[Noisebridge-discuss] "Banning" discussion tonight

Tom Lowenthal me at tomlowenthal.com
Thu Feb 27 17:49:46 UTC 2014

On 26 February 2014 12:54, Rachel McConnell <rachel at xtreme.com> wrote:
> Right, it's easy to see how to avoid the situation now.  And I doubt that
> specific failure will happen again!
> But:
> Any time there are rules, there will be edge cases where conforming to the
> letter of a rule breaks the spirit of the rule.  If it is generally agreed
> that spirit breakage is a problem, the usual solution is to make another
> rule to handle the edge case.  And then another rule for the edge case that
> the second rule missed, and so on.  See, for example, our US legal system!

Hi Rachel,

This is a huge discussion with a lot of aspects. This message is only
about one of them.

tl;dr: We should write down how things work, because that's the most
effective way to communicate.

I know it's a controversial position, but I strongly prefer that we
write down our rules/process and follow them. When we find a bug, or
they don't do what we want, we should update them. We're never going
to have something “perfect”, but I think they'll keep getting better
the more we use them.

The alternative that I see implicitly being discussed is that we don't
write down our rules/processes. We informally agree on their shape,
and then everyone knows what they are and can follow the spirit. I
don't think this works; perhaps it was a better fit for Noisebridge
earlier, but I don't think that Noisebridge's current form[^1] can
work effectively that way.

I simply don't think that this form of informal common understanding
does *actually* lead to common understanding. Just two days ago, MCT
told me about a principle of Noisebridge's consensus process that he
thought was well-established and enshrined. It was a reasonable enough
principle, one that I can completely understand, and which I'd be
happy to have as part of the process. However, I'd never heard of it.

I've been at hundreds hours of Noisebridge meetings and consensus
discussions, I actively participate in every aspect of this process,
but I'd never heard of that simple reasonable principle that MCT
thought was obvious and well-enshrined. That's the sort of failure
mode of undocumented common understanding.

The reason that we write things down is to communicate and articulate
agreement. If we write down our process and the principles we expect
to follow, each of us can either observe that the documentation says
what we think, or that it doesn't in some key way and here's how we
should fix it.

Our community frequently has new participants and that's awesome. I'd
like newcomers to be able to understand and participate in our
processes, to feel ownership and responsibility for our space and
culture, and to be confident in their understanding. Our community
currently has so many members who live different places, keep
different hours, and do different things that it's very difficult to
effectively communicate how we work to new folks.

A newcomer to Noisebridge has few reliable ways to introduce
themselves to the way we do things. They have to engage in an
unreliable anthropology, and just hope that they pick up on enough to
get by. I think that's unfortunate, and I think that it's a failure.
If we write things down, the smart and passionate people who join our
community can read them, understand them, and even identify bugs we
haven't encountered yet.


[^1]: This is not even our final form.

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