[Noisebridge-discuss] "member" culture, not policy

Mitchel McAllister xonimmortal at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 23 16:33:56 UTC 2013

A few observations on the discussion so far. Feel free to get pissed off now and ignore what is below.

1. Moving the lock to the top of the stairs will not work. First, removing it from downstairs will endanger the second floor tenants. Second, it will endanger everyone coming up the stairs. For those of you who have not been to the space before, or so long ago that it slips your mind, the second floor elevator lobby is not lit, and would be a perfect lurking spot. Not to mention the very real possibility of having multiple people sleeping on the stairs. And again, it would get us in trouble with that landlord, which is fine if your intention is to make Noisebridge move again.

2. Closing the space to non-members will not work because it will also get Noisebridge in trouble. This time with the IRS and California state government. An organization that is founded solely for the benefit of members - once again, for members *only* - is not a charitable organization and does not receive tax-exempt status. As a matter of fact, a **mutual benefit organization** is taxed, and members have their benefits from said organization taxed as well. Even non-monetary benefits have to be assigned a cost/value and taxed accordingly. I have said this several times, and been ignored. Let me spell this out for you: This **fact** is not going to change just because you don't want to believe it.

3. Closing the space to non-members will also have some immediate effects: There will be nobody here to clean up your mess. 

a. Nobody will pick up your dirty dishes and take them to the kitchen.

b. Nobody will wash your dishes.

c. Nobody will sweep and mop your floors.

d. Nobody will take out the trash twice a week.

e. Nobody will put the furniture back after events.

f. Nobody will clean up Hacker Alley after you throw everything on the floor.

That's right, it is non-members who are doing this. I can count on the fingers of one hand, and have fingers left over to sign the alphabet in ASL, the number of members that I have seen do (b)-(f). I have witnessed only a few more members do (a), but that usually precludes (b) as a matter of course.

4. Members don't know who is a regular and who is not. One of my friends, who has been coming here regularly for four months, was given the third degree on the stairs by a member who doesn't even live in the state, and as far as I can determine had not been in the space for at least six months. Another was pestered, while working on his own project, repeatedly, by several members, over the course of the night about what the hell did he think he was doing here. Another regular buzzed in a person he had given a tour to the previous day, and was harangued by a member about why was he buzzing in someone he didn't know, and why was he not giving the person a tour.

5. The suggestion that members should interact more with people in the space is one of the following: hypocritical, facetious, or fatuous. I almost didn't come back after my first three days at Noisebridge. I received my tour from a non-member (JJ). Every time I tried to find out about things I wanted to learn, I got treated like a blithering idiot. The attitude I got was that I wasn't intelligent or cool enough for people to waste their time on. I got over it, by realizing that I could still work on my stuff.

On that subject, I have had three members approach me to actually discover what I am working on. And one of those doesn't count, because he didn't become a member for several months afterward. When I have mentioned what I do to others, I have been sneered at, made fun of, and ignored. When I offered to do a workshop on what I do, two members responded; their contribution was limited to telling me what I should cover and who should be shanghaied into attending the class. And no, that is not sarcasm. It is a blatant statement of fact.

I have had almost no members try to get to know me at all. It is the non-members who are giving tours, it is the non-members who are engaging people, it is the non-members who are informing new-comers of classes and projects going on. We have even had to give tours to friends of members, when the member they were supposed to meet here did not show up.

And when I have done things that are supposedly "hackery" enough, I been punished for it. I was bitched out by a member for using a 3D printer that I had the permission from the printer's owner to use. When I tried to get some conversations going on social hacking, a member tried to in timidate me into shutting up. When I speak up at meetings, I get told afterward that I need to stop monopolizing the members' time to discuss things.

I have made one point very often here: Is this what you want new-comers and visitors from other hackerspaces to see?

I see behaviors here that are, frankly, inimical to the stated aims and purpose of this organization. Susan rightly pointed out the sexism and elitism going on, and was ignored. I have seen no one who is discomfited by her absence, and I have seen no one concerned with her well-being. Instead, I saw a bunch of snarky trolling that went by with almost no comment, turning her painful experience into a joke.

I have been actively intimidated in the space. When I was sitting in the Hackatorium, working on my projects, I got harassed until I moved. I sat at the Maker table for a while, and that had to be rearranged so that it is difficult to work there. I moved to the Hacafe area, and suddenly found myself mobbed by events that were supposed to happen elsewhere in the space, to the extent that the LED group had their meeting around me while glaring at me for disrupting them, and subjected to every crackpot conspiracy discussion and impromptu jukebox session in the Library. I then started using Turing when classes were not scheduled, only to get shoved out of there by classes not on the recurring schedule and by someone who decided that taking up the entire classroom to work on her dress was preferable to being forced by the patriarchy to use the sewing area. Church is impossible to use, because too many people use it to browse videos and have long discussions
 about how awesome the project they are not working on is. The DJ booth is being turned into the Biohacking area.

Where exactly in the space can someone who is trying to work supposed to sit?

So why do I keep coming to Noisebridge? Because, unlike some people, I believe in the stated aims and goals of Noisebridge. I believe in the stated model of Noisebridge.

I'm just not seeing it put into action, which is pretty bad coming from someone who was writing about hackerspaces before Noisebridge even got started. That's right, I was writing about hackerspaces, based on principles of practical anarchy, in 2003. So, obviously I don't know what I am talking about.

I see certain rules and policies put in abeyance if the person violating them "is a real hacker". It's not okay to sleep in the space, unless you're a real hacker. It's not okay to be belligerent and intimidating, unless you are a real hacker (being a member helps here too). Be excellent to each other, but if you are a real hacker you can treat other people like crap. Leave the space better than you found it, but if you are a real hacker you can dump garbage in the middle of the space and walk out.

I have worked in several non-profits over the years. Noisebridge is currently less tolerant than a domestic violence safehouse. Noisebridge is currently less accepting than a sexual assault hotline. Noisebridge is currently less sensitive than a suicide prevention hotline. Noisebridge currently accomplishes less than a gay pride committee. Noisebridge spends less on its stated vision than an affordable housing corporation.

But once again, I don't know what I am talking about, because my objective observations, my experiences, and **known facts** can be over-ruled by any member's opinion or wish to ignore the subject.

But you are supposed to be better. Your model is supposed to be better than how people act "out there".

One more time: Is this what you want new-comers, outsiders, and other hackerspaces to see? Is this what you want Noisebridge judged on?

Yes, I am an idealist. Yes, it hurts to see certain ideals flaunted, trashed, and ignored in the eternal pursuit of "me me me me".

I strongly suggest that the members get together, compile a list of non-members, and then decide which of us are allowed to be in the space, what we are allowed to do while we are here, and how long we are allowed to do it.

Because frankly, that seems to be the gist of quite a few of the suggestions here. If you disagree, perhaps we can **all** get together and discuss how to make the space and the community better for **everyone** involved. And anyone else who is too busy, too cool, too techie, too hackery, too evolved, to take part can keep their fucking mouth shut.

Shoot the messenger,
- Reverend Mik McAllister
Purveyor of Subversive Fiction

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