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

Danny O'Brien danny at spesh.com
Mon Jul 11 03:47:17 UTC 2011

On Sun, Jul 10, 2011 at 7:49 PM, Gian Pablo Villamil
<gian.pablo at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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)

 As some of know, some of us had an open meeting with Jorgen and Warren of
the Free School folk to talk over this challenge. I should probably have
taken notes, but it was pretty positive in general -- in particular being
inclusive themselves mean that they struggled with some of the same
problems, and were aware that some bad behaviour by others had been
projected onto them as a whole. (One of the reasons why I thought it was
important to talk with them was that I was worried that *anyone* who was
being suspected of bad behavior was being incorrectly labelled as a "Free
Schooler", and so this was a problem that was as pressing for them to solve
as us.).

Anyway, naturally we struggled a bit to describe what the ineffable essence
of a hackerspace was, but in the end I blurted something which I thought was
useful. I was trying to explain why teaching stuff at NB was absolutely
great, but wasn't at the heart of what happened there (in the way that it
clearly is for Free School):

What I said was, the way to Noisebridge's heart is to *make* something. It's
a community of makers. If you come here to *make* something amazing, you're
really not going to go far wrong with us.

It seemed like a good start, anyway.

A couple of other points:

1) I was expecting more controversy about cameras and entrance systems,
since they have provoked more drama than this before. It may be that people
are more comfortable with NB's direction, or maybe they haven't noticed this
conversation. Anyway, I'd really recommend that if you are planning
something like this to bring it to meeting, where you can have a long
discussion about it, but won't get caught out by people's exotic opinions.

2) I've been thinking a little about potential solutions too. One, off the
top of my head, is a rule that Noisebridge's open open hours are 10am-10pm.
After or before that, it's only available for "members and their guests".

This seems to give us a pretty broad canvas in which to let people,
including non-members, hack until late, but discourage people from turning
up late, and give us an excuse to ask people to leave. Some that I've spoken
to this about feel it would not work without some sort of physical access
mechanism, whereas I disagree. It gives us something we can choose to
enforce, whereas right now, all we have is a vague rule that you're actually
in the middle of stabbing someone we call the police (not good), or if we
don't like the cut of your jib, we can throw you out (also not good).

3) In mentioning this idea, I spoke to a friend of Rainey's, who noted that
Shakespeare and Company (the Parisian bookshop of note) has a rule that you
can sleep there, but only if you've written a biography first. They provide

Obviously, I don't necessarily think that anyone who builds a robot gets to
sleep in the lasercutter room, but I thought it was an interesting viewpoint
on somewhere that clearly has the same challenge. It's really hard to tell
Kerouac from some guy who is going to start trying to sell crack to the
RepRaps, and  like Shakespeare & Co, we don't want to exclude both when we
just want to encourage one and discourage the other.


> 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
> already.
> 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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>> > https://www.noisebridge.net/mailman/listinfo/noisebridge-discuss
>> >
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