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

Gian Pablo Villamil gian.pablo at gmail.com
Mon Jul 11 02:49:45 UTC 2011

Yes, this is a very good point. Noisebridge is supposed to be a hackerspace.
However, a lot of the stuff at NB is attractive to a much larger population
than just hackers - free WiFi, space, kitchen, etc.

If we are radically inclusive and let in everyone who finds the space useful
- even if they otherwise don't cause problems - then NB quickly ceases to be
a hackerspace, as the hackers are outnumbered by other people.

For example, I like the Free School people, they haven't caused any
problems, but let's face it, they are not interested at all in
coding/electronics/game design/etc. They have found NB a convenient place to
camp since it has a lot of useful infrastructure - but they are not quite
hackers. (You can get into all kinds of semantic discussions about how they
are "hacking" education)

Having a critical mass of mostly hackers is key to the kind of interactions
and community I am looking for. A policy of radical inclusion will lead to
the loss of this critical mass, since there is a much larger community of
non-hackers that finds the infrastructure at NB useful, and soon they will
crowd out the hackers. This is not theoretical - I see this happening

We discussed the problem with sleepers earlier, and how having too many
people sleeping at the space poisons the atmosphere for people who are
trying to do crazy stuff/projects/work. The same thing happens when you have
a lot of people in the space who are mostly non-hackers: mostly they keep to
themselves, or sometimes ask basic questions. At best they start to become
interested in what's going on. What rarely happens is that they are the kind
of people with whom you can have an exciting synergistic conversation.

That's a best case scenario: that NB fills up with nice, well-meaning people
who find the space useful, but are not hackers. The space slowly becomes
less appealing/interesting to those willing to pay dues, and it slowly
founders - or turns into something else.

The worst case scenario is that NB in effect becomes a soup kitchen/homeless
shelter. (If you've volunteered at one of the latter, you will know that
crazy people/fights/theft/threatening environment is often part of the
package).  The space VERY QUICKLY becomes unappealing to people who are
willing to pay dues, and collapses, probably shortly after the 5th time
police are called. (At some point the local low-lifes will figure out that
they can take the power tools in the shop to the pawnshop on the next block,
which will kind of suck.)

I think some kind of filter that is hacker-friendly would be a good idea.
There needs to be some barrier to entry to NB, if not financial at least
intellectual. If anybody CAN come in without any effort, then anybody WILL
come in.

On Sun, Jul 10, 2011 at 5:22 PM, Ryan Rawson <ryanobjc at gmail.com> wrote:

> I really like this solution, since I don't think we want noisebridge
> turning in to a crack den, or theft prone area, making the oh-so
> praised "non-NT" nerds afraid and driving them out.
> So, is noisebridge a hackspace, or a soup kitchen? It can't be both,
> since the hackers will flee after their laptops and cell phones are
> stolen for the Nth time.
> -ryan
> On Sun, Jul 10, 2011 at 5:20 PM, Jonathan Lassoff <jof at thejof.com> wrote:
> > On Sun, Jul 10, 2011 at 4:22 PM, Casey Callendrello <c1 at caseyc.net>
> wrote:
> >> 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.
> >
> > I really love the idea that if you're technically skilled and want to
> > sort of "hack your way" in, by all means you should find a way in.
> >
> > I'm guessing most of the people that have come in and caused a
> > nuisance have no idea what SSH or scripts are. I feel like by making
> > documented, but technical, instructions on how to get in -- we could
> > make a fun puzzle to welcome visiting (computer-inclined) hackers. It
> > could also act as a bit of an initial filter to select for the "hacker
> > mentality".
> >
> > </two cents>
> >
> > --j
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> > Noisebridge-discuss at lists.noisebridge.net
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> >
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