[Noisebridge-discuss] Why Consensus Kills Community

John Shutt john.d.shutt at gmail.com
Mon Dec 16 16:27:13 UTC 2013

It's not too much overhead for me, which is why I'm posting to the list
right now, sitting in on meetings, and going through the membership
process. I would suggest that it's too much overhead for a lot of other
people, especially people who are new to the space or just passing through.

In the past, if none of the random collection of members who happen to be
present at that moment wanted to deal with them, that meant they didn't get
a tour. Now, the policy is to kick them out by default. It might not have
anything to do with the guest: Maybe the members only want to sponsor
people they know well, maybe they just want to work on their projects,
maybe they know they're going to be leaving soon. Requiring that all
members be friendly and helpful supervisors to a stream of people they
don't know seems unreasonable, and implying that all guests require
constant supervision creates a weird dynamic.

I'm thinking back to the first time I visited Noisebridge, when I had just
arrived in San Francisco and didn't know anybody and could barely code. I
wasn't sure if I would fit in at Noisebridge, so I was pretty nervous. I
didn't have any particular projects in mind the first few times I visited,
I just soaked in conversations, looked at what other people were working
on, and studied in the library.

Since then, I've used the space to make my first open source contributions,
help build the book scanner, learn Rails, Ember.js, and a lot of other
things, work on the Noisebridge ticketing system, work on SecureDrop and
Open Library at the AaronSW hackathons, give talks at 5 Minutes of Fame,
land my first programming job, give tours to visitors, and introduce a lot
of good people to the space. I feel pretty comfortable at this point that
Noisebridge is a good place for me to work.

But if I had been subjected to an unfriendly interrogation on my first
nervous visit, and then told by a board member on the mailing list that
Noisebridge wasn't a good place for me to work, I would have taken their
word for it.

On Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 12:14 AM, Tom Lowenthal <me at tomlowenthal.com> wrote:

> John Shutt <john.d.shutt at gmail.com> wrote:
> > 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.
> Hi John, I want to take a moment to jump into this thread and disagree
> with you. Sorry about that.
> A “strict interpretation” of the associate membership policy would ask
> that you introduce yourself to someone in the space and tell them that
> you're working on the awesome book scanner project. If any one member
> there agrees that you're working on a great project and that they want
> you there, you're golden.
> Only if not a single member there is down with what you're working on
> would you'd have to leave. Honestly: policy or no policy, if you go
> somewhere to work and **not a single person** there is happy with you
> being there, it'd probably be a good plan to find somewhere else to
> work.
> I think that's pretty different from what you described. The goal of
> associate membership is to knit the Noisebridge community together
> more tightly and allow for more accountability for what happens in the
> space. If that's too much overhead for you, I guess Noisebridge isn't
> a good place for you to work.
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