Let's fix fablabs.io

This monday there was a Zoom meeting with about 40 Members of the fablab network on how to “Fix Fablabs.io” the next meeting will be in September


@bnore could you put the video of the meeting here and the next steps?

Can everybody who was on the call yesterday write here so we know who you are in the forum , please?



The thing everybody likes is the map / list of fablabs. However, when I go to it, the first thing it shows me is two closed fablabs. Perhaps it should default to not showing closed labs?

there are many issues. I think we first need to find the thing we we want to focus (is it a site for the fablab network, is it for for people who want to open a new lab, is it for people wanting to use machines, is it just to have a total number for studies and european commission) and then we go through all the features. Have you been in the zoom event yesterday?

Yes I was in the zoom call yesterday, in fact I had pretty much the same question as you here. Here’s what I wrote:

Who is fablabs.io aimed at? Is it people running fababs, people using fablabs, or people looking for fablabs?

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yes thats the central question first before we go into detail in the backend and do any developing work.

At the moment its people that are running fablabs, people that are looking for fablabs and sometimes companies that send out mass emails but not people that use fablabs.

So the machine section that does not work or is updated could be eliminated for now.

Also projects does not make sense … if we first want to get the map and the update the list of labs …

One thing that regularly comes up is that fablabs.io acts as a “gateway” for new labs to get some sort of formal “accreditation”-type recognition that they indeed are a fablab. I remember the times when the list of fablabs was a html document edited manually by Neil (and Sherry) … it was then hard to get on the list. Now, it’s even harder with a cumbersome “referring” proces that puts a handfull of labs in the awkward position to acknowledge new labs (3 per new lab…).
This has nothing to do with the IT-backend, but with the human backend of the site, which I earlier called “dysfunctional”…

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Yep. This process is “clearer than it was”, but the fact that new labs get no feedback for months, and no response to questions here, must be disheartening.

Yes fixing fablabs.io means primarily we need to find the right people that will maintain it and care for it. and put the effort in to save it. Maybe not giving it to one organization like Fab Lab Barcelona or fab foundation (this did not work in the past) but to the network. There need to be people in the forum that would answer questions quickly and then close a topic. In the zoom event I was suggeting having a group of people per country who checks news labs and also could help them with anything they need. But I did not like the move at one stage accepting all labs just to boost the fablabs numbers. The lass law that fablabs grow exponential is completly not true.

Hello I was in the zoom call nice to see you all and have this talk. I’m willing to put some effort to help with the fixed. There was a road map mention that would be interested to see. I will also follow the Mapping maker and fablab data event.

Hey @hanndoddi

do you know a bit of ruby and rails? I think we will need the following people.

  • Project Managers
  • Platform Designers (decide together on what we should focus on)
  • Developers (fix bugs and fablabs.io website and the forum)
  • Community Manager for every country who would be in charge of approving new labs
  • Forums Admins and Moderators of discuss.fablabs.io
  • Content creators for fablabs.io and the forum (for example in the German Make Magazin they have a section where they write about that is going on in the German Maker Scene)

I have’t worked with ruby on rails but I’m interested in learning how to use it. I have worked with HTML,CSS, JS and I have used bootstrap.
The list is good is a nice start I easily start doing the community management and forums work.

Should we expect the September meeting details to be posted on this thread?

For me the list at fablabs.io is the one and only basic register of all fablabs. I try to use it to connect to other data, like SDG profiles of fablabs, official language, timezone, gps etc. Whether we aim at a list that contains many data or just a few fields, it is important to keep the list up-to-date and to have a warm-hearted mechanism to check that at least once a year.

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Proposal for some quick wins

Actual status of the JSON export file

Table: for all fields, for data types: none, str, list, number and other: number of records

field none str list number other
id 0 0 0 1934 0
name 0 1934 0 0 0
kind_name 0 1934 0 0 0
parent_id 1277 0 0 657 0
blurb 48 1886 0 0 0
description 29 1905 0 0 0
slug 0 1934 0 0 0
avatar_url 358 1576 0 0 0
header_url 680 1254 0 0 0
address_1 28 1906 0 0 0
address_2 30 1904 0 0 0
city 0 1934 0 0 0
county 0 1934 0 0 0
postal_code 2 1932 0 0 0
country_code 0 1934 0 0 0
latitude 159 0 0 1775 0
longitude 159 0 0 1775 0
address_notes 29 1905 0 0 0
phone 29 1905 0 0 0
email 29 1905 0 0 0
capabilities 0 0 1934 0 0
activity_status 619 1315 0 0 0
links 0 0 1934 0 0


  1. The database (and hence the JSON export file) should not contain any None values. So in case of a numeric variable, replace the non value with zero. In case of a string variable, replace a None value by an empty string. In case of a list variable, replace the None valua by an empty list. WHY? This facilitates further processing.
  2. The registration form should require ALL fields to be filled. As the table above reveals there are now fablabs without description, address, GPS position, or email address and even without activity status (619!!)
  3. The registration form should check the email address (within reason) and preferably accept only one single email address.
  4. The fablabs with activity status = None (or replaced by empty string) should receive special attention in order to convert their status to either planned, open, closed, or corona.

What do you think about it?

Ah cool you managed to connect. How did you make it work? the list actually only covers a small fraction of spaces and will never be uptodate as there are many places that would not consider themselves as fablabs but offer similar services. Some are more professional and some do not want to be put in the fablabs category because it would only be part of what they do.

Two examples in Germany and there are many more:

  1. Motion Lab in Berlin: they consider themselves as Hardware Innovation Hub & Makerspace. I organized a meeting with Neil last year there. There are a GmbH and more on the business/startup side.
  1. Konglomerat in Dresden: A 1000m2 open workshop space. They are a e.V (club) and are more selforganized with groups for each are like textile, wood, cnc etc.


The list will only be complete if we have regional ambassadors who take care of the list and actively help Makerspaces, openworkshops, repaircafes etc. to put a profile online.

@pvdhyden your proposal are already very detailed. We first need to agree who is our main “customer” and agree on a group who will take care of the site

@bnore when is the recording of the zoom event put on youtube?

I think this has already been implemented 1 year ago. But the Labs created before that could still contain unfilled values.
Relevant commit: https://github.com/fablabbcn/fablabs.io/blame/6949953ef6952a32f8f6d5be3ac6f97f5ad618de/app/models/lab.rb#L84

We can see which fields are required today, with the validates_presence_of

IMHO the fablabs.io list is meant as the basic register of the fab lab community. Fab Foundation uses it as such since the Barcelona conference in 2014. Organizations that consider themselves as a (kind of) fablab can enrol there. So the scope of the list is modest: our fablab community. Apart from this community many other organizations exist, as well as other lists. No problem, as long as data are open we can connect when appropriate. As a consequence: the two German examples could decide themselves whether they want to belong to the fablab community, whatever other communities or operate without such affiliations.

My proposal (the one with the table) is meant to increase the quality of the existing list with minimal effort.

There exist a group that takes care of the site already. Let’s first ask their ideas and plans and see whether some help or support is needed.

BTW, I did my number crunching with Jupyter Notebook on a Raspberry Pi 4.

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Thank you, Viktor.

Good to see that all fields have to be filled. To make life easier when processing the JSON export file, it would be great if the None values in old records could be replaced by empty strings etc. Do you know who is in charge of this form of data management?

A few comments/questions:

  • Latitude / longitude seems to be not-required; would be convenient if they were.
  • Email seems to allow proprietary constructions with more email addresses which gives problems in post processing the JSON file; better: one and only one email address (requires some file repair as well)
  • How about the slug? Is a slug required? (i hope so); can it be changed later (I hope NOT); would be nice to use it as a unique key for linking to other datasets.

Al the best,

In my experience, validating email can be tricky. In this case we could allow only one ‘@’ sign. I normally allow people to put whatever string they want. If they receive their confirmation email, their email address must be valid. If people want to put more than 1 email into the field, I would like to understand why, before we start trying to do custom validation. Maybe adding a second email address field could fix the issue.

The project uses a ‘gem’ / plugin called friendly_id - A slug should be auto generated if the lab does not choose one. They are unique.

Fixing Fablabs

Our issue tracker has over 100 issues / ideas, many probably outdated, that we could close during a cleanup.

I think our biggest task now is to try to secure some funding or try to make the website sustainable in some way.

What if the website could generate some income, that we could use to pay for maintenance and development of new features?

Right now we are thinking about building a (prototype) /jobs endpoint where we could allow Labs to post Job openings. We could charge companies a small amount per post. What do you think?

We created an issue for this topic:

Another idea I personally had was to develop some PRO features, and labs could pay a monthly subscription fee to get those PRO features.

Those features could include something like:

  • Inventory tracking
  • Booking system, so employees could book machines in the labs.
  • Employee check-in / check-out times.
    • This is now a law in Spain, most companies are buying this kind of Software as a service.
  • More ideas?

The code would of course remain Open Source forever, so any Lab who does not want to pay for those PRO features could start it’s own server and maintain itself. (Which also costs time and money).

This is a common business model for many Open Source companies, just like this forum, Discourse. They can host your platform for $100/month, or you can use their code and host it yourself.

This forum is self-hosted on a server that costs $14/month, but we have to handle the updates. Right now it’s still on Ubuntu 16.04 and every month or so we need to log in and apply updates, both on the server and the forum itself.

Example: If 100 labs would like to pay 10$ / month for PRO features, we could hire a developer part time to maintain and improve the website. It’s also not just the cost of hiring developers, it’s also deciding what to build and talking to the community.

Do you think this could be an option?

Another idea could be to sell ad space (like a top banner or a sidebar), either directly to companies, or to Google Ads, but I personally don’t like that idea. Just including it in case someone could improve that idea.