[Noisebridge-discuss] Advisory about recent thefts at Noisebridge.

Casey Callendrello c1 at caseyc.net
Sun Jul 10 23:22:20 UTC 2011

As word of Noisebridge spreads ever-wider, it becomes more difficult to 
balance the ideal of radical inclusion with the fact that not everyone 
understands and respects our community.

To bring this to real-life, the collective action has equated "radical 
inclusion" with "we open the gate for everyone who buzzes in."

Noisebridge, which has lots of desirable targets for theft, relies on a 
security system consisting almost solely of human scrutiny of everyone 
who uses the gate buzzer. This is a security system that does not scale. 
I've been in the place on a Wednesday evening, and it seemed that the 
buzzer rang 20 times an hour. Compounding the problem:
     * many welcomed and accepted people rely on the buzzer as their 
only means of access
     * Therefore, 99% of buzzer ringers are "false positives" - people 
who require absolutely no scrutiny
     * Not everyone is comfortable with confronting possible Bad People

What if buzzing-in is strongly discouraged or even disallowed?  We'd 
need a way for welcomed people to demonstrate that they are a part of 
the Noisebridge Community. There are some technical solutions to this 
problem (more suggestions welcome!):

* Disable or delay buzzer from 10p - 10a
     * Make buzzer sound 1-5 min after button is pressed.
* Weekly rotating access code; install number pad on the gate
     ** code can be distributed widely; email bot sends to mailing list, 
visitors may subscribe at will
* VOIP dial-in number, maybe require the same code to be entered
* must buzz correct morse code sequence
* gate has SMS shortcode, text to open using Twilio

In short, if we make it trivially easy to participate in the community 
and disable the buzzer, that may take much of the load off of the human 
scaling system.

On 7/10/11 3:23 PM, Rachel McConnell wrote:
> So, aestetix, do you have any suggestions for what we SHOULD do?  Or do
> you think that the disruptive people, the fights, and the laptop thefts
> are not something the community as a whole should take action on?
> "Greet people" is not sufficient.  Plenty of people actually do that
> already, and the problems are still getting worse.  Plenty of others
> really can't realistically do the greeting thing, whether because
> they're busy working on projects and don't notice new people, or are
> concentrating and need to not be interrupted, or are shy or think
> they're not qualified or think they're too new themselves, or otherwise
> feel unable, socially, to do so.
> Personally I am all in favor of technical solutions to social problems.
>    Social solutions require long-term, arduous, consistent, thankless
> attempts to get people to change their behavior just because they
> *should*.  This has historically been difficult (see homophobia, racism,
> etc).  A technical solution that promotes the desired behaviors and
> discourages the undesired ones, without this training process, is far
> superior.  (Please recall we are talking about outliers here; the vast
> majority of Noisebridgers are not thieves or problem people at all.)
> Maybe cameras are not that solution, but I believe it's worth trying to
> find one.  And really we won't know what works unless we try something.
>    If there are other ideas for technical solutions, we should try those
> *also*.  I don't see any reason not to, as it were, throw some spaghetti
> at the wall, see if any of it sticks.
> Some possible other ideas to discourage theft and/or problem people,
> some of which I think are truly awful, but let's throw them out there
> anyway, for the lulz:
> * signage talking about miniature cameras being everywhere
> * pictures of eyes (there was some study, somewhere)
> * lockers (Al's on this already)
> * disabling the buzzer so you can only get in with a key or by calling
> someone you know who's upstairs already
> * some kind of CAPTCHA-like concept on the front gate
> * hiring a security guard
> * loud noise when someone goes OUT the upper door
> * replace the buzzer with a video phone
> Rachel
> On 7/10/11 1:42 PM, aestetix aestetix wrote:
>> On Sun, Jul 10, 2011 at 1:23 PM, Rich Humphrey<rich_humphrey at yahoo.com
>> <mailto:rich_humphrey at yahoo.com>>  wrote:
>>      Hello-
>>        This is really sad to read, since before this started happening NB
>>      was one of the safest most trusting environments I've been in.
>>        It's not surprising though, I had my space at CellSpace for a long
>>      time and we really struggled with 'Radical Inclusion' in this
>>      neighborhood. There are just a lot of people who are going to do
>>      this sort of thing, sometimes it's just how they live even though
>>      they are otherwise pretty nice.
>>        It's also true that once you're 'discovered' as a good target it
>>      suddenly becomes a free-for-all. This is not limited to theft, the
>>      seriousness of the incidents will escalate also! There's a 'you can
>>      steal there' problem but there's also a 'they won't beat you up so
>>      they're helpless' problem that's a LOT worse!
>>        It's also obvious to me that NB people are really not the problem,
>>      and they are very unlikely to be a problem, no matter how 'weird'
>>      they may appear to some people. They are all really awesome and
>>      we're all very lucky.
>>        I really support Radical Inclusion but this must be in keeping
>>      with the purpose of the place, which, unlike CellSpace, has a pretty
>>      clear purpose. I think the 'let anyone who buzzes in' policy is
>>      going to have to go away, that's just reality. It will probably have
>>      to change so that members have access and non-members will need to
>>      have a member let them in and have a member who is their 'sponsor'
>>      or escort of sorts. (or is at least aware that they are there)
>>        So I would say be more strict about membership, and extend radical
>>      inclusion to MEMBERS. That would take care of 99% of it because NB
>>      people are awesome and the 'weirdos' of NB are THE BEST and we want
>>      to keep them. Street people are not going to join and they are not
>>      going to try this stuff if they don't know they can. (we have a lot
>>      of experience with this!)
>>        This is not just about property or awkward situations, it's really
>>      a safety issue in a late night space like this. It could be very bad.
>>      1. Cameras, or the appearance of cameras, can be a big deterrent.
>>      But not always.
>>      2. When cameras are working, even with very nice security software,
>>      they are not really very useful when there's an incident. Sometimes
>>      you get lucky and get a clear image that you can use but more often
>>      you spend hours retreiving a grainy shot of a dark figure carrying
>>      something. (Yes, I can confirm that Bigfoot stole your laptop.) Then
>>      people get annoyed with the person who took a whole day to retrieve
>>      and deliver the stuff from their crappy system. (lots of experience
>>      with this!)
>>      3. Street thieves go for things they can turn over NOW. That's
>>      laptops, phones, wallets, cash. They are NOT interested in
>>      equipment, non-portable cameras, desktops, cables or any of that.
>>      It's useless to them. If your laptop gets stolen, it was a street
>>      thief. If you RAM is gone, that's a dishonest geek!
>>      4. The police are not fast enough for safety! Especially at night.
>>      They'll come, they'll catch the people afterward, but this is just
>>      not good enough when it comes to the physical safety of the people
>>      we care about (everyone). There needs to be some precaution to make
>>      this less of a threat BEFORE anything happens.
>>      So I think you should only let members open the door. There can be a
>>      policy for members who don't want to be officially declared as such
>>      or who can't afford the dues. Let anyone join! People who are a
>>      problem will just not do that. Or if they do, then they're a member
>>      with a problem which is very different from a stranger with problems.
>>      Membership, especially with dues, is really an excellent filter! It
>>      lets you keep your values while keeping your space safe! You can
>>      still let anyone join. You can even let visitors join instantly if
>>      they pay dues up front. Awful as it may sound, this really works,
>>      because problem people will simply not pay. There can still be
>>      sliding-scale membership, just not for walk-ins.
>>      I think it's an unfortunate problem, but very natural considering
>>      the neighborhood. We're very lucky to have these options to solve it.
>> Thank you so much for offering insights. It sounds like you have a lot
>> of valuable experiences and wisdom to contribute.
>> However... the big problems with the membership suggestions are that
>> they empower membership beyond what it currently nets you (the ability
>> to block consensus), it's unfair to people who are community members but
>> cannot afford the admission, and, as we do not issue membership cards of
>> any sort, it's impossible to enforce. On top of that, I know many people
>> who are longstanding community members and make regular donations to the
>> space, but have never gone through the formal membership process for any
>> number of reasons. People who everyone else would have just assumed is a
>> member.
>> For reference, we tried doing anonymous membership a couple years ago,
>> which incidentally was how we figured out that membership gives you
>> nothing but the ability to block consensus. I'm not sure how to do
>> "unofficially declared" membership beyond that, because becoming a
>> member requires a consensus decision. On the other hand, asking someone
>> to fill out a membership application informs them that you know who they
>> are and value them, helps them feel more included in the community, and
>> may make them reconsider doing bad things (if they were ever so inclined).
>>      =Rich
>>      -----------------------------------------------------------
>>      Richard Mortimer Humphrey
>>      General Specialist
>>      --- On Sun, 7/10/11, Jonathan Lassoff<jof at thejof.com
>>      <mailto:jof at thejof.com>>  wrote:
>>       >  From: Jonathan Lassoff<jof at thejof.com<mailto:jof at thejof.com>>
>>       >  Subject: Re: [Noisebridge-discuss] Advisory about recent thefts
>>      at Noisebridge.
>>       >  To: gian.pablo at gmail.com<mailto:gian.pablo at gmail.com>
>>       >  Cc: liz at bookmaniac.org<mailto:liz at bookmaniac.org>,
>>      noisebridge-discuss at lists.noisebridge.net
>>      <mailto:noisebridge-discuss at lists.noisebridge.net>
>>       >  Date: Sunday, July 10, 2011, 12:05 PM
>>       >  On Sun, Jul 10, 2011 at 8:32 AM, Gian
>>       >  Pablo Villamil
>>       >  <gian.pablo at gmail.com<mailto:gian.pablo at gmail.com>>
>>       >  wrote:
>>       >  >  As I've pointed out before, NYC Resistor was also in a
>>       >  sketchy area, and
>>       >  >  implemented a far more doors-closed policy. The space
>>       >  was freely open only
>>       >  >  on Thursday evenings, aside from that it was members
>>       >  only.
>>       >  >  This policy did not seem to get in the way of people
>>       >  doing cool things, and
>>       >  >  it made the the people there feel a lot more safe.
>>       >  >  I've already had a couple of experiences at NB
>>       >  where... undesirable
>>       >  >  visitors... made it impossible for me to get work
>>       >  done.
>>       >  >  Perhaps we should have more of a vetting policy?
>>       >  >  My concern is that word seems to be spreading - fast -
>>       >  around the
>>       >  >  neighborhood about NB being a wide-open place with
>>       >  lots of goodies.
>>       >
>>       >  I somewhat agree. I've thought in the past what NB would be
>>       >  like a
>>       >  members-only place, and I still think it could work. We
>>       >  could just be
>>       >  really liberal about who we can make members.
>>       >
>>       >  I don't see any reason to cap membership at a certain size
>>       >  or put
>>       >  mechanisms to slow growth in place. I'd much like to see
>>       >  some
>>       >  mechanism to stop complete strangers (people that aren't
>>       >  friends,
>>       >  friends-of-friends, etc.) be able to come in off of the
>>       >  street.
>>       >
>>       >  --j
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