[Noisebridge-discuss] Why Consensus Kills Community

Danny O'Brien danny at spesh.com
Mon Dec 16 03:36:22 UTC 2013

On Sun, Dec 15, 2013 at 05:47:51PM -0800, Madelynn Martiniere wrote:
> We've had some great contributions to this conversation: thanks
> Danny, Al, Adrian, and so many others.
> This response clearly shows that people are open and aware that
> change needs to happen. I would encourage us, now, both on and off
> the list, to talk about solutions. I wouldn't worry about whether
> something will "pass" through consensus or not, let's just talk
> solutions and work semantics later.
> I've used Freeside and PS: One as examples not as an argument that
> we should "be like them", rather, to demonstrate there are other
> models that work better than ours. Noisebridge has the distinction
> of being one of the first US hackerspaces, and that means something
> in the greater community. If we can capitalize on the unique,
> vibrant culture that Noisebridge (and SF) has that sets it apart
> from any other hackerspace, we can be a positive example.

I'd *really* like someone to define "better than ours", here. I really
want some kind of metric. My own internal one is "number of successful
projects", because that seems to be one it has been low on recently, and
one that simply measuring would highlight the better parts of
Noisebridge (like the bookscanner, how many people we've taught
soldering, got jobs, fixed laptops, inspired to contribute to FLOSS,
etc) instead of the worse bits. 

> Rather than what we represent now: http://imgur.com/hfFrmDv (someone
> sent me this from the walls of PS:One)

Yeah, that really makes me want to imitate PS:One.

Can I tell you what the biggest low-level ongoing stress in dealing with
Noisebridge is, mostly? I could mostly deal with the weirdness and the
trauma which is episodic and in its own social worker way grimly
fascinating. It was going through my Twitter searches on "Noisebridge"
which would be 80% full of people going "holy cats! this is amazing!"
and burbling, and then 20% ex-members and people who ran other
hackerspaces constantly saying how it sucked. Some of it was because
those people were burnt out but still cared. But a lot of it was ...

Like the time when I was fundraising, and some guy from another
hackerspace just started talking online about how disgusting it was we
were begging and is currently, I notice, talking about how we're the
"walking dead". Thanks, neighbour!

I've always supported other hackerspaces, and then to watch people from
our supposedly wider community just constantly tear into us like this,
long-distance, was always the most dispiriting. I understand the
tendency, but honestly it takes me to the point where didn't want to end
up like the people in all these other hackerspaces -- who not only were
constantly negative, but aren't even *entertainingly* negative. At least
when a person at Noisebridge has a mild critical point to make, they do
so by wiring a loudhailer to their larynx or by throwing old laserjets
at each other, or by wearing a cake while naked. I mean, these people
aren't even sub-tweeting successfully.

And what was also super-surprising was that I would often end up having
a conversation with people at these other hackerspaces where they would
quietly admit to having similar problems as Noisebridge. There is of
course some selection bias here. If you have a crazy methlab issue, a
person from Noisebridge is probably the only person in the world you can
bond with. But, still, some actualy public camaraderie would have been
nice, rather than the "please don't let the world know we're like
noisebridge!!!". Like the guy who emailed from a Really Big Local
hackerspace to ask how we dealt with the homeless, because they had a
guy who had been staying in their space for six months and didn't know
what to do with him (I think they were brainstorming having RFID readers
that they could remotely scan sleeping hackers with to see if they were

Or when Noisebridge had carefully documented a creepster who was hanging
out at NB (and who we threw out) who then headed up to another city, and
we warned the hackerspaces there, and one of their reps like oh actually
we disagree with you publicly shaming people in this way. Then THAT DAY
one of their own boardmembers was arrested for the rape and drugging of
four women (six years). Guys! At least our public agonising is an
attempt to *address* these problems, rather than just backing away with
a crucifix and finding somewhere where you can lock yourself away from
the world. 

So when people write "At least we're not Noisebridge" on their walls, my
first thoughts are, I admit, "you'll be surprised how much more you're
like noisebridge, but without actually having the terrifying honesty of
a huge sign and logo that reminds you so on your front door". As well as
thinking "that's an incredibly neatly written piece of graffiti. At
Noisebridge it'd probably be incoherently scrawled in the blood of a
dead Rubyist"


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