[Noisebridge-discuss] Why Consensus Kills Community

Frantisek Apfelbeck algoldor at yahoo.com
Mon Jan 6 14:12:32 UTC 2014

Beautiful post Praveen, thanks a lot for it!

After several years of travelling I can just confirm that Noisebridge is truly unique in its openess and lack of hierarchy. It is major inspiration for many people around the world and I hope it will stay that way, several founding members voiced recently their support and desire to keep the founding principles of Noisebridge which the openess to people interested in coming and equality definitely are.

Sincerely from Warpzone, Munster,


Email from Praveen:

I know I'm pretty late to this thread but here's my unsolicitated opinions.

*tldr: voting sucks, nb is unique and awesome, we should try other things
besides voting, we should be doing community surveys, I'm hella blocking a
move to voting model*

1) *Voting is what they gave you to make you think you have democracy*
I guess in this case, I'm the one actually have a conservative opinion.
But I feel it's worth repeating.  Voting sucks.  Majority rule sucks.  We
aren't a corporation, we don't have to turn a profit, we don't have to be
particularly efficient about any decision.  We don't have to agree and have
one solution.  Participation in a political process is always dominated by
trolls and politicians -- this is true in a voting system as well.  We were
very concious in the early days of noisebridge to avoid voting for a number
of reasons.  Over the years we've iterated on our consensus process.  I
think there is much more to iterate on, but I see voting as fundamentally
having people lose their voice.

2) *If they aren't making fun of you, you aren't trying*
I personally think we should hang the image of "at least we aren't
noisebridge" high above our door.  I've heard many people at noisebridge be
ashamed of nb.  I've heard of people outside of nb make fun of nb.

The other night, I had a group of visitors from Kochim, Kerala visit
noisebridge.  They were on a tour to start their own startup village in
Kochim  (and I've seen similar visitors as far as Mozambique).  When they
come, I tell them that noisebridge welcomes everyone -- regardless of their
income or their education level or whether they have a house. I tell them
that people living on the street and people who have been in solitary
confinement come here and work side by side with executives from tech
startups to work on projects and solder.  I tell them that we have an open
space which is truly community driven without government or corporate
sponsors. I tell them that at Noisebridge I've seen the future being made
right in front of my eyes both technologically AND socially in completely
unexpected ways.  I tell them that we are contentious, and I've even seen a
fist fight almost break out at consensus, but it's because we are doing
things that matter on a far deeper level than we give credit for.

I've been around the world to other hackerspaces.  Some of them I couldn't
even get into because I came at the wrong time.   But largely, what I've
seen is that a lot of spaces working off more closed models are glorified
garage shops.

No other space has to deal with the problems noisebridge has.  No other
space has people living in the walls or has opened itself up to the city as
much as we have.  They make fun of us because we *live* the idea of fail
fast.  It's a feature, not a bug.  Where do people go from around the world
when they want to see a quintessential, glorious, chaotic, hip hackerspace?
Noisebridge.  I don't know how they work in Atlanta, but here in the left
coast we roll with people power.

*3) We should fail even faster and harder*
You bring up a lot of great an interesting points which I think we should
experiment with.  It sucks that someone got blocked membership.  It sucks
that our process can cause people to self censor and reduce overall

I'm in favor of trying further experiments -- maybe having multiple
blocking?  Maybe having anonymous collaborative decision making?  We should
be innovating and failing and not falling back into broken systems of

*4) I'd just ignore the rules anyway, and so would other people*
I'm still handing out keys to people.  I don't need to sleep at
noisebridge, but I don't care if other people do.

*5) We really should be data driven about this whole thing*
At the end of day, we all have bunch of conflicting opinions, and we can
all assert our models of reality and claim that it "works" for some value
of "works".

I'm getting more to the opinion that this process doesn't go very far.  If
we are going to collectively solve our problems, we should be getting a
better sense of what everyone thinks our problems really are.  Danny
O'Brien started this process with nb surveys last year...  But I think this
process should be taken further.  I think we need to be collecting in-depth
community surveys and interviews to really get a deep feel for what we
need.  This issue is only going to get more urgent as our lease comes up
and we as a community stare down the barrel of being gentrified out of the
mission later in the year....

Love and Happy New Year,

Frantisek Algoldor Apfelbeck

biotechnologist&kvasir and hacker


"There is no way to peace, peace is the way." Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
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