[Noisebridge-discuss] why would hackers come to noisebridge?

Torrie Fischer tdfischer at hackerbots.net
Thu Mar 13 15:53:13 UTC 2014

On Thursday, March 13, 2014 07:19:04 Marc Juul wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 3:07 PM, Jake <jake at spaz.org> wrote:
> > well, you're doing more to fix the infrastructure than I have lately, but
> > that is not the kind of problems i'm talking about.
> > 
> > my complaint is that the culture of noisebridge has become so
> > uninteresting
> > and unrelated to hacking that it is bordering on irrelavent. The fact that
> > you are volunteering your time to maintain the internet at a homeless
> > shelter is quaint, but it doesn't change the fact that most hackers don't
> > want to go there anymore.
> > 
> > there are two categories of reasons why a hacker would want to go to
> > noisebridge:
> > 
> > 1> other hackers are there, and people they can relate to and share
> > interesting conversation with, or just be around while working on projects
> > of their own.  People are there experimenting on things, hardware software
> > and other, and one might learn something or teach something or make new
> > friends with similar interests.
> > 
> > 2> there is a "safe space" with technical infrastructure.  This means that
> > people who refuse to be HIGHLY accountable for problematic behavior are
> > simply not permitted to be present (a much higher standard than we have
> > now).  Oh and lets not forget at least one usable bathroom with a decent
> > toilet seat and toilet paper.
> > 
> > This also means that the technical infrastructure is in place and usable.
> > For software people this means the internet works and there are outlets,
> > clean places to sit (with decent posture, not fall-in couches) and tables
> > for laptops and room to work with others.
> > 
> > For hardware this means that tools are more than just the bottom of the
> > barrel (try finding a pair of scissors or a phillips screwdriver) and that
> > there are actually nice things (a soldering iron with a temperature
> > control
> > instead of $2 china disposable irons), AND more advanced tools are
> > available such as microcontroller programmers, blank microcontrollers,
> > and other electronic hardware for raw material.
> > 
> > Noisebridge used to have a great collection of microcontrollers and
> > programmers and breadboards and jumper wires and advanced electronic
> > tools,
> > but all of that stuff was REPEATEDLY taken down from the top shelf and
> > scattered into the e-waste piles, and then thrown away.  Yes, our
> > microcontroller and programmer collection has made its way to the trash.
> > 
> > categories 1 and 2 are related;  if a hackerspace has one without the
> > other, hackers still may not decide to go.  Certainly I think both are
> > equally important.  I also feel that at this time, and for too long,
> > noisebridge has not had either.
> > 
> > P.S. please notice that ONE OF THE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP IS TO GO TO
> Since reading the policy that visitors to noisebridge are required to
> have a member vouch for them at all times, I no longer feel welcome at
> noisebridge. I know that several others feel the same way.
> I remember Jake's original suggestion related to this. The idea was
> that anyone asking a visitor to leave would first have to ask if any
> member is willing to vouch for the visitor to stay, and only if no-one
> vouches can the non-member be asked to leave. That is reasonable.
> Putting the responsibility on the visitor of having a member pre-vouch
> for them at all times is both unwelcoming and unreasonable.
> Now, I'm seeing one of the board members implying that the board will
> no longer be passive, which I take it to mean that noisebridge is no
> longer ruled by consensus.

I'm just an associate member of noisebridge on the other side of the US with 
no real influence, or even a desire to get involved, so here is my $0.02 based 
on my previous position of being an officer of SYNHAK, and our terrifyingly 
heavy-handed and pre-emptive board that was elected a few weeks ago.

I feel that it is possible and somewhat important for the management of a 
hackerspace to be active while still respecting the wishes of the membership. 
The board and officers should still be held responsible to the membership by 
the community. Noisebridge bylaws permit the removal of the board, should it 
come to that:


It is never a good idea for the board to get to such a point that demands for 
resignation or removal start showing up (see synhak's discuss@ for many 
tears), so I imagine that the consensus process would still be respected.

SYNHAK is experimenting with a few procedural changes with our governance 
structure in the next few weeks in an attempt to curb the decision making 
abilities of the board and officers. First, an amendment to our bylaws that 
essentially states that the membership runs the space:

"The powers not delegated to the Officers of SYNHAK by these Bylaws, nor 
prohibited to the members through The Board or these Bylaws are reserved to 
the Membership."

Sounds a bit 10th amendment-ish, yeah. It has no real effect on the 
corporation other than to explicitly state that the membership is in charge. 
The Board still legally retains absolute power and can do things like set a 
corporate alcohol and drug policy, approve a new lease, strip membership from 
individuals, pass a bylaw amendment that nulls this, etc. It does, however, 
give the membership some control over what the management does.

The second component of this is an upcoming modification to our consensus 
process which is roughly based off of Noisebridge's. It adds three constraints 
on blocking consensus: One person may block consensus for no longer than 6 
weeks, an indefinite block can only happen with the support of a total of 
three members, and the reason for a block must be clearly and explicitly 
written in the meeting minutes.

Nobody is required to approve of the reason for a block, but this prevents a 
single person from stopping the entire process without having to put the 
effort in to convince others why their position is valid. While a proposal is 
under a block, the community is encouraged to figure out the best way to reach 
consensus on the issue.

If you're worried about consensus being steamrolled by the board, perhaps 
those concerns are best addressed by asking the board to explain how they feel 
Noisebridge's governance process fits in with their plans. Reaching consensus 
about respecting consensus, if you will.

> It makes me both sad and angry that noisebridge has become a place
> where hackers don't feel welcome.
> If anyone wants to help build a hackerspace similar to what
> noisebridge used to be, I invite you all too come join sudo room in
> oakland as we prepare to move to a much bigger space (a space very
> similar to noisebridge's current space!). We have open meetings every
> Wednesday at 7 pm at 22nd and Broadway, located just two blocks from
> 19th street BART.
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