Workshop Venue Management Software

In the ecovillage Sieben Linden we are evaluating how to make our lives easy (na, okay: easier) with a better workshop venue management system. A post about this can be found around the campfire, and @hugi proposed that I could go more into detail here (Participio).

The awesome list compile by matthias doesnt hit the nail yet.

The business

Our association offers workshops (or seminars, never sure about the correct wording) usually of multiple days length, in a complete package (with accommodation and food).

Participants register online but usually the whole process involves mails or other communication (e.g. because too many people want a double-bed room, but we only have X) until the registration is settled.

Multiple teams provide the respective services (managing the offer, seminars and hosts, preparing the rooms for accomodation, taking care of the camping ground, cooking, answering general inquiries, bookkeeping …).

Besides that, we also rent out our infrastructure and have groups e.g. coming for an educational offer (like a guided tour with the focus on building strawbale houses or permaculture) with a meal included. The case of a single visitor staying over night like in a hotel is very rare, we usually do not want to accomodate that use case (don’t ask here - but there is some good reasons for why we usually don’t do that).

For the numbers: I would say we have around 50 public seminars and 7000 guest-nights per year.

The Software

So far we use a self-built inhouse solution that totally uses the wrong tooling (a document-based database: couchdb and a embeddable scripting language: lua). It is a web-based solution, picks up the registrations from our public webserver, allows the teams to specify and publish new seminars, rearrange accommodation rooms, show overview calender etc. Some tools around it also allow for specific views (for the most part, they just read the database) or the proposal of new events.

Btw, we need to have this inhouse because of a traditionally unstable internet-connection.

However it does not integrate with the book-keeping software at all and is also not able to print receipts for the visitors or stuff like that. Besides, its not really technically multi-user and has some other issues.
Still, all in all for what it is it works great and does this since 7 years. But its time for a change, where some issues are properly adressed (like semi-automatic participant-data- anonymization according to the GDPR, proper event room calendars, proper “Team-” views, a history of changes done to the data, a proper User- and authorization concept, better synchronisation to our website, …).

And now, and you?

We will evaluate different possibilities and offers.

My personal, favorite solution would be to build a small business to host and develop that kind of (obviously Free) software (in Ruby on Rails), but 1) it ain’t easy and 2) it is not really only me to decide what path “we” (the ecovillage Sieben Linden) will take.

If you have experience with any tools, know somebody with similar problems or solutions, got a clever funding idea or want to help or visit an ecovillage and know some tech (preferably Ruby on Rails), post here or write me a private message.


@hugi, do you think this might be part of the famous human-centric, decentralised Internet that our friends at the NGI initiative are supporting?

Indeed, and I pointed @felix.wolfsteller this way.

Just for my own curiosity, does this mean that you run the servers on the premises and use the system locally, without touching the internet outside of your own network?

Is there any particular reason for your preference of RoR?

I’m actually going into the Swedish countryside for 10 days to work on a software called Dreams with the Borderland organization. Incidentally, it is a RoR application but that is actually causing some challenges as Ruby devs are few and far between these days, having been replaced by an army of young Javascript developers.

Yes. Kind of. We rely heavily on in-house/intranet services; we even had a local mail-server (with forwarding). For the seminar software: it used to use replicated databases (thats a feature really done right in couchdb), such that the seminars on the webpage and registrations are synched in both directions. Nowadays, I just “pull” the registrations that are stored on the (public) webserver from our local server and “push” changed or newly created seminars from our local server to the (public) webserver. That part of the system is open sourced actually.

Yes, but it is difficult to make a good argument here in this thread without sounding like I know things better or making other solution “smaller”.

So, I am definately not the god to do objective statements, but in my observation

  • RoR and its ecosystem provide pretty stable, mature and cleanly implemented solutions (I had the impression that with JavaScript you have to learn a new framework tomorrow, and migrations are not always smooth - but things are probably getting better)
  • Rubys community in general appears to be quite open and inclusive with programs like Rails Girls and Ruby Together, RubyMe, transgender and disabled programmers at conferences etc.
  • Also, the community welcomes discussions about code cleanliness, guiding principles (like TDD, soa, …), code of conducts, values and ethics (minaswan and stuff)
  • its a lot of fun for me and others (pretty important point), and the tooling is pretty much what I expect from a web framework
  • I am really oldschool and like webpages that consume CPU of the server and not so much of the client (i.e. few client-side javascript)

So it boils down to: I am a really oldschool, grumpy guy that likes to read books, think about principles and prefers quality over speed and shinyness. But don’t make it an argument because I have hardly touched modern JS environments and I would never start a religious war over technology (except over vim vs emacs, maybe :wink: ). And I am pretty sure other tech communities are also really cool. I am happy to discuss and hear of the latest (or overlooked) coolest frameworks and developments, but probably in a separate topic.

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@felix.wolfsteller, did you ever make any progress on this?

Its complicated. The associated decided to use a proprietary tool. But for me its not off the table. As soon as there would be budget and reliable project partners, I can plan to go all-in. But from my experience these things do not drop out of nowhere :slight_smile: .

If anyone is doing some research or thinks about setting up an Access DB for that (or other similar bad ideas), please drop me a line. I have quite some domain knowledge.

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