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Stop Buying Things and Start Borrowing Them (aspiration.com)
448 points by mathgenius 120 days ago | hide | past | web | 283 comments | favorite

I pay to be a member of the local maker space. But they have a lot of equipment I would never dream of buying (like a plasma cutter and later cutter) and some that I could buy but rather wouldn't (like a 3d printer and a bench oscilloscope).

But members break the tools all the time and don't take responsibility for it. Even though there are cameras and people have to swipe their card at the door it still happens.

I think one reason sharing is not as common is because people are jerks.

I remember when I was a kid we used to borrow each other's NES games all the time and never give them back.

Or it is because some people are assholes.

I broke a viscometer at work because I dropped something like 2 cm since I'm a clutz. I tried fixing it and rechecking the equipment but to not success. Now, we a big company with tons of money so this should be no big deal.

We call in the vendor and they spend 4 hours fixing it and we spend 10k.

Well, I get bitched out by 4 people on separate occasion as and constantly reminded after repeatedly apologizing and coming forth about my mistake.

That is why people dont come forward. Accidents happen but some people act like it was intentional assholeness.

I couldn't stop apologizing and feeling bad for a tiny slip of hand. But I was crucified and almost lost my job for something that took a 4 hour visit from the vendor.

People would come forward when things break if people had better managerial, parenting, and conflict resolution skills.

I know that this depends on the workplace culture, but I've gone the other way on stuff like this because apologizing makes certain people smell vulnerability and never let it go.

I'm happy to explain what happened, and I'm happy to suggest improvements for avoiding a similar accident in the future. If you think I screwed up, chew my ass or write me up. Past that, it is what it is, and if you hold it over my head like a nagging parent, I'm going to use my outdoor voice.

That sucks, but I think your experience is the exception to the rule -- indeed, is the result of the rule.

The typical reason things get broken like that is carelessness. And many people wouldn't have come forward like you -- not because they're justly afraid of overly harsh treatment, but because they have nothing to gain by doing so and don't share your moral principles.

That is background context in which your unfair treatment should be interpreted. Which is to say: I think you have the cause and effect backwards. And you, as a fair honest person, found yourself paying for "the way most people are."

That's an interesting perspective. It made me realize, I don't like admitting I screwed up, if I can fix it before anyone finds out!

If you have a maker space you better have a budget for repairs and somehow include this in the fees.

Things will break as people learn how to create. Part of the journey.

If you shout at them they'll probably lose interest.

My rule is "borrow to try, buy if you're serious about it"

Stuff breaks, that's a fact of life. Not owning up to it while not the right thing to do is understandable, especially if there is no clear policy or even the risk of having to replace it out of your own pocket.

At our maker space we tell people that they should not worry if they break stuff, unless it's done on purpose we pay for it. Because broken stuff is not the problem. Having broken equipment and not knowing about it is. It's frustrating when you discover that a important machine does not work on Saturday evening and can not use it the whole weekend.

Yes stuff breaks, but more often inconsiderate people tend to break stuff they don't own or care about. As another commenter pointed out, I have certain close family members I don't even lend things to, because the items are likely to come back broken or missing. Even with an explanation, it still means I have to pay to replace it.

I hate to be so negative about this, because I would love to just be able to share things with neighbors/friends.

Good friends pay, or help pay, for things they break.

I imagine the people you're talking about don't. Have you asked directly, though? Making it clear that you expect them to pay - and will ask - may help them avoid asking to borrow something and breaking it next time.

What if they can't afford it?

If one can't afford an item, and is irresponsible to the point of breaking things every time, then they shouldn't be borrowing the item.

How would you react if your child broke the things you are remembering? Could you apply that strategy with these people?

If not are there other parenting strategies that are more appropriate to use with adults?

Now expand that to 200 "children" who coexist in a makerspace...? Doesn't work.

Sure it does. Schools are great at managing 200 children.

What won't work is an organization full of adults who think they are never children. You need at least a couple of adults who realize we're all children sometimes for things to run smoothly.

Children are not spending all day with access to tens of thousands of dollars in sensitive equipment while unsupervised.

The school/makerspace comparison sucks.

Sure, if you have a 20:1 student-teacher ratio.

If I had children, I would not lend them expensive/delicate items. At least not until they have demonstrated a level of care and responsibility with items of lesser value, which is a process of trust-building that literally takes years. Which is exactly the point: these friends/family members have demonstrated the opposite.

Relevant aside: in Boston, there is a community boating organization. They own the boats, and members (who pay a fixed monthly fee) can take out any boat at any time… IF they have passed the requisite training courses and exams, both of which are administered by knowledgable staff. Again, this is a process which literally takes years, to work up to the more expensive/dangerous boats.

Same assertions hold true for libraries, and yet most people return books and in good condition.

I think you were thinking of something like a county library in the United States, which deal primarily with mass-market paperbacks. That's not a great analogy. When you're talking about breaking expensive equipment (as in a maker space), the median user doesn't matter. The worst user matters. Books (at least mass-market books) are several orders of magnitude cheaper than expensive hardware.

Also the last interaction I had with a college library was being charged $200 to replace a textbook that had a cup of coffee dumped on it, so in my experience libraries aren't really model replacement-cost internalizers.

Libraries make you pay for damaging or losing books usually. I am generally of the privatized camp, where when you pay for something and it's yours you take good care of it, and if you do something to it you bear the full consequences. If you borrow, then it should be with the explicit agreement to return in original form. In fact put it in writing and have a contract made, take a picture of it. As now you are in the lending business... even if the price you are charing is $0. And if it comes back damaged and they are not willing to pay for it, or if they lose it, then don't lend to them anymore and remind them if they ever ask you as to why. Maybe you will lose friends, but then you should probably not be mixing business with pleasure.

People in the lending business usually place a hold on your credit card for the full value of the item being rented until it is returned undamaged. The charge never actually hits the card unless something goes wrong.

I can't put a hold on someone's credit card for the full replacement value of a chainsaw, let alone an excavator or a truck.

When I worked at a hire company, we put a hold on the card for a fixed value for some smaller items - hand tools, things like lawnmowers that we were doing a deal on, or an extra days rent for larger items.

I worked at a company that rented out boats and jet skis. That's how they did it. If your card didn't have enough credit, tough luck.

Although actually, the confidence I'm displaying above may be unwarranted. Maybe the hold value was actually a fraction of the full value and then a portion of the rental price went towards insurance. Not sure.

Yeah, it was probably a smaller amount. I would think most people's credit limit is less than the cost of a boat.

When my first child was born, we were in a hospital in the UK. Peeling paint on the walls, flickering fluoros, harried staff.

He had trouble extricating himself, his heart beat started fluctuating, and so the staff rushed out to get the Ventouse (think a plumber's plunger, used to extract the baby with a suction to the head).

They yanked it out of a cupboard and blimey - it was broken.

The doctor yelled and ranted, people ran hither and thither, and eventually they managed the job using forceps instead.

That was all stressful enough. But what really astonished me was that they chucked the broken Ventouse machine back into the cupboard - and no doubt the same scene played out again later on, for some other unlucky people.

Its the same deal as people who try the whiteboard markers, find that they're not working, then put them right back on the board for the next person.

I have friends who I know treat their things very well, so I have no issues lending my stuff out to them. I also have family members who absolutely destroy whatever they can get their hands on, so they don't get to borrow anything of mine.

I have one cousin who bent the cards while playing Sushi Go at a family function. When called on it, his response was, "oh shoot, my bad." Part of me is curious as to what led him to believe that's an acceptable thing to do to someone else's property and part of me just wants to punch him for being such an inconsiderate ass.

> Part of me is curious as to what led him to believe that's an acceptable thing to do to someone else's property

He doesn't think it's acceptable. The issue is he doesn't care. i.e. he doesn't pay attention. He doesn't think about it. He just does what "feels good", and wonders later why people won't loan things to him.

Yes, I've met people like this, too.

Sometimes the reason they don't care isn't because of some sort of callous disregard of others feelings, it's because they don't see the thing as a problem at all. IE they don't care if their _own_ playing cards are bent ("that's just normal wear and tear"), so they don't think anyone else would care about it.

This is it I think. I personally buy nice things and do everything possible to keep them nice as long as possible (e.g., I am bothered by reading a book that's creased or significantly worn in any way). I will not loan anything to anyone I believe is likely to damage the item or lacks the ability to replace or repair it in a timely manner.

On the other hand, I have a friend, one of my best friends, who is completely content with anything in virtually any condition. There are things that bother me that he would never have a problem with. I don't know why, particularly as we have pretty similar upbringings, but the difference is astounding.

Both of you are taking joy in use, but in a different kind of way. You take joy in using a thing carefully, where you absorb the objects demands.

Your friend takes joy in using an object aggressively, so the object absorbs their demands.

It's a difference in where you see beauty... Do you see beauty in the human activity that surrounds the object, and the imprint of that? Or do you see beauty in the object itself, and the imprint that makes on the world around it?

It's sort of analogous to the difference between Keirsey's pairings of Guardian/Idealist and Artisan/Rational.

Guardians/Idealists tend to be "cooperative" in their use of tools, meaning that they consider how other people and society might use the tool. So they might avoid stressing a crowbar to breakage unless it's to suit the needs of their group. They might also be unlikely to bend playing cards that they don't own.

Artisans/Rationals tend to be more "utilitarian" in their use of tools, meaning that they will subvert a tool if it suits them. So they might use a finish hammer to chip rocks if they have nothing else available, even if it's your finish hammer and you really needed it to put up casing next week.

It's interesting to note that he considers language a tool, and so their use of language may follow similar patterns. There are some parallels with Meyers-Briggs in his system, although his intent was to provide measurable characteristics rather than statements about someone's mind.

This seems to be cool idea of happy living, unless you live with them or just visit their house. Kitchen and toilet stink, dust and grime everywhere, because, you know, it is normal wear after their demands. They don't know the price of well-being and are dependent on their unblessed relatives. All activities have associated cost, but they simply ignore it, stealing from someone else.

Once their place is full of crap, they simply shift their focus to another that they still like. Forests filled with heaps of trash are nice example of that.

There is no beauty in this life style, imo.

This was rather nice.

I certainly try to be especially careful of anything I borrow. But I do tend to belong to the school of "It's a tool. It's intended to accomplish tasks." I can appreciate aesthetically pleasing machinery but cameras are meant to be used and if they get scuffed up a bit, that's fine. If I can use books more effectively by bending pages and writing in the margins I will.

That isn't always true. I personally knew someone who took impeccable care of their own things, and just destroyed stuff that got lent to them. I don't think it was really conscious and intentional. I think they had a warped childhood and weren't all that aware of how fucked up they were. But it was an incredibly consistent pattern.

Part of the problem is that he doesn’t have any consequences for doing it. Violence isn’t a great solution in all cases, but if after a couple times of doing this, he got popped in the face, he’d probably stop doing it quickly. It’s sad, but some people don’t learn other than getting their ass beat.

While I don't personally know your family members this certainly seems like something that could happen via pure absent mindedness or distraction rather than the result being an "inconsiderate ass."

I don't see a distinction between absent mindedness and being inconsiderate - no malice is required. When someone bumps into you on the street because they're too busy fiddling with their phone to pay attention to where they're going, they're not considering you or the people around them, they're absorbed by their own world and become your typical inconsiderate bell-end.

Fair enough. I guess it would've been more clear to say that I would prefer to spend my time with a non-malicious absent minded person to that of the OP who became so angry at what amounts to an accident.

Breakage is a big part of cost of ownership, especially for very expensive tools.

IMHO in the context of maker spaces, it's wrong to structure it so that people could unexpectedly be on the hook for large amounts of money if they happen to be the ones who break a machine, it would work much better if such expenses would be like insurance, made small, distributed and predictable, priced in the usage or membership.

That, on the other hand, can encourage people to be careless in what they do. It's not their own equipment, they don't pay for it, so why worry about whether it will break? Someone else will have to fix it.

Maker/hacker spaces are communities, not companies - a well-run space will try to identify and filter out people with such a mindset. Not that these problems don't happen - but the whole benefit of such spaces is that they remove inefficiency in sharing stuff by assuming (and hopefully ensuring) that people will play nice.

It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Purchase insurance with a small but not insignificant deductible. Everybody who participates then puts down a deposit to cover the deductible. This way insurance is cheaper, if somebody breaks something it won't cost them too much money, but there's still a disincentive to break things so people will be careful.

Can you truly not imagine any policies or cultural/social engineering efforts to mitigate this? Humans are social animals, money is not the only thing that drives behavior, a culture of respect and social accountability goes a long way.

Sure I can. It's called communism, where nobody owns everything and everybody shares.

We all know how well that works.

Communism works reasonably well for commune sized societies where everyone knows each other well and have joined because of common interests.

The issue with communism is that it (or, more accurately, the behavior/attitude needed for it) doesn't work at scale for larger societies that include strangers, but for smaller communes, including the people that would form a local maker space, those principles can work reasonably well.

Communes, even smaller ones, don't work very well, and don't last.

Communes may not work well (they often act somewhat like cults) but unions, credit unions, and cooperatives work pretty well. These are all collective labour societies. They lack the all-encompassing nature of communism which makes them less likely to oppress people into rebellion.

Do you have any data for this argument?

Can't find any long lasting ones. For example, hippie communes were common in the 60's and 70's. They've all vanished. The largest, San Francisco's 1967 "summer of love", only lasted a few months before collapsing.

"those who gathered in Haight-Ashbury during 1967 allegedly rejected the conformist and materialist values of modern life; there was an emphasis on sharing and community. The Diggers established a Free Store, and a Free Clinic where medical treatment was provided."


This is place is most likely an exception to the rule but here is a single counter-example; a long-standing commune near my hometown: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Oaks_Community,_Virginia

A more interesting article on it:


It's a survivor of "thousands" of communes started in the 60s and 70s, perhaps the only one. Turnover is about 12% a year. Perhaps the secret to their success is the ability to attract a constant stream of replacements, as members who tire of communism leave.

Even so, it shows that if you want to live in a communist society, you're free to form one here in America.

Me, I'll pass.

Israeli kibbutzim is probably the largest example, where you have a set of many communes so you can see what is an accident and how the average behaves; and they were/are long lasting.

They're supported with government money, as they are unable to support themselves. That's not success.

we should give another chance to communism then, as those are wonderful ideas. we should learn from the past instead.

Communism doesn't work, for one major reason...

If everything is shared, who ensures how everything is shared?

A: The government.

What does any entity do when given absolute power? Hmm.....

How to get totalitarian regimes 101

Communism has had no lack of second chances.

Some would say Communism lacks even a real first chance.

There's no law against forming a commune in the US. Lots of groups have. Feel free to found your own. The problem with communes in the US, however, is you cannot make anyone join or stay.

Accomplishing that requires a government, and has been tried lots of times, most recently in Venezuela.

Given the historical results of government imposed communism, I'll pass on giving it another chance.

Deductibles. Set them per/person and increase them per incident.

One option might be you don't pay for it, but you are banned from using it, or banned from the whole space for some period of time. Shunned, in other words.

> But members break the tools all the time and don't take responsibility for it.

It's a direct consequence of people having access to tools they would never dream of buying: they don't fully understand them because of lack of experience and good tools in the hands of people that don't know how to use them will break more often than not.

Makerspaces need good supervision to be useful, usually they're just a bunch of tools in a space accessible to people whether they are capable of using them or not and totally unsupervised.

Wanting to use a certain tool and being able to use a certain tool are not the same thing.

That plasma cutter or laser cutter you referred to above, if you abuse them they can easily destroy themselves instead of the workpiece and it doesn't take all that much to do that either.

I've never owned a lasercutter (too expensive to own, too expensive to run) but I have owned a 12 KW 8'x4' CNC plasmacutter with a water bed and 3D portal mill (homebuilt). There is no way I would let anybody else use either without supervision until I was sure that they would not damage the machinery or themselves.

These are very much not toys.

> I've never owned a lasercutter (too expensive to own, too expensive to run)

Laser cutters aren't that expensive - provided your bed-size needs aren't too large and you don't need insane wattage requirements; they also aren't expensive to run.

A brand-new 60 watt cutter from a top-line manufacturer can be had for well under 10k USD. If you go with a cheap chinese model off of AliExpress, you can get it down to under 5k for virtually the same bed size. If you don't mind a slower cut rate, a 40 watt cutter is much less.

There are also kit laser-cutters out there (or you can buy the parts yourself and homebrew it) - for instance the Blacktooth cutter.

The difficult part of laser cutters is the smell and getting rid of the gasses they generate (like from acrylic); you can vent it out (like you would with a plasma table if it's enclosed) or let it run "open" (and just blow the fumes out the garage door or whatnot), but you still have this smell that's similar to acetone - and can lead people to calling the cops (aka - meth lab).

But really, cutters have come down in price by a lot - but again, your requirements have to be small. You won't be getting a 4x8 table on a laser cutter for cheap (or anything beyond 100 watts for cheap) unless you homebrew it (even then, it won't be too cheap). The only other expense is the laser tube; in the case of name-brand cutters, these are mostly "solid state" (usually pumped via RF), but the cheapo stuff (homebrew and otherwise) will be liquid cooled glass tube laser heads, pumped with high-voltage. You have to use these often to make them live the longest (its a strange case where if they aren't used, their life expectancy is lower than if they are used constantly - due to the physics and such of the system - too much to explain here).

> These are very much not toys.

Agreed on that!

Ok, I should have worded that more carefully. That plasmacutter cuts 1/2 steel like it is cardboard at pretty good speeds and cost < $8K to build and processes 8'x4' sheets.

A lasercutter of similar size would be a lot more expensive even when homebrewed.

Though I'd love to have one :) 4x4' would already be a really nice size.

Laser cutters are so easy to screw up, but also so easy to maintain. Unfortunately the former is easier than the latter.

> But members break the tools all the time and don't take responsibility for it. Even though there are cameras and people have to swipe their card at the door it still happens. >I think one reason sharing is not as common is because people are jerks.

I agree with this. I visited a local maker space a number of people raved about (and still do) online. They did have a number of tools which I probably would not otherwise acquire (for instance laser cutters, etc.) either because of cost, space, or rarity of need, and I thought it would be neat to have a community of other similar minded people, however I found myself really turned off by the way the place and tools were kept up. Maybe I'm too fastidious when it comes to tools, but I found the tools weren't really kept clean, stuff was scattered about, unorganized, and ultimately I thought an untidy hodgepodge of mid-tier tools that weren't really well cared for by their users.

It is too bad, I think it is a good concept and I've seen youtube videos of what appear to be nice operations with hobbyists that are a bit more 'professional'. (I guess that could be somewhat of a contradiction..).

Rather than say "people are jerks", we could say "these people do not respect community property". One thing they have in common is that they probably all grew up in an individualistic capitalist society.

I can imagine that, if they lived in a functioning society where the dominant method of acquiring tools was by borrowing from some community pool of tools, the community might develop customs that protect the tools. Perhaps instead of having "bothersome bureaucratic certification" to get approval to use a tool, which is what I often see at hacker spaces, such a community would have elders who explain to the youth how to use and respect tools.

I imagine such a society could offload most of their survival needs to automation.

To keep it short..I think this line of reasoning has little basis in actual day to day reality.

Sometimes, people are just jerks, no matter how they were raised, where they came from, or what they are doing.

"Capitalist Society" or not.

Most people don't even respect their own property. Look at the states of disrepair of most houses..

Due to easy access to cheap credit, government policies, and government subsidies, probably half of people who buy a house in the US can't actually afford to care for that house.

That was tried in USSR, and the result was that even less care was taken of community property.

The USSR was a capitalist society also, except the state was the sole owner (or owned most businesses at least).

I think you should use other types of society for comparison: African tribes or Eskimos maybe?

You and GP are romanticising socialism. Japanese people are, for example, very conscientious on average. I recall images of them cleaning up after themselves at world cup events.

This has nothing to do with capatilism. And capatilism is not necessarily evil any more than socialism is.

My claim was that people who live in a sharing-based society would in general be more respectful of community property than those who live in a capitalist individualist society. I was not talking about all capitalist societies, just an individualist one. That some capitalist societies are more conscientious than others only lends credibility to my claims. You could have a sharing-based capitalist society, for example.

And I agree with the other poster - USSR was not even remotely socialist, it was a state capitalist society. The state owned the means of production. I am more interested in societies where the workers own the means of production - so some kind of Marxism.

However my original comment could be satisfied by a capitalist society that chose voluntarily to fund open source robots that provide for human survival - no Marxism required. In a way though, open source is similar to everyone "owning" the information, so in that way open source resembles communist ownership of information.

You are aware that "the state" isn't a thing, right? "The State" is merely what we call what you're referring to as the workers if it doesn't do what we want it to. The State is just a group of people.

This type of revisionist romanticism towards the USSR is an excellent example of the No True Scotsman fallacy. We don't like the result, therefore it wasn't socialism.

People have this knee-jerk reaction when you point out similarities between the USSR and capitalist economies, as if they had to be opposites in every dimension of life.

Being a worker in a capitalist society (be it a democracy or not) and in the USSR meant, in both cases, that you didn't have much of a say in how your job went. Corporations are not democracies. And if you live in a society in which you don't really have a say or much control, you can't really expect people to care.

And this is what my interpretation of TaylorAlexander's argument is. It is also why I think it would only make sense to investigate this matter further if we looked into societies that are different in this respect. Do the Amish take care of each other's stuff better? I don't know, but I would guess so.

"The State" exists as much as "Google" or "Microsoft" does.

Either of them is run by specific people and has specific interests. And I believe it is generally fruitful to look at an organization of living organisms as a thing in its own right.

There has to be supervision. I am also a member of a local hackerspace, and there is no way around the fact that people will screw things up with the tools, and not take responsibility for the screw-up.

This means, there have to be 'Members' in the workshop, at all times. That is, you can't use the space if you haven't been checked out, and are under the guidance, of another member.

Then, when things screw up, the other member has the responsibility to report what happened, and you gotta fix it.

(It has surprised me, over the years of observing the rise of hackerspaces, that the social engineering aspect of the ethos hasn't solve this problem. But it is very interesting to see that the phenomenon of irresponsibility is global.)

I help run a local hackerspace and I can tell from experience, that people underestimate just how much social stuff there is in keeping a community like this together. Because a healthy hackerspace is a community first, and a workshop second.

Related, I don't think I know of any hackerspace that solved the problem of keeping the workshop clean. We've been struggling with this for our entire 5 years of existence now. Nothing helps. Not asking, not pressuring, not shaming, not even cameras everywhere. People don't clean up the workplace after themselves, and the core members always end up doing that. If we had bigger budget, we'd consider hiring a cleaning contractor...

After grappling with the problem of cleaning communal spaces with multiple sets of roommates and in company breakrooms and kitchens I've come to a couple of conclusions:

1. Even in an environment with conscientious and considerate people with the best intentions, there will be a non-zero amount of "whoops I totally forgot to throw that out". People aren't perfect and they forget to do things sometimes.

2. At scale (for instance a company kitchen shared by an office of 50 people) even a 1.5% error rate will result in at least 2 "this should have been taken care of but wasn't" incidents per day (assuming each person goes to the break room 3 times/day).

3. The real error rate is likely to be higher than 1.5%. I consider myself a considerate person (eg. at work I load cups I didn't use into the dishwasher so the sink isn't full, I wipe off the countertops when I see them dirty etc.). But I'm sure even my own personal error rate is higher than 1.5% (eg. I'll bring a coffee cup and a water glass and forget one of them on a kitchen table when I go back to my desk; now that forgotten glass is someone else's responsibility to clean up).

What this means is that unless most of the people who use the space take ownership of problems, regardless of who created them, you're always going to have cleanup issues. I don't know if it's possible to create that type of culture.

I think the type mess is also a factor, not just the rate of incidence.

If you leave a cup behind once in a while, no problem, just shove it in the dishwasher.

If you make a coffee and leave sugar, and milk out and bits of coffee grinds on the counter every single day that's not ok.

Honestly, most adults are 5 year olds when in comes to cleanliness.

Korean culture, for all its flaws, has communal cleaning down pretty well. It's just always the youngest/junior members' responsibility. Depending on size/closeness/formality of group, the responsibility ends higher or lower up the totem pole. If the most senior member starts picking shit up, someone more junior is expected to get off their ass and finish what they started ASAP.

I think it's drilled into people from the conscription military culture, where:

1. nobody signed up for this shit

2. and yet there's tons of busywork/cleaning to do

3. rather than everyone milling about shifting responsibility, have a clear expectation that the most junior guys will do all the work, and once future generations come in they, too, can relax

There's even a saying, "your ass is heavy", which is a prod to juniors who stay seated as more senior people are doing busywork.

I like it; it uses a decent Schelling point (youngest does the work), and given that time goes on and humans keep reproducing, it stays fair.

At our local hackerspace, we use big flashing lights and an automated system that alerts everyone in the space that its cleanup time, that everyone should clean up no matter what, and that it is unacceptable for anyone to not be cleaning up for 15 minutes.

This results in a huge flurry of activity and a lot of walking around looking for things to cleanup and in fact it works. The space stays relatively clean.

If you have cameras you know who isn't cleaning up. Publicly ban several people for not cleaning up after themselves.

Wait a few weeks. Rinse and repeat until the problem is solved or you have no more members.

cmon, hiring cleaning service did work :-)

Didn't realize you folks did that :).

One way we tried to solve this at ours was to add a yearly lottery. One thing would be auctioned off (and it wasnt always the oldest thing- and replaced). If it could be potentially yours- you suddenly take good care.

I heard that my local taxi services worked the same way few years ago. If you don't claim that after two years vehicle will be driver's property, they break it to unrestorable in a couple of weeks.

My father, a military man, told me that the Army would supply the GIs with combat boots. When the boots would wear out, they soldiers would present them for replacement.

They had a high replacement rate. So they switched to a system where the GIs were given a clothing allowance to be spent on boots. What they didn't spend, they could keep.

The replacement rate for boots dropped in half.

How did the rate of foot and ankle injury change after they instituted this policy?

No change, and the boots were still presentable for inspection.

It just means with this new policy people stop using combat boots for every day use.

I remember our college had a policy of free boots and uniforms for NCC cadets. While the uniforms were passed on from batch to batch, boots weren't. Cadets presented boots totally worn out and often asked for replacements. What was happening? People were using boots for every day use hence far higher wear and tear.

Anything offered for free is generally abused this way.

My father got angry with me for scuffing my feet while walking - it would wear out the front of the shoe. So instead of buying me new shoes regularly, he said I had to pay for the shoes.

I still wore the shoes every day, but I stopped scuffing.

It's the same thing.

I've often heard people say "it's a rental car, what do I care" while treating the car badly. Ex-rentals have poor resale value. The same goes for hotel rooms, free housing, etc.

You can plan for jerks though. Libraries have survived damaged books just fine for millennia. Really all these sharing projects are become general purpose libraries of things rather than just books.

Cost replacement into the price of admission and kick out members that consistently abuse the privilege.

There should be some rating on borrowers. I am very careful who I lend things to. Many of my friends are careless. It's not in particular with your stuff, they are like that. This is a consequence of decades of disposable consumer product culture.

This is a great idea. I bet some kind of point system for careful use would encourage folks to use caution.

> Libraries have survived damaged books just fine for millennia

Libraries don't rent thousands dollars equipment that can be misused and broken. Moreover, it is much easier to fix a book than a damaged CNC vise.

Instead of renting out several thousand-dollar pieces of equipment, Instead they rent thousands of several-dollars pieces of equipment.

Isn't this just the Tragedy of the Commons all over again?

It is. TOTC is an essential feature of resource rich environments with an excess of tool using creatures.

This is why I left the tech shop, bought a mill, lathe, CNC router and a bunch of other things to augment tools I already have. If you care about the quality of what you produce, you need to be able to calibrate your equipment. I could never trust the machinery at techshop without verifying everything, which, with milling machines takes too long to do every time, especially on a checkout system.

There is a 90% chance whatever I borrow to someone, it will be damaged upon return. I don't get it, because there is a < 5% chance of me damaging something I borrow. Perhaps I have the wrong friends.

We need a sharing service for conscientious people.

> borrow to someone


I think some European languages have the same word for both lend* and borrow (German?): is that actually the case?

Dutch. We say "lenen aan" and "lenen van", resp. "lend to" and "lend from" aka "borrow".

We also use the same word for nephew and cousin.

I'm not sure about German, but they do got "sea" and "lake" mixed up ;)

Indeed, Meer and See are excellent words.

> I remember when I was a kid we used to borrow each other's NES games all the time and never give them back.

I definitely remember it being a very collective ownership thing in my neighborhood when it came to NES games.

The risk of borrowing something from a maker space, taking it home, then finding it to be broken is non-zero. That's a tax on the system paid by the borrowers. And it's another outcome of our plethora of cheap goods: just buy something new, it's cheap enough and pretty likely to work; but second-hand after some time its reliability drops off rapidly.

Well, if you break a rental from this place, I imagine you'd pay some fee.

I'm also part of a maker/hacker space. Culture is contagious, but takes work.

Then you have a social problem in your group. People are usually good in cooperating in small groups, if they feel as respected part of it with a common goal.

With reluctance, I have to second this.

Yeah also you have to deal with the "have you been officially shown how to use that <bandsaw/bench grinder/drill press/vice/pencil sharpener>?" crowd. No thanks.

Given that some of the tools can casually remove fingers, I would rather hope that some degree of basic safety training is mandatory. Or is that not what you mean?

Just because something can cause damage doesn't mean you need safety training on it. I mean, you wouldn't get training to use a bandsaw if you bought one for your own workshop would you?

Fifty years ago, you would have just knocked on your neighbour's door or asked the guys at bowling night. Wanting to borrow a drill or a tent isn't new; not knowing anyone to borrow it from is a peculiarly modern affliction.

I applaud any effort to rebuild our fractured society.

When I was studying at MIT people would knock on my door all the time to borrow tools, cables, kitchen gadgets, and various other things that I typically had. I didn't mind at all. I think we need to reduce the amount of "stuff" in the world and share more.

Since I graduated and in the Bay Area now I realized that my closest friends, and pretty much anyone I knew, is no longer located next to me. Every time I want to borrow something it involves figuring out when someone living 20km away from me will be available, worry about bothering their schedule and making them stay home when they don't want to be, and then spending $25 on Uber rides* round trip to get it, and then another $25 on Uber rides to return it to them later. In most cases I could just buy that drill off Amazon for less than $50 instead.

*I don't own a car because I avoid using a car when not necessary (e.g. commuting with a bicycle and public transportation), only need a car for occasional hiking trips and events, and believe in sharing, and my Lyft+Uber+Zipcar+Enterprise costs per month are less than the cost of car ownership.

> my Lyft+Uber+Zipcar+Enterprise costs per month are less than the cost of car ownership

Especially if you count the cost of externalities. Thanks for doing the right thing!

As a current student there, it's real useful to be able to hit up a mailing list of your neighbors, when you need to borrow something.

What is it with MIT and mailing lists? I don't know anyone who doesn't go to MIT that uses them the way my MIT friends do.

I go to ASU, the only mailing lists I'm a part of are the ASU Linux User Group and a bunch of MIT lists that I've found my way to.

Mailing lists are awesome! E-mail is an open protocol so it's easy to write advanced filters that you can't do with Facebook or other walled gardens.

I had an algorithm trained to recognize free food, for example.

At MIT they can also double-up as AFS groups so it's easy to control access and message a team without having to update membership in two places.

Wasn't there a list for free food? (I assume you mean for mails sent to other lists..)

Op didn't say it was a complex algorithm. :)

It was a Bayesian spam filter I wrote and trained to recognize free food instead of spam. I signed myself onto about 800 mailing lists.

Probably generally old style hacker tradition. My company is also mostly email, email lists, and IRC.

more like what is it with the rest of the world that stopped using them (the answer is Facebook and IM, obviously)

It also used to cost proportionally more of your disposable income; You'd probably be more inclined to borrow an item if it would cost the next month's cash to acquire.

This is exactly it. The drill in question is the kind of thing you find on special at Home Depot for $30. Likewise for (just riffing on the stuff I see in the photos in the linked article) the therma-rests and tents for camping, or the collection of board games[1], etc...

Basically, the causality in the grandparent's analysis is wrong. We aren't refusing to borrow stuff from our neighbors because we're unable due to some modern affliction, we don't bother because someone gave us that drill for father's day last year. The junk is the cause, not the effect.

[1] Which is hardly a new phenomenon. The home I grew up in 40 years ago was drowning in these things too.

Home Depot also does rentals of more expensive items.

Does the US have tool renting places for contractors? The ones here have all sorts of tools, including massive stuff (e.g. Excavators, trench cutting equipment, graders). They aren't particularly cheap to use, but they have what is needed. Excessively dirty or broken tools get refunded too.

Yes, both the US and Canada have tool/equipment rental places that are used by both contractors and homeowners for this sort of thing. They're usually focused on the bigger ticket items, but often have smaller speciality items too.

The thing that interests me about the maker spaces is that they provide a _place_ for this activity where the equipment is already set up, and a community of people that are interested in sharing their skills. You don't really find that at the commercial tool rental places.

Certain tools do get me thinking of the neighbours - angle grinder and welder for sure.

I still wouldn't buy a drill today, but I'd consider renting one from Home Depot before asking neighbors (mostly because the idea of asking neighbors wouldn't cross my mind, to prove GP's point).

A drill/electric screwdriver is probably the most useful power tool today for a home owner. If you don't own one you likely wouldn't own any power tools. And at a car ride and $20 a day rental it doesn't take long to justify the on sale price. Are you space constrained or do you just not do simple maintenance yourself or is there some other reason my engineer brain isn't grokking.

Eg I wouldn't even work on a light switch without a power drill because I don't want to make the literal 200 revolution over 5 minutes per screw to check if it's out. Also it's harder to shock yourself.

And to be fair I own not just a drill but woodworking tools and metal working tools (lathe mill) and a 3d printer and cover a laser cutter and a welder that does aluminum. So maybe I'm biased.

"Eg I wouldn't even work on a light switch without a power drill because I don't want to make the literal 200 revolution over 5 minutes per screw"

200 revolutions, 5 minutes? What kind of screws are in your light switch?

I've never seen one that took a sizeable number revolutions.

A quick check suggests 6-32 threading is standard. That means 32 threads-per-inch, so your 200 revolutions means your light switch screws are six inches long??

Mild exaggeration. They're usually 2 inches from what I recall. If you're doing a lot of light switches or even a few it's still a lot of turns with your hand, or you know 2-3 seconds with a drill. But for 2 gang box, that's 4 2" screws + 4 decorative screws. So 5 minutes is not really an exaggeration to take all that out, about the same to put it all back in. And when you take into consideration how it's better to just shove a ton of wires into the box (as contractors do) instead of leaving the wires too short, the mechanical advantage of the drill doing the work allowing you to align the screw with minimal and accurate force instead of doing accurate alignment while cranking hard with a screwdriver... yes it's a big win.

And then you get to flat head decorative screws, I find it way easier to use a drill on those as it is easier to not scratch the paint off of the screws, which bothers me.

Most combo wire strippers will have screw cutters built into them to solve the "this screw is 4x longer than it needs to be" issue.

Thanks. Hadn't ever used the wire stripper screw cutting holes. https://diy.stackexchange.com/a/20876

Good to know. Never thought of that. Tho my loft had super deeply recessed boxes that fell back without the screws so you needed super long ones to tension the box to the drywall.

Or he has 12 1/2" screws. :)

Poster explicitly mentioned per screw

Poster was mildly exaggerating. Poster also prefers to get all the honey do sh*t done in one go instead of stopping because hand is tired. Honey do things encounter enough issues and trips to home depot that I'm not keen on adding 2 more (to pick up the drill and drop it off).

Poster sounds like my brother, who uses an impact driver on body panel nuts. :)

Poster was me, and I wouldn't do that. Besides 1/2 the time impact drivers won't even fit in those gaps. You gotta slip the thing in there and curse the engineer who designed it along with every other person servicing the thing ever.

One statistic I've seen is that a drill has on average about 10 minutes of use. So for a lot of people who own one it makes no sense at all. I for one simply borrow the hammer drill at work when I need it; at home I have a cordless screwdriver which takes care of screws and most holes that don't go into concrete or bricks.

Cordless screwdriver isn't far off from a drill, I would consider both for a homeowner.

Hammer drill is getting into more interesting things, I own one but I would definitely lend it out to a friend (with maybe some supervision the first time). I got mine at a steal like 25 years ago. But most people need to go through wood, plastic, or drywall, not concrete.

Also my drill has seen several hours of runtime but I also redid my loft apartment, and am generally handy.

Hammer drill is what I meant with drill, as the cordless screwdriver suffices for most other things. In Europe you need it pretty much in every home as walls are brick and concrete. Wood, plastic, or drywall are rather uncommon construction materials for walls here.

This also means that drilling a hole in ten seconds doesn't work often.

This doesn't seem that surprising given that a hole takes ~10 seconds to drill... ie. if you have 10 projects over the course of a few years that need a handful of holes each, it's probably still worth it to buy a drill, unless borrowing one happens to be very convenient...

True. It's not like someone else can use your drill while you're fumbling around for different bits, screws, aligning things, etc.

That's appalling. Who buys a drill to use it that infrequently?

Lots of people buy stuff like a drill, use it once, and never use it again for years. They can do it because equipment like this is dirt cheap; it's worth the cost of the item to solve the initial problem; it's a bonus if it ever gets used again.

10 minutes of use over what time period?

Yeah. That's really a bad example. If you ever do just about any amount of housework a good cordless drill and the associated bits are the one piece of power tool gear you'll pull out on a regular basis. I have various things out in my workshop I use rarely but the drill (and my Dremel) are in my closet and get pulled out all the time.

Is this actually true? Is there anyone here who was an adult in the 60s / 70s who can attest to this?

Even then it would be anecdotal.

If we've got data let's go with the data. If all we've got is opinions let's go with mine.

I'd probably not be inclined to borrow a thing if it cost next month's cash to replace it when I break it.

I would be more inclined to hire a thing from a company who hires things. That way, if it breaks, no one is put out.

I remember my parents lending their caravan to friends in the seventies, they would lend and borrow tools as well. The reason I remember is they were constantly complaining about the state things were returned in, breakages were frequent.

I have a random alternate data point. There are a ton of craftsman metal lathes out there from the 20s to 60s. I think more people had way more workshop capabilities. But anecdotally I notice that people prefer to either do metal stuff or wood stuff. They take the same type of tools but don't really cross over (wood lathe really doesn't work on metal and vice versa). Enough so that most people can't afford both, in terms of space or money. Also hot metal chips cause sawdust to go up in flames, sawdust gets all up in your metal cutting oils and coolant, so you have to keep a cleaner shop than usual.

As for renting stuff, rental gear is usually beat to shit by people who a) don't know what they're doing, b) are too cheap to pay for the real tool, so they'll use a small sander (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B006EKFZQ4/ref=asc_df_B006EKFZQ450...) rental to resurface their floor when they need a full size one to really do a house (https://www.amazon.com/Clarke-Drum-Sander-Ez-8-Expandable/dp...) [had a friend do this, but he just under rented and went right back an hour later], or use a drill as a saw, c) or just don't give a shit about the equipment and beat the crap out of it anyway... eg moral hazard. I've rented tools where it looked like it was fine and immediately broke (person glued the pull starter onto the engine when string broke). I then had to spend an hour discussing with the rental place if I broke it. Another time they forgot a part and tried to charge me for it then 20 minutes later found it on the floor. They're generally a good store but it's a shitty market.

In my neighborhood in France we keep lending/borrowing each other stuff all the time. It probably helps that most of the resident are eldery people who accumulated a bunch of useful stuff.

Agree, the more expensive something is, the less inclined I am to borrow it.

Or lend it out, for that matter.

But even a $10 tool I won't led out. No, you're not borrowing my 15mm spanner because I'll never get it back.

That could be less of a problem when you're borrowing it from an actual service like the one in the article.

Yeah, that's basically it: I won't borrow or lend out from individuals, but when there's a contract in place (supported by a membership fee in this case) that defines the limits of liability and cost of replacement then it's not borrowing anyway. It is, as someone else mentioned, hiring.

People hire cars all the time. If you break it you are put out. Same usually with rental equipment. Or you pay the "insurance" on it, which no one does.

indeed, outside of luxury items, things have become very cheap. real estate, health care, and education have become very expensive. As an aside, one can pin the persistence of ZIRP on the Fed measuring the wrong things.


I found this graph in that article particularly interesting:


The alternative explanation for those items is that items whose price is subsidized and/or not fully disclosed to the consumer tend to rise. The graph shows everything dropping in price except:

- shelter (slight rise - real estate is tax advantaged and routinely debt-financed over decades)

- medical care (significant rise, and insurance and tax shelter of insurance and government programs hide the full cost)

- college (very heavily subsidized, by government, schools, and parents)

The other items the article mentions (summer camps, veterinary care, and broadway shows) are all luxury goods. At least if you're not a farmer/rancher for a living.

Yes, the thesis that services become relatively more expensive is interesting, but the effect of subsidies and hidden prices is well understood already.

It is still done, and it pisses me off a lot.

I am usually the one with all the stuff, especially tools. And people tend to borrow from me a lot. I tend to be fine with it, but some people abuse it. They damage my stuff or lose parts and don't offer any kind of compensation, expect me to take care of the return or just forget it, etc... These people are a minority, but they are also those who tend to borrow the most.

With this mindset, it is no surprise people get protective of their stuff. At least, a "library of things" has ways of dealing with abusers without endangering friendly relationships.

The problem is, that you have to move for every new job. Our parents and grandparents lived in the same very spot for decades.

Studies indicate that Americans are moving less than ever before: People move for college, and will probably move again to their first job, but people move a lot less often afterwards. An important reason is that two salaries per family is the norm if you want to live comfortably, and looking for two jobs somewhere else that aren't a net loss is not all that common.

At the same time, moving for people without college degrees is even lower, because their lives require a strong social support network, and that doesn't move with you. This is part of why growth in the poorest parts of the country is not in any way catching up with big metro areas.

What is really weakening social structures is that we both have a country full of suburbia and unstable work environments. This leaves few opportunities to build friendships after college. Friendship is easy if you met the same people all the time organically: Super dense cities or even vacation resorts give plenty of opportunity to keep interacting with the same people without trying hard. Nowadays, the only place that gives us that opportunity is work, and once someone changes jobs, the interactions go away.

We see very similar situations in multiplayer videogames. A first person shooter with dedicated servers that people select builds a community. Joining a random queue makes sure you never meet the same people often enough to build connections.

In life, people get through this by just using group hobbies as excuses. I know many people that go to 10+ conventions a year, just to meet other people that also do this, and end up building friendships even when living far away. Similar things happen with computer conferences. The flipside is that all that travel weakens families: I know someone that this year is on track to spend 3 months away from home, mostly because this person enjoys it. The problem is that they have two daughters. You can imagine what the girls aren't taking it well.

I suspect that humanity will keep working on new techniques to avoid the loneliness and inefficiency that comes from very weak social links: Like in many other areas, it's a case where changes are coming faster than humans adapt, but we can't just keep working this way.

This. In the last 10 years I have lived in 7 different places in 5 different cities. Either because I had to move or because my wife got a new job. Most of my friends growing up live in a town I haven't lived within 300 miles of in 13 years.

4/5 times if I make a new friend one of us (sometimes me, sometimes them) moves far away within three years.

I bought a house a few years ago so now I have forced stability (moving is too expensive so to make me move it would have to be an incredible opportunity).

That's part of it, but part of it is also that our communities are physically structured very differently. My parents have lived in the same neighborhood fifteen years and don't really know any of their neighbors. Their neighborhood is a modern cul-de-sac of McMansions designed to make it easy to ignore the people around you. In contrast, my wife and I moved into a pre-car era neighborhood just six months ago. We already know a ton of neighbors. It's hard not to meet them when every house has a porch and sits on a lot 1/5 the minimum lot size in the county.

This. We lived in a similar 1920's neighborhood for about 3 years now, and are friendly with many of the neighbors. We have borrowed a ladder, tools, and exchanged garden vegetables. One neighbor gave me his old power drill. We loaned out our car once. You definitely meet more people when you have a front porch.

You don't have to move for new jobs, you have to move for the kinds of jobs people on HN want.

Not necessarily true. I know people who have moved to get low paying jobs at retail stores because the closest place hiring unskilled labor would have been a several hours of driving every day.

Not so much any more, I think the market has improved. But still, most of the low to middle income people I know don't live in their home town any more because there simple aren't a lot of job in small town America so they go to cities.

Or just getting priced out of your apartment, that 2.5% raise can't hold up against 5% lease increase for long if you were already on the cusp of affordability.

I don't know that this is true. I have been in the same smallish town (Boulder) for almost two decades and have had a number of different jobs (startups, contracting, smallcos).

I run a neighborhood mailing list and was thrilled when my lawnmower broke and I asked to borrow one on the list. I had five or so folks happy to lend me theirs.

However, it was hard for me to ask. Was it pride, fear of being turned down or them thinking "why doesn't he just buy one"? Not sure.

Do you use nextdoor or do you collect email addresses from neighbors?

Boulder is the exception, not the rule. It's a tech and startup heavy city with higher than average employment rates.

Exception to what? America lacking cohesive neighborhoods? Neighbors being unwilling to share equipment?

FWIW one of the older neighbors has a snow blower and uses it to snowblow the sidewalk on his side. I asked him to borrow it once and he quickly said "I never lend anyone my tools."

The exception with respect to the parent's first comment about jobs in one city; not talking about the borrowing.

I'm sure that's backwards. Earlier generations were more likely to move around than are Millenials. See Census Bureau "Americans Moving at Historically Low Rates" November 2016.

How is that the problem? I've had my current neighbors for a few months and we've borrowed several things from each other. Lived in a house in a different place for a year and a half. Great friends with the folks next door and borrowed things from each other regularly. You just have to go talk to people when they move in, invite them over for a barbecue and boom - now you're friends. Not that hard to redo every time someone changes a job.

There are so many things I'd love to own. Golf clubs, snowboard, records, guitar, even just nice wine glasses. But I move far and often and have not found a way to move or store my own things.

All the jobs I've moved for paid for me to move. I priced moving my big shit before and it was not really any more expensive than other stuff like a motorcycle. It's just pure weight.

That is a very salient point. When isn't society being re-built, though?

More to the point, those 'golden days' still happen, and are not unique to any particular culture. There are plenty of neighborhoods in the world still yet where these things happen.

This still happens in my town. It probably still happens in any community where it would have happened 50 years ago and doesn't in ones it wouldn't have happened in. Your view on what our society is like right now is colored by where you live.

This is very true, however, in my experience seems mostly limited to apartments/condos, when I've lived in apartments I rarely interact with my neighbors. When I've lived in houses in less dense areas I've always been friendly with my neighbors and frequently borrowed tools, ladders and other household items from them. Go meet your neighbors everyone, make friends and then you don't all need to have a 20ft extension ladder! I wonder if other people have seen the same trend?

Where I live (near Palo Alto), people borrow/loan stuff on Nextdoor all the time. It has been a good way to avoid one-time purchases, and to get to know neighbors.

I'm not sure this accomplishes any rebuilding though. Sure, it's a place one can borrow things for a fee, but so is Rent-A-Center and the amount of social interaction is the same as any retail store. One might get to know the people there over time, but it's hardly necessary to do so.

I think in a time when one might not know one's neighbors well, it might help to have an inventory of things available --we would know who has an awl or a wet vacuum, etc.

Thinking of this as a caching problem, there need to be hyperlocal borrowing like at the level of apartment buildings or city blocks. The 6-unit apartment building I live in has a shared area in the basement—power tools, a shop vac, brewing equipment, knife sharpener, pentalobe screwdrivers, a weedwhacker, a multimeter, etc.) This complements the tool lending library (which my city has) which furnishes lower frequency needs. The hyperlocal thing is also a nice way to meet your neighbors (oh wow you also have a lot of pentalobe screwdrivers!) and share skills (I just learned how to fertilize houseplants).

For higher value items, I've been meaning to extend the above apartment-wide setup with a Google Doc inventory of things that people are willing to share, but want where participants want face-to-face confirmation, like loaning a camera or a mountain bike. I wish there were a way (a social institution moreso than a technical solution) to make quick contracts for borrowing things. I'm privileged enough to be able to replace minor things, but I am definitely relucatant to loan big things if I don't know if a friend can/would replace the thing if something bad happened on their watch. And no I don't want to rent them—I don't like the cognitive overhead of markets, and that's not the point.

This reminds me somewhat of a social conundrum I've been experiencing lately; the thing is, in some cases I love most of my neighbors, however there are always the few who won't/don't value communal items/space. The group of those residents who want to just live harmoniously with their neighbors outnumbers the subset of residents who care enough about the rules to confront those breaking them. The passive group vilifies and subjugates those who try to mention anything to bad actors abusing the space, because they feel it will only rock the boat, and the ones breaking the rules shout the loudest.

If this sounds oddly specific, that's because it is- In my community we have a communal pool for our apartment block of 10-15 units. In general, everyone gets along, but there do exist problems where self governance and trust have failed, as far as taking care of shared property. Those who just want to live peacefully are retreating into their homes, those who care enough to say anything have been dismissed by the tenant in question, labeled as racist, bigoted or otherwise are browbeaten by the more fearful tenants into not reporting the problems.

In our case, it is a swimming pool, and a struggle with a tenant and her friends who sit around the pool drinking alcohol loudly all day, never once leaving, who enter the shallow end of the pool about twice an hour for 10 seconds, swishing their hands in the water around their waist before they exit. There is a restroom in her apartment which is less than 20 feet from the pool; I'm not positive what's going on in those 10 seconds, but people like myself who's balconies overlook the pool are noting this, and nobody wants to swim anymore because of it. Any suggestions about just talking to the tenant elicit a gasp and dirty look from the pacifist crowd. How would you, dear reader, handle a delicate situation like this?

After realizing how futile any complaints would be, I've stopped swimming until I find the respectful and correct way to put a resolution on this.

This personal anecdote may have strayed from its target, but relating the situation to the void felt somewhat cathartic.

I do three things to cut consumption: borrow, rent, and "rent". "Rent" is buy high quality/high value, and resell for a significant fraction of retail when you are done with it. I learned it from a friend at work. She bought a Dell Deal high-end desktop with free monitor. She sold the monitor immediately, which covered most of her layout for the initial deal. Then, three years later, she sold the desktop for about 60% of retail. The items were being enjoyed by new owners, and she recovered the value she put into them.

The other option is to buy used items that strongly retain value, like camera lenses. Most of my glass is worth about the same as when I bought it from eBay, because there's nothing that really depreciates and good lenses are good lenses.

I only buy used cell phones. I have an S5 and Note 4 right now I got combined for half the cost of a new S8, and I got both in mint condition a year ago.

You really can't get away with that with laptops or desktops because the need for fans causes a lot of component wear and environments are so divergent you can't trust used sellers to not have a lot of the internals damaged. Or the keyboards and trackpads - heavy wear or use or just abuse and one damaged key can ruin a purchase.

Phones are nice and self contained enough that looking at the outside generally tells you the condition of the inside.

You really can't get away with that with laptops or desktops because the need for fans causes a lot of component wear and environments are so divergent you can't trust used sellers to not have a lot of the internals damaged.

I've had luck buying laptops (specifically Thinkpads) previously owned by companies and being replaced by lot. Probably due to a mix of better environment, better treatment by workers and more likely to get fixed if broken.

I'm also going to chime in and agree. Thinkpads are tanks; I've got a collection of about 8 running either Ubuntu or Windows 10 that just won't die, and are fine for browsing.

Even the newer ones that are on par with mac laptops are solid. The carbon is as thin and actually much lighter, and still feels really sturdy.

Very true.

I just recently bought a Thinkpad X1 Carbon on eBay. As a mac user I was shocked to learn that I could get a very capable device that was sold for € 1500 - € 2000 in 2013 for € 300. In great condition.

> Phones are nice and self contained enough that looking at the outside generally tells you the condition of the inside.

It doesn't say anything about the condition of the (now commonly non-user-replaceable) batteries and the battery longevity. The device may not have any scratches or dents, but the owner might've used it primarily to watch videos and play high-intensity (graphics wise) games most of the time. Those actions make the battery a "needs to be replaced sooner" thing (or worse, make the phone a "needs to be replaced sooner" thing). Even checking the battery cycle count is inadequate because it doesn't say how quickly the drain happened during use (that also impacts battery longevity).

> You really can't get away with that with laptops or desktops because the need for fans causes a lot of component wear

I don't buy used myself, but it surprises me to hear that you avoid used desktops. I generally buy my workstation equipment new and keep it for a very long time. Yes, the fans need periodic servicing (e.g., a thorough cleaning every couple of years), or outright replacement if you don't keep them clean. But desktops are easily user-serviceable. If I were to buy used, it seems replacing a few bad fans would be easy.

It isn't so much replacement costs, it is that an unkempt desktop can cause actual physical hardware damage or degradation. A phone is a solid state device, which (except in extraordinary circumstances) won't have bad ventilation problems.

The variability in the state of the hardware you get is much wider in notebook and desktop hardware because there is just more circuitry to break and more moving parts to wear out.

My psychological problem is that the market is so cut throat these days a lot of used items are barely listed at a discount. So it's too easy for me to justify buying new for 10% more to get "official" assurances.

On the other hand I've been buying only refurbished electronics for a couple years now and have had no problems.

This. For me, more mundane examples are what this article actually lists. I heavily researched my camping gear, and with the exception of one sleeping bag that ripped the rest is still working great 10 years later. Same for sunglasses, my vacuum cleaner, tools, etc. Anything not perishable that I buy is a long-term investment. I buy something toward the high end and use it until it pukes.

That's what I do. If I need a tool temporarily, I just get it from eBay or Craigslist, and then unload it. I often make money when I resell. It's not much, but all in all I essentially rent things for free. This doesn't work for things that are very expensive, but for anything below a few thousand dollars, this will save you a ton of money.

And I'm the guy who buys those used Dells :)

Some people also use "rent" for buying an item and returning it before the store's "no questions asked" return period expires.

Possessions-as-a-Service? No, can't see it taking off.

In all seriousness, as others have noted, I see this as a rather damning comment on how badly human contact is getting abstracted away to businesses more and more. It's rather sad that people no longer feel able to just talk to others without some organisation to mediate.

What about things that aren't owned by anyone in your social group, and are too expensive/rarely used to justify buying yourself? Say the chocolate fountain: no one really needs it bad enough to buy one, but if you can sell access to one for some small fraction of that cost it could become a reasonable expense. A similar logic can be applied to a table saw, or to a dremel, or to a soldering iron. This service removes circumstance and adds reliability to borrowing.

And maybe it does reflect something sad about socialization today, but that doesn't mean it isn't useful or good.

There are rental places for that kind of thing. The chocolate fountain and table saw are good examples. But soldering iron? $15 on Amazon. Dremel is more but is actually a good example of a tool you'll find use for doing lots of things. (And you tend to chew up cutting discs etc. if you borrow so you'll probably need to buy parts in any case.)

It depends. My father goes to an evangelical church and there's a lot of cooperation. People help each other for free, lend things, fix things for free, etc...

Hasn't the media been lamenting this exact behavior of millennials though? Houses would be bought previously, now more people are renting, vandwelling or just living with their parents. Less cars are being purchases because of people 'Ubering' everywhere. People rent more stuff thereby slowing down many industries. The future looks glum for many of them (especially the diamond industry)

Student loan was shown to be the primary deterrent. Of course what wasn't to blame was that the disparity between median wage and comfortable life is growing. Another thing they fail to attribute this to is that millennials are smarter, avoiding the spendthrift mistakes like large mortgages which tie them down to a place and make them paycheck away from homelessness.

source: Just google 'Millennials aren't buying <insert anything here>'

I tried this, and one of the top business insider articles has a similar perspective as your comment here, blaming the baby boomers.


(I kinda went offtopic but I think it is worth telling)

That article seems to be overreaching about what's 'killing' industries a little bit. The industry that's really in trouble is the diamond industry. That industry wasn't mentioned anywhere except a tweet which was dismissed[1]

There are downsides (apart from being expensive of course) like forced labor in Botswana, etc. Even if they are specifically advertised as not Blood Diamonds, people just want to get away from that industry. Mossanite is an alternative that is getting popular.

This might seem like a very small thing to care about, but I'll say it has wide ranging ripple effects. Millions of people depend on the unreasonable margin that diamonds provide, ranging from specialists to the stores that litter every single town because of course, people had to have a diamond shop. That was more important, than say, a blood bank. On first look, it might not seem economically feasible, but just the absurd lengths people go through to pay for that one diamond keeps the industry alive -- and thriving. Culture is the only thing to blame (or thank)

On the flip side of the unemployment that will be caused in developed countries, you have to consider the sheer amount of labor that is put (or forced) in Africa. Because of the value of diamonds, many were forced into labor and that will hopefully go down.

[1]:https://twitter.com/UweBollocks/status/748679268599758848 - this tweet was embedded in the article. Shame that it wasn't talked about in detail

PS: I'd recommend the movie Blood Diamond


And inflict myself transaction inefficiencies every time I want to do anything?

It's hard enough to get enough time to do something, imagine requiring that time to be in commercial hours, prefaced by a drive or walk somewhere, a talk with somebody, then postfaced by the same. And then you forgot something...

I imagine that for many people, that is far less expensive than needing to buy everything they might need once a year, find storage for it, and go get it/return it/ to that storage. It quite possibly this wouldn't be convenient for something like a set of wrenches which you might be able to buy outright, but for someone who needs them only once a year and has other things to borrow, this could be very reasonable.

I feel this way every time I need the use of a pickup truck. There are plenty of places I can go rent one but the time it takes to reserve it, drive there, do all the paperwork, and then repeat when I return it just doesn't seem worth it most of the time.

I lived in a city that had a Tool Library; similar concept for tools.

I once lived out of two bags for 11 months. After living in a one bedroom apartment by myself for about a year, I was surprised just how much I had to sell, give away and git rid of. I even tried to keep in my head that I wasn't /really/ buying anything, but basically renting it until I took off again. I always tried to buy used or from thrift stores whenever possible.



I wasn't aware that borrowing things wasn't a thing these days. I'm forever borrowing and lending things. Just yesterday I borrowed a hammer drill from a friend because it's ridiculous buying one to drill some holes for a curtain rail.

This seems apt for very dense locations where the premium is on surface space. Unsure of how cultures might be willing to receive the idea, but given space constraints, the idea might gain traction in Tokyo or Amsterdam, Shanghai, Mumbai, etc.

Also take the idea to places where people aren't used to having and owning these possessions --get them while it's still a nascent idea.

Remember you can always "rent" things from craigslist if you're fine with spending the time hitting "relist" for a few weeks while you wait for someone to buy it.

I'm currently doing this with a car for my visiting son. Too young to rent for but not a big deal to buy an old car for 2 months and sell it when he leaves. Basically paid the registration fee for 2 months + gas which is $300 for a 2 month rental. Then the "fun" (which it is to some people) of dealing with cragistlist crazies while selling it. I actually enjoy dealing with the flakes, putting myself in their shoes and getting practice negotiating.

I do wonder if this is not the happy medium.

If someone wants to borrow my spanner for a few days perhaps I'll just sell it to them for the replacement price with the guarantee that I'll buy it back from them if it is returned in the same condition it was sold.

In finance those types of contracts are called swaps. So there is a precedent :)

Probably fine for a spanner, but puts a lot of risk burden on to anyone borrowing​ the item. Sometimes items just break from wear & tear.

Would need to come with insurance from some 3rd party :)

Isn't this what the "shared economy" is about?

Still, I find it interesting that he managed to raise $30k on IndieGoGo. It signals that people care about those ideas/ideals.

No, the shared economy is about corporations paying for peoples' time as piece-work, while avoiding or minimizing tax, benefit and liability expenses.

I've come to the conclusion that the only reason new baby equipment is ever sold is due to baby showers. There's an extremely liquid market for this stuff since it spends less than a year with each owner.

I saw this the other day http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-40190007/the-woman-who...

It makes sense, I don't have children so I don't know if $55 a month is expensive or not.

Seems more expensive than the alternatives, but that depends how much time it takes to seek out used clothes via friends, mothers groups, thrift stores. If that is time consuming for you then it might be worth it.

Then there's folks like me who have multiple kids and use that baby equipment over and over and over. We just threw away our first portable playpen (broken) after 16 years of nearly constant use (7 kids).

I'm fortunate that I actually know my neighbors, we bbq, and we do favors and borrow each other's stuff all the time. This sort of community seems to be getting rare. I like the idea of the 'library of things' but feel like I'd might implement it as a P2P borrowing app to encourage people to talk to their neighbors.

The problem is that people aren't 'settling down' and instead are frequently moving around for work. This makes it hard to build up communities with the people around you. Your work becomes your 'stand-in' community - which has it's disadvantages. This has ramifications for health and happiness far beyond borrowing stuff. The studies that show people living longest aren't correlated with western health care or even good diet - it's the strength of their bond with their community.

I tend to find that I can't trust those who borrow my things to actually care for my things. They come back absolutely broken.

this is why you lend your fixer-upper tools (say, the first chainsaw / drill you bought), and keep the good stuff for yourself.

I love this overall concept. In LA a startup launched last year that will not only rent you the random stuff you don't need to buy, but they actually drop it off & pick it back up from you (www.joymode.com). They organize it all by experiences (ie not so much about tools) but instead here are things you need for backyard movie night, or camping, or pasta making etc. I'm a big fan of owning fewer things... frees people up to move more easily (not being able to move homes is huge cause of under-employment).

We still live in an ownership society AFAIK. Owning your own home, car, the vast majority of products you use pays. Owning multiples of each pays even more. The parts of society where this isn't true is media, and it's a shame.

You should buy what you need with the rights you're entitled to, and figure out the difference between what you need and what you really don't.

Someone with a username matching a fairly fancy car manufacturer would think that, wouldn't they? :-)

I so don't miss owning a car. If you don't need a car for daily commute then taxis and renting is much much cheaper for when you do need a car.

And it's not just the money. The life drain of owning a car is a big cost.

If I lived in Houston I'd reluctantly own a car though.

Do you have any children?

I owned cars from my 18th birthday and a significant amount of my earnings went into them. Now that I am closer to 40 than to 30 and living at a place that can actually provide me with a decent public transport I can see myself not owning a car but the thing is that I have a kid and really don't want to tell my wife and my daughter that we have to go on a bus or wait for a cab to go to the nearby lake for a nice relaxing Sunday afternoon. Also I lease a car for around 200 GBP per month which is less than what I would pay for public transport. With those 200 GBP per month and for a three year lease tires and maintenance are included. What's not to like?

200 GBP a month is a lot of Ubering. That can be like 5-10 hours in a cab per month (depending on trip lengths). And on top of that you don't need to pay for fuel, insurance, parking, mechanic, cleaning, MOT, etc... etc... (ok, so you mentioned "maintenance included", so that's a pretty sweet deal, actually. still not worth it and you're not comparing apples to apples)

What's your total cost that you should compare to? 600 GBP a month maybe? 700? (maybe with your deal only double the number you said)

I'd rather have "wait for uber" over "searching for parking spot" any day. Or I rent a zipcar. You could rent a zipcar every weekend and it'd still be cheaper than owning a car.

But no, I'm not in your position, and there are things you don't mention that I know about, like child car seats, that has made a friend of mine keep his car.

I didn't say there are no exceptions.

I have an e-bike, live near public transport, bike lanes, and hate owning my car too. Would I switch to using Lyft exclusively? If the south bay invested more in the VTA like Muni in the city, and Lyft was much cheaper for long distance driving, yes. Otherwise, no.

What about things that aren't worth the cost to own them outright? Take a chocolate fountain: No one needs one, but it might become worth it to buy access to one at some small fraction of it's cost.

I'm not against renting, or something as a service etc.. I'm just saying the benefits of actually owning something you need pays for itself. If you're new to skiing and want to try it out? Rent the gear. Going more than twice a year? I'm sure buying good gear is worth it.

How does owning multiple houses or cars pay?

If you need them, even as an investment, you can always rent out a house. Having a small car as a daily driver and a big one for a family car makes sense.

There are drivers that rent Priuses for hundreds/week and earn a living on Uber/Lyft. The owner is making a killing I'm sure.

My local public library has a Makerspace[0] with 3D printers, recording studios, plus a bunch of other stuff. I haven't checked it out yet, but it seems like every time I visit the web site there is something new. Plus they're renovating (right now the building has been stripped all the way down to its concrete structure) the main branch of the library, it looks like the renovation will have a pretty big section for the Makerspace. Access is available to library members, and membership is free for Edmonton residents so there's virtually no barriers to entry.

There's also the Edmonton New Technology Society[1], which was the original Makerspace in Edmonton. Unfortunately for me, the location means that I'm unable to visit regularly.

[0] https://www.epl.ca/browse_program/makerspace/

[1] https://ents.ca/

"Access-to not ownership-of" VS "The tragedy of the commons"

It's as eternal and essential balance as CPU vs MEMORY.

Now that our local Home Depot does tool rental, I have in that a good option for many tools that I rarely use. But even then you have to be strategic. I rented a gas-powered masonary saw. The cost to rent the blade was just half the cost of buying a new one - so I bought the blade to use with my rented saw. Will be using it again a third time soon.

I did grow up on the phrase "he who dies with the most tools wins", so it's taken me some time to transition to rent/loan. But I've got so many tools and supplies now, and I've reached a point in my life where I'd like to do more and own less, and all those tools are now somewhat a burden. I bet I'm not alone and that these tool libraries could probably get a lot of high quality donations.

My coworker is one of those guys who is an old man before his time. He loves scotch and working with tools. Sadly, he lives in a small apartment, so he doesn't have a real workspace. I've offered to let him come over for some tool time. We will see if he bites.

It's not sharing or borrowing if you pay for it; it's called renting.

There's a shop like this in Berlin called Leila (for Leihladen). I very much hope that this idea takes off. Ideally this would not have to be a private enterprise, but could be an extension of the public library systems like it is done in some places in Finland: http://finland.fi/life-society/finnish-libraries-offer-new-a...

I love my local tool library. There are a lot of tools that I'll basically only ever use once. Instead of buying them and having them sit on the shelf, I can just check it out (for way less money) Annual membership is about what one cheap tool costs.

Moving is definitely an issue here; lugging 10+kilos of tools across voltages and miles is not a particularly enticing proposition. I had an awesome time with the community bike shops both in UW and in North Seattle; even built my current bike there :D Anywho, if you're in Seattle, please do consider helping these people out before their lease runs out in Oct.


There are many tool rental outlets. The tool quality tends to stabilize at "almost broken", but they exist.

Exactly. And the tool hire companies would hire out tents too if they were a thing you could lend out and expect to get back intact. They would probably have board games in there too if the games came back with all the pieces present. Maybe jigsaw puzzles too... Who wouldn't want some recreation amenity items for the crew?

So really anything that can be rented out already is and the magic of capitalism means that is at market price already. Plus there is ebay, where else does one go, Craigslist? In these market places people get rid of old hobby gear. It may not be rented or you can see on the purchase as rented indefinitely with a reasonable return deposit.

I looked into renting a table saw recently and I could basically buy a second hand one for less than what it would have cost to rent for a week.

Yup you can very often just buy the tool you need on CL use it for a weekend and sell it to the next person at pretty much the same price. I suppose this is actually a nice model as it forces you to not abuse the tool so you can still sell it for a good price.

Not so much here in Canada, especially for one-time use automotive tools. From the local NAPA store, rentals are too much of a hassle.


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