[Noisebridge-discuss] "Banning" discussion tonight

Jacob Appelbaum jacob at appelbaum.net
Wed Feb 26 13:41:54 UTC 2014

On 2/26/14, Al Sweigart <asweigart at gmail.com> wrote:
> Mitch, Lee Sonko knew about the banning proposal. I had personally been in
> discussion with him about it. I was surprised that he didn't show up to the
> meeting.

If you are surprised, I think that means your discussion didn't fully
address constraints for a possibility of resolution of the conflict.
It seems rather clear cut that he had a conflict on that specific
meeting night and on many others. It also seems that he made a good
faith effort to have others block for him.

> And this is why Noisebridge isn't a safe space: after months of on-and-off
> harassment, Tom brings up this consensus proposal, it's on the docket for
> weeks, and actually manages to pass consensus. Yet after all these hurdles
> were overcome, Lee can defy his ban and come back into the space and debate
> his banning.

Actually - if we say it isn't a safe space, I'd argue that Noisebridge
isn't a safe space for lack of a useful mediation process to resolve
this conflict before banning someone.

Furthermore, we have always tried to have space at meetings to resolve
conflict - even with folks that we'd generally not want around or who
we have banned. There is no possibility for enforcement other than the
general will of the community. So if people want to resolve the
conflict, it seems reasonable that Lee could come to the meeting to
make his case and the decision could be reversed if it is a convincing

So rather than saying "Lee can defy his ban" - which is always true
anyway, it might be worth saying that consensus wasn't really reached.
Members of the community are unhappy with this action being taken in
their name. There have been lots of questionable consensus items
passed by just a few folks - folks who know that people have a block
on that specific consensus but sometimes are absent. This is a kind of
bureaucratic tactic of attrition and not at all consensus of the
membership. People understand (and I think they understood) that MCT
was blocking the banning of Lee.

Did anyone reach out to MCT and ask him if he was going to stand
aside? If he failed to make it to the meeting, it doesn't change that
people understood that he strongly did not want the banning to take
place. Where is the discussion to resolve this conflict?

Side stepping this issue as a matter of bureaucratic process is a core
reason that the community feels unsafe these days.

> Because Mitch says so. Even though he's a member and could have blocked for
> more discussion.

Doesn't this strike you as multiple failures? For example - one
failure is the failure to alert people to serious actions being taken
in their name. Another is a failure of conflict resolution before
banning. Another is that now, you abuse Mitch because he takes issue
with the process now that he has learned about it and the result. That
seems like a lot of problems, doesn't it?

> We treat abusive people with kid gloves, and even when we manage to get
> something passed consensus and say, "Yes, this person should be banned",
> Mitch still wants to have a do-over.

I agree that we need better processes for dealing with abusive people.
But shall I propose that we ban Tom, Ronald and everyone else who uses
consensus as a weapon of political power? That seems less than stellar
and a discussion would make more sense than simply proposing a ban.

And anyway, what is wrong with having a "do-over" in this case?

Isn't that the point of having a process? The power balance has
shifted - Lee is banned, the consensus item would need to be in the
opposite direction. That is - an item to _unban_ Lee which isn't
exactly the same question. It also means that the process may be
discussed and a more just solution may be found.

> Mitch, do you respect consensus? Or only when it agrees with you?

Uh, are you aware that your two statements make no sense when taken
together? There isn't consensus if Mitch, a Member, doesn't agree with
the consensus - which is about everyone agreeing or standing aside in

I'd say that this stems from the basic idea of consensus.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consensus says:

  \kən-ˈsen(t)-səs\ : a general agreement about something : an idea or
opinion that is shared by all the people in a group

For myself and others - it means that we all agree on an issue. This
is to say that the group is really nearly everyone in the community.
This is rare and as a result, consensus is a heavy weapon used
sparingly when everyone will take up the job of making that consensus
item a reality in the space. For you and a few others, it seems from a
distance that you both treat it as a system of rules to be exploited.

Consensus appears to mean to a few folks that they can wait until the
room is mostly empty, fill it with a few (sometimes as few as four)
people and if no one objects in that single session, they represent
the result as if it is the will of the entire Membership of
Noisebridge. That isn't consensus, it's a hack on process - which I
can respect but not as a matter of consensus. The hack at the core is
to re-interpret "opinion that is shared by all the people in a group"
to suggest that the group in question is the one consisting of four
people rather than the membership.

These actions of "consensus" aren't being done in good faith and they
create more conflict than they resolve. We should work to resolve
conflict and banning Lee probably isn't the right solution here.

All the best,

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