[Noisebridge-discuss] burnout in community projects where ROI is low

Glen Jarvis glen at glenjarvis.com
Mon Oct 14 00:02:00 UTC 2013

I love the thought and care that went into crafting this email. I think it intelligently discusses some important Noisebridge issues..



> On Oct 13, 2013, at 4:19 PM, Jake <jake at spaz.org> wrote:
> note: ROI stands for Return On Investments, and refers here metaphorically to rewarding results people get from investing their time and energy into community projects.
> Praveen,
> regarding the burnout question, i believe it is directly based on results vs. effort as percieved by participants.  (ROI)
> If people work on a garden, for example, and they see that the work they put into the garden yields nice foods and plants, and it's worthwhile, they will continue to work on it.  Some people will give up easier or harder than others, but most people will give up if for example the garden is continually getting vandalized or eaten by deer or whatever it is, and they are unable to find or coordinate a solution.  It's a dead end.
> In a community, a failure like this is probably a result of lack of willingness to solve the problem as opposed to lack of resources / hands to solve the problem.  For example, 10 people building a deer fence together is easy, but getting 10 people to agree to put up a deer fence can be a problem if they have competing ideas about how to solve problems.
> So the example of noisebridge, to me, is that while noisebridge was awesome for a while, eventually as we became more popular (and as Occupy popularized using noisebridge as a streetkid occupation) the garden stopped yielding nearly as much fun and productivity, and required a lot more cleanup effort and social drama (which can be very taxing), people who value their time and energy stopped participating.
> this increases entropy, which decreases the ROI for everyone participating.  So it's a self-increasing cycle.
> I identify the main cause of this problem at noisebridge as a lack of willingness of the membership to acknowledge the complaints of excellent users of the space, failure to take these problems seriously, and lack of willingness to make changes to improve the situation.
> i believe the reasons for this bad attitude at noisebridge come from multiple factors, including:
> 1. software people don't understand the effect of entropy on the hardware-hacking potential of a hackerspace, and fail to respect the pleas of their fellow hackers due to a lack of empathy or caring.  This may be similar to the experiences of female users of the space, who express problems with harassment and are probably told (by males) stuff like
> "I don't get harassed, so i don't see any need for any changes"
> 2. hackers in general tend to enjoy playing devil's advocate, taking the opposite position of the majority and defending it, which results in total logjam and lack of consensus as people seek to bolster their sense of identity by defending something just because it's a challenge accepted. (in this case defending the status quo)
> Cooperating in a community requires the ability to shut up and listen, acknowledging that other people can be right about things, and that it's okay to agree with everyone once in a while.
> 3. privelage guilt, where people don't acknowledge the role of hard work and self-discipline in their own success, and worry about denying opportunities to other people with access to less resources, because they fail to see that hard work and self-discipline are more important than access to resources.  (in other words, wanting to leave the door open to the homeless because you think that homelessness is the only thing keeping people from becoming hackers when it's actually a very small factor today)
> discuss.
> -jake
>> On Sun, 13 Oct 2013, Praveen Sinha wrote:
>> Hey Josh,
>> Thanks for the followup from the conversation last night.  I like your take on (passive vs active) it, and particularly like the last 2 questions that you
>> asked.  I'm tempted to fwd your email to nb-discuss.  
>> The burnout question also concerns me -- and not just burnout but also life change (moving, children, etc), and how we can design our communities to be
>> resilient over 10-20-30-40-50 years?
>> Was stimulated by all the discussions last night :)   Hope to see you around more!
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