Talk:Meta Question

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This is a good historical perspective of Free Geek - it helped me get more of a feel of what it was like a few years ago. It's obvious that the programs at Free Geek have been constantly evolving, but it seems that now we're forced to evolve because of monetary issues (which, I suppose, is necessary and good in the long run). I'd look forward to a time when we're economically sustainable, can tie up loose ends in volunteer programs so they can take care of themselves more. Then, perhaps (maybe, perchance) staff and core will be a bit more freed up to take on new projects that they're inspired by.

Shawn 16:18, 12 Jan 2005 (PST)

As a philosophical matter, I think that organizations should reproduce rather than grow too big. What "too big" is, is an open question however, and organizations being what they are, multiple organizations tend to produce supra-organizations which then want to take more and more of the individual organizations power away. (Humans are a real pain in the ass.) More specifically, I think Free Geek could still grow without being "too big" but we should consider how much area we want to cover. Do we want all of Portland's recycled computers? All of Oregon's? If we were to split, would we want to see specialization or another exact clone? Would we want to split or clone? (There is a difference.) Do we want to determine the too-bigness on the basis of internal communication, the "need" for hierarchy, or land area covered? -- MW 15:50, 12 Jan 2005 (PST)

Sister Free Geek is a scenario about spinning off a new one when we get too big.

-- rfs 17:63, 12 Jan 2005 (PST)

Shawn says:

...have been constantly evolving, but it seems that now we're forced to evolve because of monetary issues...

Of course most of our evolution (all along) has been because of monetary issues. The store and the $10 monitor fee came along when we were about to go under (loss of expected DEQ grant).

The other side of this is that we grew quite rapidly due to demand for our services and this growth pushed several changes through (every increase in staff has been to add consistency or sanity or both) -- things like the waiting list, the build program, the twice daily tours, anything relating to the staff schedule, etc. Some of these drove up a need for the cash ('cause we had more staff).

-- rfs 18:22, 12 Jan 2005 (PST)

I expanded upon the section about what drives our historical stages.

-- rfs 11:39, 13 Jan 2005 (PST)

Computers per capita

Matthew says:

The population of the Portland metropolitan area (meaning the people who are easily in driving distance of Free Geek) is about 1.5 million. Lets say, for simplicity, that these people have an average of two computer systems, one for home, one for work (this is a way big oversimplifaction, since it would probably be easier to take the number of households rather than the number of people, and not everyone has a job that involves a computer).

So, this is about 3 million computers in the area. Which means, if we consider each one of them has an average of a half dozen peripherals, we have about 15 million gizmos.

Now, the rate of obsolescence varies from business to home usage, but we can say, to be conservative, every five years. That means about 3 million gizmos every year getting obsolete. Since it looks like we are on a rate to do somewhere between 100 and 200 thousand this year, Free Geek has reached about 3-5% of where we can go. Of course, not everyone will donate to Free Geek, but I think we could still realistically expect to get up to a million gizmos a year, with maybe several tens of thousands of those being systems.

If anyone wants to think about these figures some more, please feel free to do so.

rfs 15:13, 18 Jan 2005 (PST)

According to some stats I found on the interweb [[1]] there were about 555 personal computers per capita in 2000 in this country. (Only San Marino, entirely surrounded by Italy had more.) I don't know their definition of personal computer, but we can assume more computers (personal and non-personal) than 55%, but 200% seems way off the mark. Lets say a rate of 55%, knowing that it's low.
I also think we can break down the how many gizmos to computer ratio a bit more accurately. The database can help here:
fgdb=# SELECT gizmotype, count(*) FROM gizmo GROUP BY 1 ORDER BY 1;
 gizmotype | count
 Monitor   |  22,439
 Other     | 143,284
 Printer   |  14,652
 System    |  32,699
TOTAL      | 213,074
Seems like a 1:6.5 ratio between systems and total gizmos -- or about 5.5 gizmos come in with each system (after we've pulled and entered cards and such).
Here's the yearly breakdown:
fgdb=# SELECT extract( year from created) AS year, count(*) FROM gizmo GROUP BY 1 ORDER BY 1;
 year | count
 2000 |  2,326 (partial year)
 2001 | 29,859
 2002 | 34,897
 2003 | 54,951
 2004 | 86,490
 2005 |  4,552 (partial year)
That looks like maybe 137,000+ gizmos this year assuming something like current trends (the last two years are a steady 1.57% over the previous years). Accepting Matthew's five year lifecyle and 1.5 million people within driving distance and the rest of his formula I get:
  • 825,000 personal computers in the metro area, meaning 5,362,500 gizmos
  • 1,072,500 gizmos being discarded each year in the area
  • 137,000 gizmos will be received at Free Geek this year (about 13% of the total).
Not the 3-5% figure Matthew suggests, but 3-4 times that rate. Nevertheless, we could grow about eight times over (if everyone recycled and we had a monopoly). Of course that discounts folks who toss their gizmos in the trash, donate them to goodwill, or use other recyclers. It seems unlikely we'd ever have more than 50% of the market (less than four times what we get now), but that's still some room to grow.
  • Metro said we recycled 12% of the ewaste processed in the area in 2002. That is 12% of what was recycled. However, less than 15% was recycled, so our share was 12% of 15% or about 2%. That number's lower than my estimates, so take this all with a grain of salt.
  • The more of this we want, the harder we have to try to get it. That is, if the best anyone could ever do is 50%, to get that 50% we'd have to market the hell out of Free Geek.

Not that adding yet more guesses to this is really that big of a help, but I have somewhat revised my estimates on how big Free Geek will grow. This is my figures:

I start with a population in the Portland Metro Area of 2 million people. That is the amount of people who live an hour's drive from Portland, in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington, Clark and parts of Yamhill, Columbia and Marion counties. The exact number of computers per people is a matter of debate, because some people have many, some people have few, and we also have to take into account the number of large businesses in the area. I think to say that a million computers in the area is a conservative estimate. Computers work on a two to five year obsolescence schedule, so to be conservative, there is 200,000 systems going obsolete in the region every year. Free Geek is open about 250 days a year, which means that it averages out to around 800 systems that could come in in a day. Right now, we are getting about 50 systems a day, with a similiar number of monitors, and printers, as well as, of course, assorted other items. So we could expand to around 16 times our current size. For a number of reasons, I don't think we are going to get that large. However, I do think that Free Geek will double or triple in size, and that this will happen over the next year. I think that after Free Geek has approximately tripled in size, it will pause its exponentual growth spurt, and will grow at a more normal rate. I also think that along with our "normal" exponential growth rate, we will have a tremendous disposal of CRT monitors over the next year, or so. Since our average number of monitors is now a thousand a month, which could grow to two or three thousand a month, there could be peak days in which over 200 monitors come in to Free Geek

--Flowmaster M

In relation to the "Government Subsidized Free Geek" scenario, as a realistic near or midterm possibility, I'm not quite seeing governments charging a fee on technology at time of purchase and then paying organizations to collect and responsibly dispose of them. But government does subsidize nonprofits by providing a tax benefit for individuals who choose to contribute money. Were Free Geek to have some sort of government contract in a context where recycling were mandatory, I can't imagine how that might change (for instance) my own attitude and feelings around recycling and Free Geek's programs in general. It's just too nebulous and speculative for me to imagine.

Here I'd like to say something that's been on my mind for awhile: I feel we should give more thought to understanding how a collective may usefully relate and present itself within the larger community of nonprofits (other organizations that get grants).

I feel we should be understanding and perfecting what we can and desire to do for others -what we're passionate about- as a first step, and then reflect about how these activities and programs may be tuned and elaborated and diversified as sources of revenue. It seems that in every new programatic suggestion the possibility of generating income from it is presented in almost the same breath. I'm suggesting that this tends to unduly raise the bar for volunteer participation.

The goal of one grant needn't define hard boundaries of all of Free Geek's future collaborative efforts (as we can see from the stirrings of revitalization of Cheep Geeks as Homestreet concludes). But personally I feel any sort of free services qualified volunteers might choose to provide to nonprofits of any size (including start-ups) would have unknown but far-reaching positive effects on future revenue generation.

Free Geek is a business, and it seems to me that our peers in business aren't other organizations like Free Geek, but other nonprofits.

That being said, I like the Maximum Free Geek scenario... except we should be open approximately thirty hours a day, 10-12 days per week.

--moorere 13:02, 22 Jan 2005 (PST)

Growth and Consequences

We need to be asking the most basic question here: 'should we grow big'. As I see it, we must grow. After all, the larger we become, the more good work we can do.

However, this will most likely have dramatic consequences. Growth is dependent on a more articulated command chain in order to ensure prompt responses to changing situations and to minimize conflict/inconsistency between diverse sub-parts. We will need hierarchy in some form. Furthermore, we may eventually be forced to compromise other aspects of FG's operations. For instance, what if we grow large enough that it is no longer feasible to only work with recyclers that do not employ non-incarcerated labor? It is also possible that we could grow too much and saturate the market in a community with recycled computers, obsoleting ourselves as all we do from there is patch up increasingly outdated systems.

I think the responses to these issues and answers will be the most helpful way to determine how big we should grow and how we should grow big.

My handle isn't very informative as to who I am. I am Dustin, a Hardware Grants Intern. Sautedman 00:06, 11 January 2010 (UTC)