss but it does feel like the same people step up or are asked to help out with open evening and there are a fair few members that regularly attend to use facilities and take advantage of inductions but have never offered services to cover open evening. Thats not a dig but an observation. And I appreciate its difficult to rota volunteers but I set one up something similar for a community craft workshop which ran monthly and put volunteers into teams. They had free rein on how they ran the sessions and by having a team meant if one was not able to attend they could ask someone in there team/group to cover.

(unknowndomain) #14

The most likely reason the wednesday data would be skewed is the door being propped open although that doesn’t seem to happen much these days.

(Tom Newsom) #15

(I miss the “YOU LEFT THE DOOR OPEN” buzzer from the old space)

(Beth Slater) #16

I’ve done an induction during an open evening before and it didn’t seem to be a problem. I think it meant that most of the questions and general discussion from the folks being taken round happened in the clean room rather than the wood workshop. But it was also nice to be able to show a machine in action and that we support people in learning new things.

(Andrew D) #17

I was pointing to the fact that there is a larger relative drop in attendance on Mondays than on Wednesdays. Monday might be a bad day, but that does not explain why it was relatively a better day last year.

The two charts do not appear to support the narrative of a relative fall in Wednesday attendance. It appears to me that, for example, the ratio of Tuesday to Wednesday attendances in the two graphs looks nearly identical. I would estimate around 1.3 : 1 in each case. The relationship between Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays looks like it has held fairly constant, with relative changes on the other days of the week.

(Dale Connolly) #18

From a noobs point of view, the open evening I attended was on the Fusion 360 night. It was good in a sense as it showed the community in action and was insightful as I’m a complete CAD novice, so to see what can be achieved was good. However…it was a bit awkward as we couldn’t be shown around the electronics area or look at the 3D printer and sewing area etc. There was about 15 of us looking round and that’s too many to have milling about if you’re trying to learn/teach something quite in-depth. I think having a bunch of members knocking about on a Wednesday evening to purely talk to the prospective members and to give an idea of the ‘feel’ of the place would be better than having classes running during the evening. If there was 3-4 people there, you can have one doing the tour whilst the others chip in and chat to the people and answer any questions. I’m definitely up for being present on a Wednesday in the near future to make up the numbers, but would probably need to get my own bearings in the space before doing that.

(unknowndomain) #19

@andrew_d I don’t really understand what you are saying but from my perspective this isn’t the primary reason for this letter, which is that members aren’t signing even with regular nagging.

However there is a clearly visible decrease mid week and you can either say that Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are unusually busy days, or you can see that Wednesday is more than 20 unique members less over the course of the parts of the year this data covers.

@DAC17 The idea is that open evening is just what you described, an opportunity to talk to members, however for nearly 2 years we’ve had a struggle to get members to signup because it’s a weekly undertaking. We’ve talked about it being better to have a minimum of 2 people but we struggle to get one person.

All this talk is focusing on small points rather than looking at the bigger picture, if you threw the system we have out right now, looked at the actual need and tried to design it from start would we actually come up with the same solution?

Given the points around inclusivity, and having insight about how frequently members actually offer to host, maybe we’d be looking at an event that runs on a week night and weekend once a month.

I feel like the current solution does not fit the problem we are trying to solve nor the constraints we have on member availability.

(Andreas Varotsis) #20

In the spirit of the scientific endeavour, could we trial a few different solutions and see which ones work? Say, do 2 months with a fortnightly meetup on alternating days, then another 2 months with a different model, then collect feedback and review?