Re: Common Meals online system
From: Tim Mensch (tim-coho-lbitgems.com)
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 2009 11:49:23 -0700 (PDT)
Catya Belfer-Shevett wrote:
I remember a thread a while ago about common meals tracking systems, and someone had something drupal-based that I wanted to try out when my community got around to having common meals.
If you're technically savvy, you can grab the Drupal system used in Pleasant Hill, California, here:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/many-chefs/

I haven't lived there for several years, and I'm pretty far out of the loop, but I understand they're still using it (and I see submits--code updates--from time to time by a developer that they have maintaining it).

Having spoken to people in other communities about food system automation, there's a huge social problem with picking up the code from another community: Almost everyone has a different idea of how a food system should work. The code referenced above embodies the evolved food system present in Pleasant Hill Cohousing. If you are (or have access to) a programmer, you could start with that code and turn it into something for your community--but otherwise it locks you into a particular system of assumptions and a specific workflow that you may or may not like.

Presenting it directly to another community, and indirectly to a third, I found that those assumptions are very specific to the evolved assumptions of a particular community. It certainly would be possible to take what I've written and change it--or even make it more configurable to work for multiple communities. But that's a lot more work, and I've stepped away from updating the system, having left cohousing entirely.

A brief summary of the functioning of the food system above:

1. Working a meal earns you tokens. (5 by default, IIRC)
2. Eating at a meal costs 1 token.
3. You can go into "token debt" by up to 5 tokens, IF you're signed up to work at a future meal. Otherwise you're locked out at zero tokens until you sign up to work. 4. Actual meal costs are entered by the chef and divided proportionally among those who actually ate at a particular meal.
5. Kids don't cost a token, but meal costs are assigned to their family.

Advantages:

1. If you have occasional participants, it can keep things fair for everyone. 2. If you have food-restricted participants who can only eat at 1 in 5 meals, e.g., it can keep things fair for them.

Disadvantages:

1. Some people like a system to be more casual; tracking who eats vs. who works offends them. 2. Some people like a system to be mixed with the "work system" somehow. I think this is a terrible idea, but to each their own. 3. Some people like a system where money is averaged and/or subsidized by the community at large.
4. Some people just don't like the complexity of this system.
...others?

So it's just not as easy of a problem to solve as it appears. But if the code above is useful to you, by all means, use it. It's free.

--Tim

Living in a single-family neighborhood, and making strong connections with all the neighbors. Community can exist outside of cohousing, after all!


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