[Noisebridge-discuss] My name is Al Sweigart, and I approve this message.

Albert Sweigart asweigart at gmail.com
Mon Jan 17 23:06:40 PST 2011


Hi, I'm Al. I'm running for a position on the board of directors at
Noisebridge. This is my "I am America and so can you" email where I
make outlandish promises and tell you that my campaign has the
momentum of a runaway train, why am I so popular.

Actually, I'm here to tell you a bunch of things that will make you
not vote for me.

I've been a member since a few months after we got the original 53C
space and have made a ton of contributions to NB over the years. It's
a fun place for me to hang out, meet people, and work on projects. But
I also see a lot of problems that keeps Noisebridge from attracting
members and being finacially sustainable. And I think it should be on
the board of directors to take a leadership role to actively try to
solve these problems.

That's the first reason to not vote for me: I don't think the board of
directors should be completely void of any responsibilities or
authority. While Noisebridge is a do-acracy,  I think board director
should be an actual job and not just a title we made up to make
getting 501c3 status smoother.

Noisebridge's main problem is that there is the standard Tragedy of
the Commons: everyone has incentives to use Noisebridge's resources
but little incentive to maintain them. Because our social structure
gives everybody responsibility, often nobody has responsibility. And
it is incredibly easy for a small minority to exceedingly make use of
resources without contributing back or be forced to change their
behavior.

The second reason not to vote for me is that I think we could use
_some_ rules that _are_ enforced. Emphasis, of course, on "some".
Noisebridge's policy of not solving problems before they happen is
great and keeps our overhead low. But at the same time Noisebridge
seems to be incapable of solving even minor problems until they blow
up into a crisis (and bring about the dreaded "drama"). Nobody expects
to have a fire, but it isn't bureacratic micromanagement to get fire
insurance anyway.

Some problems we can ignore. Other problems we can ignore, but
shouldn't. I want to see what rules the majority of members would like
to see for Noisebridge. These are rules that would be simple and small
in scope, but are never even attempted to be put up for consensus
because everyone knows it would be blocked by some individual for one
reason or another. I think Noisebridge's "open" and "inclusive"
consensus process often excludes people from taking an active role in
Noisebridge in just this way, and stifles even a healthy level of
dissent. That's the third reason you shouldn't vote for me: even if we
don't get rid of consensus altogether for a majority voting system, I
think the way we conduct our consensus process needs to change. Right
now nobody gives the consensus process any credibility (just listen to
the sarcasm used when describing it at our weekly meetings) and we
subvert it anyway with "do-acracy". This is not how an organization as
large as ours should settle things.


The board elections should not be a popularity contest. This is why
I'm taking the (for us, unorthodox) step of sending out a "campaign"
email: I want people to know who they're voting for and what I want to
bring to the table.

And I think there are several things we need to do that would
currently be seen as unorthodox, but I am willing and capable of
directly confronting issues at Noisebridge. Unless you do absolutely
nothing as a board director, you will take criticism for any decision
or direction you want to steer the organization in. Whether the
"person living at Noisebridge" situation or the stacks of dirty
dishes, I don't mind taking on an issue, patiently listening to people
and explaining my position, and trying to be fair to all parties
involved. And as Noisebridge grows, there are going to be a lot more
parties and "be excellent" simply isn't going to be specific enough.

If I'm not what you want and this isn't the board you want, then don't
vote for me. If you think that Noisebridge is fine just the way it is,
then don't vote for me. If you think I'm personable or you're a
friend, don't vote for me just because of that. (Friends don't put
friends on the board of Noisebridge. I'm irked enough at Shannon for
nominating me in the first place.) Otherwise, this is my agenda and my
reasons for not ducking out of the election altogether. I'm not sure
on everything about what role the board of directors should take, but
I think it should be an active one. And I put my money where my mouth
is. Tuesday is the second $165 day that I've sponsored. I'm not only
involved, I'm committed.

We have a nestegg to pay rent now, but a lot of that is from large-sum
donations and also backpay from members who lapsed in their donations
for a while. Unless we want to live from crisis to crisis, Noisebridge
needs people to take on its difficulties and the board of directors
should be at the front of the line.

Feel free to email this thread with any questions. It's easy to get
misconceptions from an email like this, and I want to clear any of
them up. And pardon the vagueness and generalities in this email, I
didn't want it to be 500 pages.

-Al


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