All posts by Adam Stein

Growth and churn analysis of PS1’s membership

I used historical payment records to analyze member growth and member churn, the rates at which people join and leave the organization. The data set also allows analysis of how these rates differ by gender.

Growth: fairly slow and getting slower

New members joined PS1 at a remarkably consistent rate on an absolute basis between 2015 and 2018. On average, 25 new members join per month: 20 men and 5 women. On a percentage basis, this represents a declining growth rate, despite the fact that PS1 dues continue to fall in real terms, and the space doubled in size and added new equipment during this period.

25 new members might seem like significant growth, but members leave at a similar rate. Net growth averages 1.0% per month. Net growth of female members was actually negative every month between July 2017 through March 2018.

Churn: new members don’t stick around long, especially if they are female

Churn, the rate at which people leave PS1, has varied over time. For male members, the churn rate has dropped steadily from 9.6% per month to 5.0% per month. For female members, churn rate has been as high as 12.3% per month, and was 8.5% per month in early 2018.

Cohort analysis provides a behavioral lens on the data. In their first six months of membership, female members churn at an average rate of 11.5% per month, compared to an average rate of 7.5% for male members. 45.9% of women leave PS1 within six months. 33.7% of men leave PS1 within six months. Overall, 55.6% of new members leave within the first year.

A club of older members

The “age” of a member refers to the duration of their membership. For example, a “two-year-old” member joined two years ago. In growing organizations, average member age is often flat or even declining over time, as new members join and older members leave. At PS1, member age has climbed steadily, a reflection of moderate growth and churn that is concentrated in new members.

What it means

There are at least two ways to view the high churn rate among new members. The first is that this reflects a natural sorting process as people discover whether there is a good fit between their interests and what PS1 offers. Perhaps PS1 is like a gym membership for many: an aspirational purchase that they don’t end up using.

Alternatively, perhaps PS1 is failing its new members. Anecdotally, many have noted the difficulty of navigating PS1’s authorization processes, rules, and cultural practices. Some might find the hurdles too high to clear.

These explanations aren’t mutually exclusive, or exhaustive. Almost certainly they are both at least partly true. The gender disparity in growth and churn, however, suggests that the hurdles are higher for some groups than others.

Less ambiguous are the implications of a high churn rate for PS1’s finances. The space’s sole source of funding is member dues. A high churn rate makes growth difficult; adds additional administrative overhead and demand for authorizations; and raises the risk that the low net growth rate could tip negative with small changes in underlying trends.

See a more detailed analysis and discussion the methodology here.

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How to watch the live stream of Tuesday’s election Q&A

Update: great event! A recording is available here.

All are encouraged to attend the candidate Q&A at PS1 on Tuesday, January 8, 8:15PM. Come for the pizza, stay for the democracy!

But if you can’t make it in person, we will be broadcasting it live in amazing 360° pano-vision. The easiest way to participate is to bookmark this page and click the video below to join in:

For a more immersive experience that includes chat, reaction emojis, and 360° panning, head over to the Facebook website. And don’t forget that you can participate directly in the candidate Q&A even if you are remote.

The live stream will be recorded and made available for viewing after the event.

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Board election: who’s running, when it’s happening, what food will be served

We have a full slate of candidates for the PS1 board this year, as well as a consequential upcoming vote on the new bylaws. Here is a timeline of election events as well as a details on the current set of nominations and candidate platforms.

Events

Candidate Q&A
Tuesday, January 8, 8PM: Candidates are invited to attend the regularly scheduled member meeting and deliver a short presentation on why they are running and what they hope to accomplish as board members. The event will include a Q&A. We also broadcast the event live via Facebook.

Election day mixer
Tuesday, January 15, 6PM: come early on the official voting day for a catered mixer. In addition to food and drinks, we will be hosting an outside delegation from Korea who are interested in learning more about the U.S. maker community.

Vote
Tuesday, January 15, 8PM: the in-person vote will take place during the regularly scheduled member meeting. People will also be able to cast votes by proxy in advance.

Candidates

These are the candidates as of December 19. This post will be updated over time, and you can also check out the election wiki page for the latest information.

President
  • Andrew Camardella
Vice President
  • Alisha Ciardi. Candidate statement:

I am running for Vice President because I am passionate about making and it’s ability to empower people and create community. I’ve collaborated with the Board on multiple projects this year including leading the design and implementation of Tormach authorization (launching in January 2019), assisting with designing and collating data from the first-ever PS1 Membership survey, being a part of the Planning Working Group, and assisting with documentation for Wild Apricot Member Management migration.

My primary goals, if elected, would be: (1) to improve internal communications allowing for more seamless community engagement and a more graduated volunteer structure that reduces burnout and impromptu power consolidation. I think this would allow for more consistent maintenance and improvement of PS1 in a variety of ways including but not limited to cleanliness, courtesy, and enforcement of rules to improve fairness. (2) I want to focus on active listening that encourages input from more members,  helping to facilitate increased communal collaboration and ownership of PS1. I’ve already started working toward many of these goals as mentioned above and I would be even more effective if elected in an official capacity to support the operation of PS1. I hope to see you at the Pre-Election Q&A Event on January 8th!

  • Joe Mertz. Candidate statement:

The majority of the work I do at PS:1 is to benefit the space, and id be happy to continue that as Vice President. I believe Jennie and Andrew have set a wonderful example for the positions and I hope to follow in their footsteps. I have also strived, since I became comfortable in the space, to be an ambassador for the space to new members and potential members, and I believe that that is an important goal for board members to have as well.

Secretary
  • Alex Zhu
  • Andrew Sowa
Treasurer
  • Jennie Plasterer. Candidate statement:

Brian has done a wonderful job recording our accounting processes, and I would like to continue in his footsteps with that, as well as finding external entities to manage as much of our treasury processes as possible in the hopes of easing the tension and danger involved in future Board turnover.

Chief Technical Officer
  • Sky Nova. Candidate statement:

It’s been tough going but we’ve already made a lot of progress in fixing systems up and increasing reliability. I believe we’ve only had two major outages this year, and both of them did not have a particularly large or immediate impact. The Wild Apricot migration has been difficult, but we are nearly at the turning point and I believe we can finally and fully switch over before the end of the year. Keep an eye out for updates on this!

Director of Public Relations
  • Mark Creasy. Candidate statement:

I have a decade in advertising agencies and broadcast production as a designer, producer, technical & art director for national brands, winning awards and shaping brand voices… and while I have healed from that, I am positive I can amplify what we do across mediums.

Directors-at-Large
  • Molly Adamski. Candidate statement:

I use our space to create things both for myself and for my small business (Workshop-25), so I am there quite often. As Director-at-Large in 2019 I want to focus on improving cleanliness at PS1. I have a wide range of experience in committees and clubs; most recently I was the Membership Coordinator of my graduate school’s Professional Bridge Networking Program, and the Vice President and then President of my school’s STEM club before that. Like many of the members who answered our recent survey, I feel that the space is too dirty & disorganized and that this inhibits one of the primary missions of PS1: allowing people to create. I believe that by working together as a community to institute my “Culture of Cleanliness” initiative we will have a cleaner, better working PS1.

  • Alex Berkowitz. Candidate statement:

I would be honored to serve as Director-At-Large for the 2019 Board of Directors. This past year, I worked closely with several other members to develop the training & authorization process for the Tormach, and will continue serving as authorizer going forward. I am eager to contribute to maintaining and improving the amazing community and unique resources PS1 provides in whatever ways I can, but I feel my biggest contribution may come by way of education. In addition to working on the Tormach project, I have also served previously on the board of directors of an ACM SIGGRAPH chapter, including two years as president. As such, I have a lot of experience teaching technical content to students of all ages and skill levels. PS1 offers numerous learning opportunities to its members including authorizations, workshops, events, and social interactions with other makers. However, there are ways all of those things could be improved and, starting with this new year, I would like to focus on doing so. Thank you for your consideration.

  • Carl Karsten

I’ve been involved with PS1 from the beginning, not as a founder, but just around to help out now and then.   I have seen PS1 grow from a struggle to survive to the fairly stable organization we have today.

I have served on the board before, speaking up when I was concerned, and (believe it or not) keeping quiet once my concern had been heard. I did not always vote for the winning position, but that’s OK PS1 did OK anyway.

As a Director-at-Large my ambition is to simply support the rest of the board as we keep PS1 running smoothly for another year.

As a member, I will keep running Python Office Hours every other Wednesday. I want the new by-laws in place asap.  I want to get rid of the donation boxes scattered about, update the “Who to Call” page that is taped next to the front door, and I’ll take out the trash now and then.

  • Ed Bennett
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Results from PS1’s first-ever member survey

In August, PS1 conducted its first-ever member survey to better find out who we are, how we use the space, and what improvements we would most like to see. 190 people responded. The results are available here.

Some highlights:

  • Although member satisfaction is generally high, by far the largest complaint members have about the space centers on issues of cleanliness, organization, and tool maintenance. Concerns like these are sometimes dismissed as unsolvable given PS1’s loose, volunteer-run structure. But the frustration members feel about their inability to get work done in the space cuts straight to PS1’s mission of enabling people to create, and survey respondents had lots of viable suggestions for improving cleanliness, tool uptime, and the layout of the space.
  • The main reasons that people join PS1 are, unsurprisingly, access to tools and to workspace. But the next most common reason is access to community, and many members seem to be hungering for more opportunities to meet, share projects, learn new skills, and interact face-to-face. PS1 should consider ways to foster collaboration.
  • PS1 is not very diverse. 82% of members are white and 82% are male. In fact, PS1 seems to be growing less diverse over time: the group of members who joined in the past year are more homogenous than previous cohorts, although it’s impossible to tell from the survey what might be driving this trend (or if it even is a trend). Nevertheless, the survey does show that members of PS1 who are not white males cite social and cultural issues as needing improvement at a much higher rate than white males.

The full report contains a detailed breakdown of all the survey data, complete with pretty charts and fancy tables. Please read and discuss.

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Board elections! Run for the board! Board elections!

PS1 will be holding annual board elections on January 15, 2019. Board elections affect everyone in the organization, whether you are a voting member or not, and you can participate in all sorts of ways: running for a seat, voting in the election, or simply asking candidates questions about the issues you care about.

If you are interested in shaping the future of the organization, please do consider running for a board seat. The only requirement is that you have to be a member in good standing for the six months leading up to the election. New members are absolutely eligible for the board and encouraged to run.

You might be used to thinking of board members as remote god-like beings who bestride the earth like a colossus. And that’s because we absolutely are. The point is that you too can be one of those god-like beings, doing all that bestriding.

If you are interested in learning more about what the board does, please attend a board meeting. We have board meetings on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 7pm, and they are always open to the public. Or reach out to a board member directly.

The board (presently) has eight positions:

  • President
  • Vice president
  • Treasurer
  • Chief Technology Officer
  • Public relations director
  • Secretary
  • 2 Directors at large

You can learn more about what each position entails, and who the present board members are, here.

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Needed: mentors for the Schurz robotics team

Schurz High School, located just down the street from us on Addison & Milwaukee, is hoping to boost involvement in their FIRST Robotics Team (FIRST: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). And they need your help!

WHO? Experts who want to mentor amazing teens in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, coding, robotics

WHAT? FIRST was founded over 25 years ago by inventor Dean Kamen. First teaches skills to kids from age 6 to 18. Learn more here.

WHEN? Tuesdays from  3 – 6 pm (or any amount of time during that block you can commit).

WHY? Because children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.
Show them all the beauty they possess inside. But really because you get to help design and keep a rad robot-bulldog t-shirt. Plus, robots.

Schurz is a neighborhood school with no entry requirements whose student body is 95% low-income youth. It is the site of Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire, where PS1 has a regular presence.

Interested? Contact Christina at CNSmakerfaire@gmail.com.

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Wondering how to get authorized on the Tormach? Here’s how

When PS1 got the Tormach 1100, our single biggest investment in a tool, we were determined to do it right. Not just the installation, but also creating an educational path that went far beyond a standard authorization.

PS1 has just launched its first two provisional authorization sessions. Students were selected who had already attained the prerequisite authorizations. To get authorized on the Tormach, you first need to get authorized on:

  1. Tier 1 Metals
  2. Bridgeport
  3. ShopBot

You should also be proficient in CAM before getting authorized on the Tormach.

Assuming you have all that stuff on lock, getting authorized on the Tormach is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Take an online course and pass the associated quiz
  2. Attend a Tormach live training (2-3 hours)
  3. Submit a personal project for CAM & G-code review

Events & Resources

In addition to the authorization path, there are lot of ways to get more familiar with the Tormach and its amazing powers.

Meet-ups

Fusion360 Meet-UpsAndrew Camardella hosts biweekly Fusion360 meet-ups to spruce up your CAD & CAM skills. All skill levels welcome. Check the events page.

Tormach user Meet-UpsStarting this winter, will be having public Tormach user group meetings to discuss tooling, projects, machine optimization and other related topics.

Online

Tormach wiki pageStay up to date with Tormach resources at PS1 on our wiki page.

Tormach Slack Group: Join our slack group #Tormach_User_Group at pumpingstationone.slack.org to talk with other PS1 Tormach users about all things Tormach.

Thanks to the team

This educational program was designed by Alisha Ciardi, along with:

The Danger Committee

  • Andrew Camardella
  • Andrew Wingate
  • David Earl
  • Abel Greenwald

Education Team

  • Alex Berkowitz
  • Alisha Ciardi
  • Andrew Wingate
  • David Earl
  • Kathryn Born
  • Nick Prorock
  • Ryan Himmelblau

Current Authorizers

  • Alex Berkowitz
  • David Earl
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Halloween party this Saturday

Head on over to PS1 this Saturday, October 27, for Halloween good times from 6pm til midnight.

Will there be door prizes? Yes, there will be door prizes!

Will there be adult food and adult beverages? Yes, there will be plenty of both!

Will there be costume contests? Of course there will be costume contests!

Plus music! Games! 300 seconds of spooky!

Don’t have a costume? There will be supplies on hand so you can make your own costume!

Frequently asked questions

Q: Can I bring a guest who is a non-member?

A: Yes! Yes! Yes! All are welcome to PS1’s Halloween spooktacular!

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Crappy robots battle this Saturday at PS1!

Update — that was pretty epic:


Hebocon is a contest that pits tiny, crappy robots against one another in miniature sumo battles. Whichever crappy robot falls over or exits the ring first, loses. But the important thing is, the robots must be crappy.

PS1 will be hosting its first-ever micro-Hebocon this Saturday, October 20. A micro-Hebocon is like a regular Hebocon, but even crappier: all robots will be powered by a wind-up motor that provides about four seconds of energy.

PS1 is providing the motors free of charge. Also beer, free of charge. Bring whatever other parts you desire, or see what is available in the micro-junkyard of odd robot parts that PS1 will make available at the event.

The micro-junkyard will include an Iron Chef-style surprise ingredient. Probably not octopus, and probably not uranium…but maybe!

Worried you won’t be able to create a functioning robot? No worries, there is also an aesthetics award to be given out to the fanciest robot on the strip.

The event takes place from 7pm to 10pm, this Saturday, October 20. 21 and over only, please. No entrance fee, but please email Kathryn Born if you plan to participate. kathryn.born@pumpingstationone.org

Oh, one other thing: if you do happen to be a skilled roboticist, don’t despair! Just challenge yourself by adding a handicap:

  • Try combinations that you would never do at work, like making a propeller with dried squid rather than plastic or metal;
  • Avoid technology that you’re familiar with. Do not use a soldering iron, or other tools;
  • Make it with your left hand (if you are right-handed);
  • Make it with your feet;
  • Leave the most important part to a 5-year-old child to make it for you.
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