[Noisebridge-discuss] Why Consensus Kills Community

Mike Schachter cubicgoats at gmail.com
Mon Dec 16 21:24:04 UTC 2013

Maybe there are at least two conflated issues here:

1) The capital-M Membership seems to be broken, consensus for Membership
may lead to reduction of inclusiveness and new Members.

2) Associate membership requires new people to interact with Members, but
at a given time there may not be many Members around to interact with due
to #1. This would hinder associate membership and reduce it's efficacy,
given that it's purpose is to "knit the Noisebridge community together more
tightly and allow for more accountability". If Members are a scarce
resource, it seems inappropriate to compel visitors and interested
participants to meet them. Any policy that increases the number of
accountable Members should also help this problem.

There could be many people interested in playing small roles in meetings,
policy, cleanup, etc. But due to families, jobs, commutes, and other
commitments, their ability to contribute to those things is sporadic.
Requiring people to be physically present at every meeting or continuously
in the space for a period of time to be "validated", also seems like it
could reduce Noisebridge's inclusiveness, and thus it's usefulness.

I don't think Members should have to pay dues, because that equates to
economic discrimination, and reduces inclusiveness, but should at least
have to make some sort of meaningful contribution. What about a
timebank-like (http://timebank.sfbace.org/) framework that allows Members
to keep track of the time and resources they have committed to Noisebridge?


On Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 1:04 PM, bfb <bfb at riseup.net> wrote:

> -------- Original message --------
> From: Al Sweigart
> Date:12/16/2013 11:43 (GMT-08:00)
> To: Gregory Dillon
> Cc: noisebridge-discuss
> Subject: Re: [Noisebridge-discuss] Why Consensus Kills Community
> I think Greg and John bring up some good points. I'd like NB to be a place
> where a complete stranger who has heard of the place can come in, chat with
> some people maybe, and then work on random projects.
> The whole "get to personally know people in order to be at the space" is
> really intimidating on both sides: I'm hesitant to "sponsor" a complete
> stranger because I don't want to be blamed for their bad behavior.
> I think the coercion to be a part of Noisebridge makes the place
> uncomfortable. Not everyone wants to be a part of the membership, attend
> meetings, take on responsibilities, come up with policy, etc.
> >>I empathize with you up until this point. I'm not familiar with the
> demographic you begin to describe, but they sound awfully dull to me.
> They'd rather pay a membership fee, clean up after just themselves, and
> have someone to voice problems to (and have them handle it). This is how a
> lot of organizations work, and Noisebridge doesn't have to give up its
> identity and accessibility to achieve this. But it does have to change its
> current political structure.
> On Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 9:06 AM, Gregory Dillon <gregorydillon at gmail.com>wrote:
>> I also first soaked in the environment .  With those  observations I
>> initially decided that Noisebridge was not the space for me,    Still,  I
>> keep coming back to see.  I'm glad I did because as of a  couple months
>> ago, things seemed different.
>> Its true that the associate membership process at times felt like it was
>> something of a pain to go through, but again, I''m glad I did it.  I
>> believe I asked @ 15 people to sponsor me over several trips to NB.   Yes,
>> at moments that took me out of my comfort zone,   but it is really not such
>> a bad thing to talk to people.
>> On Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 8:27 AM, John Shutt <john.d.shutt at gmail.com>wrote:
>>> 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 ‚Äústrict interpretation‚ÄĚ 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.
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Noisebridge-discuss mailing list
>>> Noisebridge-discuss at lists.noisebridge.net
>>> https://www.noisebridge.net/mailman/listinfo/noisebridge-discuss
>> --
>> Let's stay in touch.  Greg
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