[Noisebridge-discuss] draft of Signal to Noise, a NB newsletter

Danny O'Brien danny at spesh.com
Wed Jan 5 01:06:41 UTC 2011

Briefly, my sense talking and polling people right now is that there's
a huge amount of activity going on in and around Noisebridge that
people (and the public) don't know about and is not easily
discoverable. (Also that the NB community is now far larger and more
diverse than it used to be, which means the time and resources need to
maintain one-to-one conversations with everyone to maintain social
coherence and spread news and mutually groom one another's silverback
pelts and  prevent [or at least adequately publicise] HUGE FIST FIGHTS
is growing steadily greater. If this was a TED talk I'd start
bullshitting about Dunbar numbers, but this is nb-discuss so you would
start throwing PBR cans at my head, so I won't.)

Anyway, at last week's meeting I mused that one way to help fix this
would be to have a regular Noisebridge newsletter, which would pull in
some of the threads of this larger social group, and have a simple way
for everyone to keep in touch with what's going on, and feel a warm
glow of self-regard at being in with all the in shit, and thing.

Below is my first stab at this. I went around the mailing lists,
talked to people, interviewed one Noisebridger at length, and then
through it all into an old ASCII email newslettter format I happen to
have around (some of you may know I co-wrote http://www.ntk.net/ a
decade ago. Yeah, I dusted that off. Kill me)

The content is pretty much what I could imagine writing every
fortnight with some help. It certainly wasn't hard to find cool stuff
that noisebridgers do; it was harder to decide what not to put in. I
didn't spend much time on formatting nor tone or voice (ie this is the
special No Actual Jokes edition), because that takes a while to get
right and for this first go I wanted to concentrate on purest content.
It's very rough though.

I'm sending this one out only to noisebridge-discuss for your comments
and criticisms. In the real world, it would go out to nb-announce. I
want whatever finally goes out there to that to be sustainable long
term however. Realise that if you're a regular nb-discuss reader you
probably know much of this, but there are plenty of people who do not
(most NBers I've spoken to don't know that the financial mess is not
so dreadful these days, for instance.)

My acute self-criticism is at the bottom of it, under the ASCII <HR>
tag. I welcome comments, yeah even from you.


   .-'`-.     Signal
   z    !/|   To Noise
   z    !\|   V11.010000000(Beta)-rc7
   `-'`-      2011-01-04

In this issue:
> Meredith Scheff-King is ALL SCARF, ALL THE TIME


This February, Noisebridge will not disappear in a white hole of
debt, anguish and sheet rock dust. You all stepped up, and in a few
weeks we went from having little cartoon flies buzzing out of the
cartoon wallet, to touching the rim of our canonical hackerspace
float of three months costs in advance ($15K).

Noisebridge has historically paid its bills with about 2/3rds from
membership dues, and the rest from casual donations. We're mostly
fixed the overdue dues problem thanks to Kelly's excellent financial
forensics, but Noisebridge is still prone to economic boom-bust on
the rand()*(donations) front.

A lot of you drop a few bucks in the box when you come by, and thank
you, you're awesome. But just as you don't have to a member of
Noisebridge to use the space for whatever, you don't have to be a
full member to make a pre-programme regular donation. Turn those few
bucks into a monthly electronci payment of just $10 or $20, and
you'll always have a Gentlemen And Ladies Space Within Which To Hack.
Plus less of this irregular NPR-style pledge-drive spazzing. Go on!

- We'll give you Ira Glass's perineum in a totebag if you give us a fifty
         - mfb broke into our PayPal account and wrote a script at it
- $10 dude! You pay more than that in dropbox or Ritual or watercress
or something!



         Noisebridge's Scanning Electron Microscope is getting better
         every day: Mike and Andy got it working up to 20,000x.
         Schematics and pics uploaded to:

         THE TEA ROOM is no more! Zed and Shannon went on a
         stairs-constructing rampage and constructed a space you can
         walk up to, on your legs. It still works for tea drinking.

         That BUILD-OUT MESS by the touch-panel was magicked away
         into the Even Darker Room (aka the Scott Memorial Storage
         Room). The ADA BATHROOM got grab-bars c/o Miloh!


         Eric and Chung-Hay of Sensebridge launched their HEART SPARK
         heatbeat-sensitive necklace to universal Internets acclaim!
         Eric's in Toronto now, hanging out with our hacklab.to
         sisters, but C-H is still about, and working on new
         projects, including a heartbeat scarf. Scarfs are cool.

         MC Hawking, the wheelchair robot, now has an embedded PC for
         a brain, and is possibly conspiring with our IRC noisebot.
         He is actually deadly.

         Sean made a Tron suit out of 190 proper LEDs and not boring
         EL wire like you thought. He's like Tron Guy : Legacy!
         (From the Cyborg list:
https://www.noisebridge.net/mailman/listinfo/cyborg )


All the usual events at https://www.noisebridge.net/wiki/Category:Events plus:

> Sean's Distillation Class
Wednesday, January 5th @ 7PM

"I'll teach you how a still works, go over some options for 'rolling
your own', and the best part of the whole thing? We'll actually
distill something, and try the results! Plan on the class lasting
about 2 hours."

> Neural Net Workshop!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mike Schachter says: the Machine Learning group at Noisebridge wants
to teach you! We're holding a workshop on constructing and using
neural networks, to raise Neural Network Awareness (NNA) and money
for Noisebridge. Bring laptops!

> Noisebridge Book Club!

Miah implies without explicitly stating: "I'm starting a NB book club
on Goodreads. We can be virtual or have actual meetings":


MEREDITH SCHEFF-KING won the Awesome Foundation's monthly $1000 award
for her proposal to make 30 scarves in January. Signal to Noise
caught her attacking her third scarf in the space, and plagued her
with dumb questions:

> So is this three scarfs of the day or one you're making right now?

It's one; the scarf of today is reconfigurable with one or two or three
free-floating sections.

> Are you planning out the whole month beforehand, or are you taking
  it one scarf at a time?

Well, I went into it with more than thirty scarf ideas, but
ultimately I'm making them one at a time. I don't want to plan too
far ahead. I work better spontaneously.

> How much your time are you setting aside for this?

All of it. I'm not doing much else but making scarves this month. At some
point I'm going to have to get groceries, I guess.

> Okay, I have to ask. Why scarves?

I love warm, fuzzy things. I'm sort of a chilly person. I grew up in
the Central Valley, where it's over 100 degrees a lot of the time, so
it's always cold by comparison. And I like making art that I wear.
With a lot of my work, like the cartooning or the construction you
don't know if anyone sees the end result. It might be that noone sees

> But if you're wearing, you get to see the reaction?

Yes! Also, people know what they're seeing. It's not like an artwork
where you have to explain to the audience what they're seeing first.
They already know it's a scarf. They know what it's supposed to do.

> I saw that you were agonising on your Twitter stream about keeping two craft
  centers, one at your home and one at Noisebridge. Where do you think you're
  going to spend most of your time this month?

Well, this is scarf three, and the first one I'm making at NB. It
gets lonely making stuff at home. I'm very distractable, but it's
easier to avoid that here, strangely. Like, I can choose not to bring
my computer here, but I can't *not* have it at my apartment.

> Does it help you finish a project when you have a clear goal like this?

A bit. Mainly, though, it's the publicity that encourages you to keep
going. When the Awesome Foundation mailed me I'd won the award for
January, I'd actually almost forgotten I'd applied.  And then they
told me all the blogs and people that they'd already told. I was like
"uh-oh, I guess I'd better actually do this". Then of course, the
economics of taking a month off for $1K doesn't work out, so I
started a Kickstarter project to get the rest of the money, and I
thought "Whoa, now I really *really* have to do this."

I guess it sounds kind of bad, but I do like it when my projects do
the rounds on the Internet. Like the Northskirt -- that was such a
lot of work, and so is this. It makes me happy to know people see it.

> Do you know where you're going to show all the scarves yet?

Actually, no -- I haven't had a moment of time away from scarves to
call around galleries.

(Miloh shouts from the kitchen that Meredith's rice is boiling.
Finally distracted, she runs off to grab five precious minutes of
non-scarf scarfing.)

Meredith's Kickstarter project is here:


Okay, that's that. My self-criticisms/thinking aloud:

I finished this last night, and when I read the nb-discuss this
morning, there were already a bunch of worthy new stories (vending
machine! tardis!) that I hadn't included. The newsletter is already
slightly too long, I fear that once I actually get stuff sent in, it's
just going to grow even more. I don't think I could stand to write
this weekly or even a shorter time-period though.

Would a what you young people call a "weeb-log" or "b'log" work
better? Maybe: certainly if we ramped up the NB weblog, I bet we'd get
a lot of coverage and relinking from Maker blog, etc. What isn't so
great is ownership and ritual with blogs. The advantage of a regular
periodic mailout is that people look forward to it, and if you write
it well (this draft isn't written well) people will sit through and
take it all in, and feel like they're an exclusive subscriber. Also we
can print it out and put it in the space somewhere. Blogs are less
easy to attach ritual to, and the level of control that you can exact
on a broadcast-only news format often feels inappropriate for blog --
ie saying "We" all the time, not having comments, etc. It might just
be a style thing. I will talk to people about this.

My actual sese right now is that what we have here is a bunch of nice
potentially aggregatable mini-features: Noisebridge Human of The Time
Period, Project Updates, Infrastructure Diffs, General News, that need
to be in one place, and quickly digestible, rather than scattered over
dozens of mailing lists, inside people's heads, and as wikisplatter. I
think one output of all of those mini-features is potentially a blog,
one is an email newsletter to nb-announce, and one is a printed
pamphlet that can be on the wall entering Noisebridge. But just
writing and collating this text is hard work -- piping it into
different media needs either an automatic process, or a bunch of
people working together consistently. Wait, would people be interested
in a Noisebridge press club?



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