[Noisebridge-discuss] Twenty-three theses (was: Re: To the @#$er that broke into my member shelf...)

Seth David Schoen schoen at loyalty.org
Sat Mar 23 18:42:20 UTC 2013

Gavin Knight writes:

> Seth,
> Out of ignorance, what do you feel is the differences physically,
> culturally etc that allowed this at the previous location and not now

Hi Gavin,

I don't know what accounts for the difference, or at least I don't have a
single pet theory about it.  It makes me sad, and I realize that I was much
more enthusiastic about the old Noisebridge.

I've tried to brainstorm things that changed; here are 23 (a classic
hacker number) notions about similarities and differences from 83C to 2169
-- with a focus on those that might be relevant to thefts and other ways
that Noisebridge participants treat one another abusively.  These are
based on my own perceptions and recollections and might be wrong or

These are in alphabetical order to stress that I'm not trying to make a
claim that a particular one is clearly more important than another.  Also,
not all of these things are changes for the worse.

2169 has become known as an appealing target to people intending to abuse
its hospitality and resources, in a way that never happened to 83C.

83C held fewer, and smaller, widely-advertised public events, solely due
to space limitations.

83C was in a physically less prominent location than the new space, with
much less foot traffic passing directly in front of the space.

83C was more (not less!) focused on protecting attendees' anonymity and
privacy, with more explicitly advocated norms against cameras and
photography in the space, in favor of pseudonyms and proxies, and
against publishing records of who attended meetings or became a member.
In large part, I think people worried that documented participation in
a "hacker space" could stigmatize people in the outside world.  Some
of these norms were also modeled on European privacy activists'
anti-photography norms.

83C was smaller, so most users of the space were physically in view of
other users at all times.

A higher fraction of the community at 83C attended and participated in
Tuesday night weekly meetings.

Answering the door at 83C required physically opening it by hand, and
going to let a guest in personally.

It was against Noisebridge's norms to create rules in advance of or in
anticipation of problems, but not in response to problems.  Most members
appeared willing to create rules (beyond the one rule of excellence) in
response to problems that actually occurred; the watchword seemed to be
not "don't create rules" but "don't create rules pre-emptively".

Membership was more valued at 83C; members took more responsibility
and received more respect, and there was much stronger social pressure
encouraging, though not requiring, regular users of the space to seek
membership.  I perceived a sense that ideally every regular Noisebridge
user would seek membership.  However, there was no clear consensus that
members should receive any concrete benefits over non-members, and there
was a clear understanding that non-members were welcome to use the space.

More people who used 83C were regularly employed in technology-related
jobs than at 2169.

New visitors to 83C appeared to feel more obligation to introduce
themselves and account for themselves.  I don't know whether this is
because of how they were treated, because of the fact that a
particular individual had just physically opened the door for them,
because they had less of an understanding that the space was
automatically or completely "open to the public", or for some other

New visitors and new prospective members were often introduced in
person at a Tuesday night meeting.  Some were visiting from far away
and they were welcomed and congratulated for having made the trip.

Noisebridge's existence at 83C was much less widely publicized and
advertised.  Noisebridge was much less famous then than it is now.

Non-members wanting to use 83C for events or gatherings were more
strictly admonished to bring their plans to a weekly meeting ahead
of time.

Organized, pre-announced group events may have represented a larger
overall fraction of the uses of 83C.  In any case, they were much more
conspicuous due to the smaller space and lack of many separate rooms.

The 83C space frequently closed at night, and it always routinely closed
when the last keyholder left.  Keyholders and non-keyholders generally
regarded this as necessary and appropriate.  No non-keyholders expected
or demanded to be present in the absence of a keyholder.  There was a
widespread view that only members should be keyholders, but this view
never commanded unanimity or formal consensus and was never implemented
in practice, with several members explicitly acting against it.

The community at 83C more often compared itself to other existing
hackerspaces and was more apt to express curiosity about what those
hackerspaces were doing, how they were organized, and what their
communities were like.

The community of users of 83C was smaller, so the users and members were
much more likely to know and recognize each other.

The consensus process may have been taken more seriously at 83C; in any
case, a higher fraction of users of the space had heard of it and had
some general understanding of its nature.  More questions were brought
to formal consensus, although there was no clear rule or consensus
about what topics needed to be brought to consensus.

The lease on 83C was originally in the name of a few Noisebridge board
members, individually, rather than in the name of the corporation.  This
created social pressure to respect the space as a way of respecting the
leaseholders, and because of their personal liability for it.  I think
it also created a sense of gratitude to them for taking a risk and
expending resources so that the space could exist in the first place.

The mediation or conflict-resolution processes were less well-developed
at 83C than they are at 2169.  I suspect more people at 83C would have
said that conflict-resolution was important, but that doesn't mean it
was practiced more or better there.  There were already multiple people
who simply stopped coming to 83C rather than attempting to use some
official conflict-resolution method or channel.  Defining "excellence"
then was probably as difficult as it is today.

There was a more defined culture about the intended purpose of the space
at 83C (though I don't think I could call it "well-defined").

There were fewer valuable tools and instruments at 83C than there are
at 2169.

Seth David Schoen <schoen at loyalty.org>      |  No haiku patents
     http://www.loyalty.org/~schoen/        |  means I've no incentive to
  FD9A6AA28193A9F03D4BF4ADC11B36DC9C7DD150  |        -- Don Marti

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