[Noisebridge-discuss] Why Consensus Kills Community

Al Sweigart asweigart at gmail.com
Mon Dec 16 06:25:11 UTC 2013

Yeesh, that sounds terrible.

I want to remind everyone, the reason we created associate members was so
that NB could be a "members only" space, but have some form of membership
that wasn't near impossible to achieve. And the reason capital-M membership
is near impossible to achieve is that consensus makes people resistant to
extending membership to people they don't know *very* well.

On Sun, Dec 15, 2013 at 9:09 PM, John Shutt <john.d.shutt at gmail.com> wrote:

> I want to chime in on this conversation, since Danny pointed towards the
> book scanner project as one of the better parts of Noisebridge lately. To
> my understanding, I'm the only person in the book scanning group to even
> apply for associate membership, and the only one with a doorcode. For
> simplicity's sake, I've shared this doorcode with the other members of the
> group, as well as a few people I've been collaborating with on other
> projects.
> This has never been a problem until recently. I had a strange experience
> yesterday morning, when I was at Noisebridge working on a privacy activism
> project. (The website for the Shame on Feinstein Coalition<https://shameonfeinstein.org/>,
> which we launched today, if you're interested.) Soon after I arrived, an
> associate member approached me to ask if I was a member, and how I got my
> doorcode. I was told that the policy called for members to kick out any
> guests who didn't have a sponsor present -- although I wasn't actually
> asked to leave, thankfully -- and that the new process to get doorcodes was
> to ask one specific member who I don't know very well. He complained about
> another non-member in the space being "insolent" about the policy. Then he
> went down the list of my current sponsors on my wiki page, asking who they
> are and how I know them.
> This made me very uncomfortable, since two of my partners on this project
> were about to show up, and I had to leave for another appointment soon
> afterwards, leaving them unaccompanied in the space. Technically, I
> couldn't even sponsor them while I was present, since I'm one signature
> short of associate membership. I felt I had to apologize for leaving my
> friends alone at Noisebridge, and warn them that they might get booted at
> any time.
> *Long story short: A strict interpretation of the associate membership and
> doorcode policies would result in all of the members of the book scanning
> group and Restore the 4th SF getting immediately locked out of the space.*
> This would probably be a good place to mention that I'm looking for a
> fourth signature on my associate membership application (
> https://noisebridge.net/wiki/User:Pemulis) and a second signature on my
> full membership application. Most of the people I work with are too busy to
> jump into Noisebridge policy discussions and the membership application
> process, or simply have no desire to do so. But they're still contributing
> to the space in meaningful ways, and are the kind of people we should be
> working hard to hold onto. I hate feeling like I can't wholeheartedly
> recommend Noisebridge to people I meet because I don't know if they're
> going to run into a wall of suspicion and bureaucracy if they show up when
> I'm not there.
> John
> On Sun, Dec 15, 2013 at 7:36 PM, Danny O'Brien <danny at spesh.com> wrote:
>> 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 ...
>> not.
>> 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
>> members).
>> 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"
>> d.
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