State of the Onion

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Please edit as seems necessary, removing the {{cleanup}} tag when you are through.

This is a list of Free Geek programs and functions organized by the staff committee that is charged with their oversight. We are asking each committee or person responsible to post a brief description of the state of each program.

(For more information on each committee see the Standing Staff Committees page.)

NOTE: When updating a section, please sign your work with the "four squiggles" syntax (~~~~) so we can see when the item was last updated (and by whom).


Recycling is good and busy. A few volunteer interns have moved on after giving great support to the recycling operation, training volunteers, and learning about e-waste. Recycling staff is constantly looking for ways to improve income from recycling by better sorting of material, and identifying new items to disassemble.
Hardware Donations
Hardware Donations now has permanent staff, and improvements will be coming soon. HD has it's own meeting on the fourth Tuesday of every month to check in, train each other and discuss issues.
Building security
Some keys have changed to make it easier to track who has which key. No one has set off the alarm accidentally in a good while, as everyone is following procedures of using only the south door for entry.
General safety
Remember To Play Safe. Lift with your knees! Ask for help! Keep walkways free of clutter and trip hazards!


Policy development
The "policy cleanup on the wiki" project is now in HR's basket.
load balancing of the committees
Some of the committees do not have enough people, and some committees function better than others.
liaison with Free Geek Community Council and Free Geek Board of Directors
Developing this page as a snapshot of information hopefully helps keep the council and board better informed about the state of things. Board members are coming to council meetings on a regular basis.
nominations to the various committees
proposals concerning changes to the committee structure itself
We had been thinking about ideas expressed in Multi-Collective Free Geek as a starting point for a possibly different committee structure. The conversation is up in the air right now.
accounting and financial oversight
We have moved to monthly reporting of quarterly budgets. We have reorganized the expense categories to mirror the committee structure, have recoded the last three years of income transactions, are working on better income projections based on that. We need to review policies about handling money from time to time. We need to educate the committees on how to spend money when they're not sure how ahead or behind they are vis a vis the budget.


Human resources
We are preparing for the departure of Laurel, our Education Coordinator. We are drafting job descriptions and plan to begin hiring within the next couple of weeks! Laurel 18:56, 26 July 2011 (UTC)
employee manual
The Staff Handbook is on the wiki. It is more up-to-date than it's ever been!
Valerie 21:56, 19 January 2011 (UTC)
volunteer and staff discipline
The HR Committee is continuing to review the Volunteer Issues queue. We want Free Geek to be a safe and welcoming place to learn and to give back to the community, and we ask our volunteer to abide by our General Conduct Guidelines. Although Free Geek has a Volunteer Discipline Policy, we are still brainstorming ideas for a formal grievance policy and related procedures.
Valerie 21:56, 19 January 2011 (UTC)
procedures regarding theft from Free Geek
This is handled mostly by our Volunteer Discipline Policy. There have been a few incidents in the past that are still open.
mediation between conflicting parties
There haven't been any "conflicts" and our Ombuds(wo)men are happy and bored.
Staff Trainings
Board and staff are currently planning an In-Service. Staff can add training topics as they see fit on the page Winter/Spring 2012 Inservice Trainings. Alamb 19:39, 6 January 2012
Staff Reviews
The next reviews coming up are 6 months reviews for new collective members.
We continue to have ongoing discussions of how to make the review process the best it can be.
Valerie 21:56, 19 January 2011 (UTC)
health care and benefits packages
Staff members who work over 24 hours a week have health care (including alternative care such as naturopathy, dental, and vision). We have 3 plans available to us: a standard plan, a "high" pkan, and a POS plan to access providers outside the Kaiser network. Staff members that choose the"high" plan or the POS plan pay an additional cost. Some employees use other plans and are eligible to be reimbursed for most of their costs in lieu of taking our plan.


(the committee formerly known as Knowledge Bees)

Lots of education news at Free Geek: We were just awarded a $10,000 grant to renovate our classroom! Look for big changes in the next couple of months! Additionally, all classes are now free for all volunteers and community members. We have a whole host of new classes, which can be viewed on-line here: 23:15, 2 June 2011 (UTC)
There is a new group at Free Geek meeting to discuss accessibility to our programs. The group is working on specific job descriptions for each volunteer task at Free Geek, which will help assess the accessibility of the area and which accommodations are needed and possible. Laurel 15:14, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
The new Lucid manual is installed on the desktop of each computer we build! Laurel 15:14, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Technical Support
We recently hired Patrick Sullivan to help cover Tech Support and Advanced Testing.Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
City of Portland Computers
Our program, Plug into Portland, is off to a good start! We sent a letter to all schools that classify as low-income within the City of Portland, offering a free computer to any K-12 student that had completed 24 hours of volunteer work in the past year. In order to get the computer, students have to fill out this application ( and attend a computer class at Free Geek.Laurel 23:15, 2 June 2011 (UTC)
Free Geek Library
The Library may be consolidated in the near future to see about better utilizing the space and expanding our Public Access Computer Lab. Long-time volunteer Tex has been taking reigns on making sure the Library is regularly sorted and culled, as there is currently no staff oversight of the area.Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)


Inreach is working hard to make sure the front desk runs smoothly. We are also working on upping our volunteer appreciation ways and coming up with great new methods for thanking our wonderful volunteers. Inreach has implemented our new Volunteer Application, Volunteer Orientation Packet, Build Program Info sheet and Adoption Program Info sheet.


Media Outreach & Relations
Darren is working with Portland Youth Media to arrange a partnership wherein PYM's participating youth will gain video making/editing experience by creating a video presentation chronicling our respective processes for recycling and refurbishing desktop systems. The video will be distributed on Youtube and other outlets, and incorporated into our planned info display at the donor desk.
Ads & Marketing
Our ReDirect Guide profile is currently offering a coupon for $25 off customers' next laptop purchase.
Free Geek website
We have reconvened the website admin working group ( to maintain the website in partnership with Technocrats, and continue researching ways we can update the website to be more customizable and usable for data analysis. The working group is meeting during PR meetings on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month.
Tabling Events and Networking with other organizations
We are actively promoting Youth Empowerment Action's summer camp program with fliers and posters around the building, as well as hits to social media.
We were placed in the Nonprofit Pavilion for OSCON 2012 and are working on scheduling tabling shifts as well as working out shared use of the complimentary conference pass. Know a volunteer who may want to table with us at this and other public events? Send them our way!
State of the Committee
We recently welcomed new PR member James Pella, who is working on helping us develop a strategic plan for social media.
Re: installing an informational LCD display at the Donor Desk - Plans are in progress for content to be included in the display; visit the wiki page

( to see the content outline we've developed and suggest any changes on the discussion page.


FG Events
The 2011 Free Geek Holiday Party went off without a hitch thanks to our fantastic NPAs! Approximately 40 people turned out to spread a little holiday cheer around the Meeting Room and Library, with some delicious potluck foods.


Liaison with Free Geek startups (the replication of Free Geek elsewhere)
Free Geek Twin Cities opened its doors on Saturday, October 17, and received good press coverage. Dave visited Free Geek Vancouver, and we will be hosting guests from FGV here in the near future. RfS 00:56, 22 October 2009 (UTC)
liaison with GAP volunteers
GAP has been functionally nonexistent for a while.
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)

Production (Reuse Programs)

Build Program
The Build program continues to flourish, and shifts are filled up at least a week in advance. Laptop QCs were introduced into Desktop Build late last year and have helped to push our Laptop production higher than its ever been. We recently hired Omar Vargas as our Spanish Outreach Coordinator to help develop our Spanish Build & Prebuild shifts, with sights set on a Spanish Mac Build in the near future.
Freekbox specs have risen yet again! RAM and desktop HDD supplies have been piling high, which means Freekboxes are more powerful than ever. Additionally, Build and Adoption volunteers are now taking home LCD monitors!
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Advanced Testing
With the departure of everyone's favorite Reuse Coordinator, Meredith Blankinship, AT is currently under the temporary stewardship of Cynthia Prevatte; our newest Reuse Coordinator. Additionally, our newest hire Patrick Sullivan is helping to oversee AT and Tech Support! Be sure to give him a high-five when you see him!
Volunteer and intern numbers have been dwindling in recent months, so AT is actively looking for Post-Builders excited about the gizmos inside and out of the Box.
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Laptop Build
Laptops has been seeing record high numbers of donations in recent months, and production is higher than its ever been. A steady stream of dedicated volunteers have been filling out our shifts (currently Tuesday through Friday, AM & PM) and learning the ropes in what it takes to pull apart and piece together lappies. There is still a limited number of staff trained in running the area, which means shift cancellations occur whenever a staff member calls in sick (as seen in December 2011).
A new Laptop Eval program is currently under development to offer a third alternative to the Build and Adoption programs, and generate excitement for volunteers new to Free Geek. Keep an eye out for announcements in the near future!
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)

Macintosh Build
Macland has been without dedicated Coordinator for a long time now, but those days are officially over with the hire of Cynthia Prevatte! Our crack team of Mac Geeks have been diligently rebuilding Apple Systems, old and new, and helping push a broader range of gizmos into our Thrift Store. A new Spanish Mac Build shift is planned for the near future; keep your ears to the ground!
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Printer Reuse
Printer testing is done, almost exclusively by two excellent volunteer interns, for up to 8 hours/week. In the last 4 months of 2011, they processed about 150 good printers and scanners which were made available to the store and grants departments. We have been instructed that the store does not want anything that is large or without a USB connection. The grants department has provided us with direct access to their on-line wishlist. We have generated tested printers faster than Free Geek has been selling/granting them. Therefore, many good printers are being sold to bulk buyers (for reuse) or recycled. In 2011 we sold 73 tested printers, 764 untested printers (including multifunction) and maybe 100 scanners to bulk buyers. Our high supply-to-demand ratio means we do not generally spend much time trying to fix an imperfect printer. Printer testing involves checking to see if a device is currently working perfectly. Occasionally we will swap out ink/toner or clean the print head. Jashcraft 00:30, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
The end of 2011 saw Prebuild utterly swamped in systems, with the volunteer schedule filled out months in advance. Things have started quieting down at the end of January, and our beloved NPAs helped to redesign the layout of our Research Station and Sorting Cart! New and expanded documentation is enabling Mac desktops and Servers to be evaluated in Prebuild. Cynthia Prevatte, who is everywhere all of a sudden, is taking the lead as Prebuild's newest Coordinator, and making sure systems continue to flow through halls.
Spanish Prebuild and Hardware ID are happening thanks to our Spanish speaking staffers, Cynthia and Liliana!
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Server Build
Server Build is happening every Wednesday AM & PM with an additional 5th slot opened to address increased demand from volunteers. Attendance has been sporadic, but production has been steadily climbing. Unfortunately, there isn't yet a well-formed system for pricing Servers, and so our backstock has started piling up. Thankfully, Brian Keefer, our new Sales Coordinator, is working on developing a new pricing metric and seeking alternative avenues for selling and/or disbursing them.
The Server Build area is set to be reorganized in the near future to better use what little space is available for the program. Additionally, Aradan Thompson, one of our Reuse/Sales Staff, is going to begin training in Server Build soon to increase available staff coverage and hopefully provide some useful insight for the Sales Department.
Server Build remains one of the best gateways for volunteer involvement in the Technocrats Committee and Cabling Parties.
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)

Hardware Grants
Hardware Grants is currently under the purview of Production and is a Post-Build option which builders can apply for. Darren Heiber coordinates the volunteers and workers who help to shepherd grants through our system to get reused computers and other electronics out to folks who need them. We currently have three grant shepherds and are looking to bring on two more. Hardware Grants is also currently looking at ways to reach out to more Portland-based organizations in an effort to ease the FG-PDX system overflow.


The store has exploded in terms of foot traffic since the economy has gone south. Its not uncommon to see 20 people at a time now, and there are rarely times when it is empty. On a recent Saturday, the store sold more than 50% more than the last geek fair (!). Production areas have really ramped up to get a wider range of tested gizmos in the store, which has helped. Additionally, Free Geek has been more active in soliciting larger donations, increasing the amount of good stuff. Unfortunately, many donors still remove hard drives from computers, so there is a persistent shortage of those goods. Tony and Luiz are working on a merit badge system of volunteer training and retention and there are currently a half dozen volunteer interns helping out. Oh, and it looks more and more like a store. Luiz 21:56, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
Online Sales
Right now production needs and other, non-sales obligations have been keeping the Online Coord. from handling many sales. We're exploring an idea to create a new commission-based position in online sales on an exploratory basis. Check out the Online Sales Contractor Proposal for details. Discussion is on council list.
Bulk Sales (Wholesale)
We currently have established bulk buyers for telephone equipment, non-working flat panel TVs, surplus printers, scanners, ink-jet/toner cartridges and related accessories. Staff time for supporting bulk sales is currently extremely limited. Over the course of 2011 we saw an aproximate 100% increase in income from bulk sales, primarily due to increased staff attention and expanded offerings. There is interest in attracting additional bulk buyers and expanding the program further. Jashcraft 21:45, 9 January 2012 (UTC)


Technocrats every Saturday at 4PM, either in the Meeting Room or on IRC (#freegeek on

Liaison with Coders group
Currently Ryan Niebur is our chief coder and has made many improvements to the database and is working on more. The Technocrats are consistently pushing to only utilize internal services, rather than relying on things such as Google Docs, and Ryan has been quick to implement suggestions brought forward by the various committees in Free Geek.
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
liaison with ASS group
The ASSes have officially been merged with the Tehcnocrats, and a cleanup of the wiki is in progress.
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Selection of software commonly used at Free Geek
Darren Heiber is investigating updating our website's look and feel, possibly with some code borrowed from Free Geek Providence. We've been using LimeSurvey for quite a while now with generally positive results. More and more features and services are being offered internally, with a long-term goal of incorporating all Free Geek related waitlists and volunteer schedules in the FGDB.
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Computer security
Our ASS group is always looking for ways to improve our security. Nothing particular is bothering us at the moment, and we hope to keep it that way. (Hear the sound of fingers crossing.)
Technical infrastructure
With the influx of fancy new server hardware coming through our doors and a spike in Server Build volunteers, most of our load-bearing systems have swapped out for nicer, newer stuff with a large stash of cold-swappable systems in the event of hardware failure. That is to say, it's better than it's ever been!
Nearly all servers are running Debian's current stable distribution, Squeeze.
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Cabling parties
Cabling Party turnout has been fantastic in recent months! A delegation of students from PSU's Computer Action Team have been swinging by regularly and offering their valuable skills. We've been regularly having two Cabling Parties a month, and have lots of progress to show for it. Among other things, almost ever run of cable in Free Geek is now clearly labelled and documented!! (SHOCK. AND. AWE.)
Scellef 01:17, 1 February 2012 (UTC)