Meeting Notes 2011 05 03
Moderator: Rachel M
Introduction and Names
- What Noisebridge is about: "Noisebridge is a 501c3 nonprofit that provides a space for creation, collaboration, and learning about technology and creative projects. Noisebridge provides space, power tools, and infrastructure to help the public learn new skills and create cool things. Noisebridge continues to exist through and depends entirely on membership fees and donations. Our code of conduct is 'Be excellent to each other'."
- Round of introductions: What's your name, what do you do, and if you are new, how did you hear about Noisebridge? Start with the moderator and go left.
- A brief primer on consensus process: We agree and so should you! Only paid-up members can block consensus.
We have new t-shirts and stickers! (Lots of them!)
Q. What are we going to do with them at Maker Faire?
A. Let's take all we still have to the Faire and see if we can get rid of all of them there! The world of geekdom will descend upon Noisebridge before, during, and after the Faire, and they will probably be popular, and a good fund-raiser for Noisebridge.
Funds in bank: $13,871.86. This is a little bit low but it's the beginning of the month and we just paid rent, so it's not too bad.
Generally we now have $10,000 in the savings account and use about $5,000 as operating expenses, but we had to dip into the savings account to deal with the purchases of t-shirts and stickers. But we were able to restore that quickly.
Q. Can we invest money in a CD?
A. Actually, the t-shirts and stickers are a much better investment for Noisebridge right now. Interest rates are low but we get good returns in practice from shirts and stickers. We have made $1.10 in interest on our savings account.
Jared deposited $236 from the vending machine. Thanks!
Samsung is now manufacturing a Sidekick 4G running Android with a super great keyboard. Noisebridge isn't going to get one but the treasurer likes them a whole lot.
There are no new members this week.
What's Going On at Noisebridge
Controlling music playback in the space from your smartphone or other computer
It's now very easy using any smartphone, by downloading any mpd client, to control the two music receivers that we have here and to control the music playback from your phone. You can also get mpd clients for your computer and control the music when you are in the space!
Zack (?) fixed the 42-inch TV and it could be placed onto a table with wheels and display various things and kinds of information while people are doing projects. It can take two simultaneous inputs in split-screen mode. Ideally there will be a computer attached to it and maybe a wireless keyboard and mouse.
Q. What inputs?
A. DVI up to 720p and 1080a. Two component, two composite inputs, S-video.
Q. Make a wiki page and an nburl for the wiki page and put a label on it.
A. Sure, please help me do this!
Q. What is the brand?
Q. What will the TV be called?
A. Per the treasurer, NBTV!
The TV is now called "NBTV". See 
It will perhaps have two computers to control the two computer inputs.
Hacker in residence
At the beginning of Noisebridge, we talked about the idea of having a hacker in residence program, where we would designate someone as Noisebridge hacker in residence for a period of time and give them some kind of support and recognition.
Mitch has been talking with Paul about having a hacker in residence. He is a grantwriter. He is proposing to write a grant proposal to have a hacker in residence.
Someone will sign this grant proposal and then it will be an actual proposal on behalf of Noisebridge.
(Add any new items for consensus to the Current Consensus Items page.)
Noisebridge administering grants
Open source research under Noisebridge's ægis.
Can Noisebridge administer grants to let individuals get funding to work on open source projects? E.g., Jason, who has a specific open source project that he wants to get a grant to work on, to be administered by Noisebridge.
The money would presumably get paid to Noisebridge and it would be earmarked for paying a particular person to work on a particular thing in the name of Noisebridge. Publications about this would be done with a Noisebridge affiliation.
This does create responsibility for Noisebridge and reputational risk. Our bylaws permit this but we have never done it before.
In this case Jason would promise to make his work open source.
It's not clear who would do what and whether consensus is required.
Q. What is the procedure for the treasurer to be given earmarked funds, such as a grant for a specific purpose?
A. Send the treasurer an e-mail describing the nature, date, and amount of the transaction.
Q. But what will Noisebridge do in order to fulfill its obligations to administer the grant properly, to ensure that we comply with our obligations under the grant and as a non-profit organization? We need to keep track of this for tax reasons, among other things.
A. The treasurer will track the amount and purpose of the money allocated and expended for these purposes.
Q. Doesn't Noisebridge get some obligation to monitor what Jason does and that the purpose of the grant is fulfilled? What kind of oversight will Noisebridge exercise?
A. Yes. We could have a consensus item that says that we'll go forward with this and that one of our officers has volunteered to be the contact person and to perform the oversight, including an obligation for Jason to report on his progress.
We think that the consensus item would be to administer the grant.
Q. Does this need consensus?
A. Not sure, but we will proceed as a consensus item for now. We will also ask Paul for advice.
There is some general discussion about our uncertainty about whether this requires consensus and how Noisebridge ought to be handling decisions about grants.
There is a project to create some additional member shelves. It's being funded by individual donations and not an appropriation of Noisebridge money. We have $220 and we need $280 to complete this project. See Talk:Shelves.
Guidelines for responding to unexcellent behavior
Last week, we proposed to talk about guidelines for responding to unexcellent behavior, for possible future consensus.
Q. What should the guidelines be?
A. We don't know!
One idea: In order to eject someone from Noisebridge, we have to do it by consensus and also everyone has to sing "Kumbaya".
We can also just discuss it without a formal consensus on guidelines.
Having something written down could make people who feel that they're having problems feel that they have tools to deal with the problems.
There is some opposition to making something that seems like a rule. We once had a procedure for kicking people out at the old space, but we never actually consensed on it.
- As discussed last week, there was a concern with how we dealt with our banning incident. We still agree with the consensus but some members continue to be troubled by the process and atmosphere that were used in the course that took us there.
- There are potentially other ways that could work to deal with problems.
- We didn't get a chance to try some of the other ways last time.
Q. How can we deal with de-escalating a situation without ignoring people's safety concerns?
- There is a progression of things that people can try in order to deal with people they're having problems with. After trying these, what are people supposed to do when they're at the point of bringing their concerns to a meeting or to the larger community?
- We may have gotten a mob phenomenon partly because we let things go on too long before acting.
- There were people who had already said that they would enforce a ban before the consensus process. At that point it is very hard to de-escalate the situation and pursue more moderate ways to address the issue because we feel that we have to decide whether that's OK and whether we condone this action. At that point there was probably no longer an opportunity to use other means.
- We did let things go on too long, but the system was designed to be slow.
- A group was also trying to get together a formal intervention and conditions. They had been deliberating but then they found out that there was another group preparing more drastic action. The group that was working on the intervention -- the more moderate course -- got a negative message from the group that was using the more direct tactics.
- There were two different groups working in parallel to try to deal with the situation using different tactics at the same time. This arises partly from the difficulty in identifying who can or should act as Noisebridge itself.
- And Noisebridge itself can't act officially in a very rapid way, because of the constraints of our consensus process.
- The eventual consensus was actually a bit of a surprise to people because there was so much skepticism that the process could work and could reach a consensus. In reality, Noisebridge did come to a reasonably quick and solid consensus once the consensus process was invoked. That it hadn't been tried sooner was something that led to the problems.
- But how bad doesn't someone's behavior need to be before it gets brought up in a meeting?
- It seems that our process is talking to someone, then bringing it to a group / intervention, followed by an attempt at formal banning. Those are definite actions that can be taken but that didn't get taken very quickly because people didn't know who should do what when.
- Parts of this happened very fast once it started, by Noisebridge standards.
- Did the person who got banned actually get any opportunity to defend himself?
- Yes, at least with individuals who raised concerns.
- There was a "slow burn" which lasted for three months or more and then a very sudden "explosion". The "explosion" lasted about five days. The explosion phase involved two different groups working on different responses, at least.
- When people are talking about safety, you have to be concerned about the credibility of both sides.
- This has happened three times before this and has escalated in the same way with concerns about sexual issues which are the issues that have resonance here and so those are the concerns that people raise that get traction.
- The slow part this time took a long time to reach a critical mass and before that people did not feel a particular urgency to take action because it was not clear whether it was a personal issue that properly needed to be taken to the whole group or not.
- We don't have a clear grievance process. In the past people whose behavior was criticized or objected to had advocates, but not this time.
- This was actually going to happen this time in the intervention process.
- But someone who was aware of these concerns during the slow phrase didn't act when they could have.
- Because it wasn't clear to them whether it was a probably that needed to be dealt with by the whole community.
- These kinds of concerns about people are the standard issues that were raised against people in prior incidents when other people had a problem with them.
- Our process seems to work OK in non-extreme cases but we don't have a process that works in a non-escalated, rational, deliberative way in extreme cases.
- It would be nice if there were a way to deal with such situations in a way that's faster and less ugly. Does it have to get ugly?
- How do you open it up to the group earlier without making it public and invoking privacy concerns and escalating too much?
- We should have guidelines that create a predictable way to make progress on issues about people's behavior without necessarily getting ugly.
- Menacing dog issue? Some people said they felt threatened by the dog.
- People disagree about whether that dog was menacing.
- This exemplifies that it's difficult to figure out at what point to bring things to the group!
- What is the point of transition for something from a private issue to a public issue?
- Suggested guideline: Everyone needs to have an advocate.
- And a way to represent themselves.
- It's not cool to move forward without someone having an advocate.
Q. What if they can't get an advocate?
A. We think they get an advocate. We think everyone would be able to get an advocate if we have an articulated belief that everyone should have an advocate.
- There has been a leadership vacuum at Noisebridge.
- That's on purpose.
- No, we have a lack of formal leadership but we often have very active informal leadership. This problem was a symptom of the leadership vacuum.
- Proposed process: Talk to someone directly. Then get a mediator. Then the mediator can ask whether the issue should be brought to the group.
- But we don't necessarily know when an issue is ripe to be brought to the meeting.
- We need an informal panel of people who are willing to talk to people when people are having problems with them.
- The board of directors.
- But the board is supposed to not do anything!
- Some responsible person, then.
- Then it can go to a meeting and once it goes to a meeting, the person whose behavior is complained of should have an advocate there.
- Step 1 (dealing with someone) is optional if people are afraid to. Step 2 is not. Getting a proxy to talk to them.
- Step 3 is getting a responsible party to talk to them. If that doesn't work, that party should bring it up in the meeting.
- What about structured mediation?
- What about the problem of detecting a pattern vs. an interpersonal problem that is not a group problem? How can the mediator decide this?
- It's their responsibility to make a judgment.
- We should have a norm in favor of bringing things to the meeting.
- But this will cause lots of dirty laundry to get brought to the meeting all the time.
- There is a meaningful task in making a distinction between personal conflicts and problems that need the group's attention. But in some cases, because of privacy concerns, people may have problems or bad experiences that they are reluctant to bring to the group's attention ... and there is a level of mistrust in the community. So sometimes the community ought to act to kick someone out, but there may not be trust in the community's willingness or ability to do so, so something might not get brought to the group when it ought to be. And mistrust in the community's ability to deal with things tends to empower vigilantism.
- We can name steps that happen before a lynch mob. Having named steps would be a real thing to point to that would be meaningful.
- There are some notes on possible guidelines that will be put on the wiki.
- A lynch mob is a natural outcome in the absence of visible steps and progress from the community. We would like to guide the flow of events to try to prevent it from resulting in a lynch mob.
- Is this something for the board or something for anyone in the community generally? We don't like giving the board special powers.
- We have a set of actual named and numbered steps and we think these can help. They will be on a wiki page. It includes a list of people who volunteer to be mediators/responsible parties.
- A big goal is to try to defuse lynch mobs and witch hunts, in part by having a meaningful and visible alternative to them that can work.
- What about the problem of people perceiving an imminent, urgent threat?
- You can call the police and the police can remove someone.
- It would be good if doocratic removal of people didn't involve the word "ban". As we said last week, /kick not /ban.
- It could also be good if people could be temporarily suspended or asked to stay away in order to deal with people's urgent concerns.
- But this actually happened and didn't work.
- It doesn't always work but it can work. Everyone can /kick people.