[Noisebridge-discuss] Why Consensus Kills Community

Johny Radio johnyradio at gmail.com
Mon Jan 6 23:00:08 UTC 2014

On 1/5/2014 8:07:24 PM, "Praveen Sinha" <dmhomee at gmail.com> wrote:
>nb is unique and awesome, we should try other things besides voting, we 
>should be doing community surveys
  i like all that.

>Voting is what they gave you to make you think you have democracy

it's flawed, but not a bad idea. I don't believe it's a total sham by 
nature -- it's become a sham in the US gov by economics and corruption.

>Majority rule sucks.

Majority rule is tyranny over the one by the many.
Consensus is tyranny over the many by the one.
Both are less than optimal.

>We aren't a corporation,

Wrong. Legally, we are.

>we don't have to turn a profit,

absolutely true!

>we don't have to be particularly efficient about any decision.

Why Not? Your position presumes that Noisebridge has no particular goal 
in life. So it doesn't really matter what we do, where we go, how we get 
there, or how long it takes us to get there.

But, we have a Mission Statement. Is our Mission Statement bullshit? If 
it's not bullshit, then where we go, and how long it takes us to get 
there, DOES matter. We ought to be particularly efficient at fulfilling 
our Mission. Eg, a system to ensure we have enough working 

>We don't have to agree and have one solution.

>Participation in a political process is always dominated by trolls

>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

Ocassionally, one or two of them hack. That's not ok.

>and work side by side with executives from tech startups to work on 
>projects and solder.

Usually, executives don't do soldering. You are dreaming. Charming 
fantasy, tho'.

>I tell them that we have an open space which is truly community driven 
>without government or corporate sponsors.

Community driven-into-the-ground, you mean.

I wasted hours yesterday trying to get something accomplished in 
electronics. Most of the multimeters are dead. When i requested 
$10/month Noisebridge Fund to buy electronics components for nb, it was 
shot down in consensus. Ten. Bucks. A month.

>I tell them that at Noisebridge I've seen the future being made right 
>in front of my eyes

Holy shit, if Noisebridge is "the future", we are all fucking doomed.

>I've even seen a fist fight almost break out at consensus, but it's 
>because we are doing things that matter

Right, it's because we care so deeply! Not because our open-door invites 
in immature, violence-prone jerks.

>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.
Now your talking!

>But largely, what I've seen is that a lot of spaces working off more 
>closed models are glorified garage shops.
And therefor, a demolished, disorganized, and dysfunctional 
"Hackerspace" is our only alternative. Really?

>No other space has to deal with the problems noisebridge has.  No other 
>space has people living in the walls
Um, yeah. Exactly. That's evidence of the dysfunction, not evidence of 
how great we are. Also evidence of handing out keys to non-hackers.

>They make fun of us because we live the idea of fail fast.

Fail Fast means, keep trying different models, different algorythms, 
different designs, until you find the winner.

Clinging to a static, unchanging model of decision-making is not failing 
fast, it's just failing once, and then refusing to change forever.

>Where do people go from around the world when they want to see a 
>quintessential, glorious, chaotic, hip hackerspace?  Noisebridge.
That's true! We ARE all of those things.

"Effective" however is one thing we are not.

Circuit Hacking Monday IS effective and fantastic, and NOT 
representative of Noisebridge. It's an exception.

>I don't know how they work in Atlanta, but here in the left coast we 
>roll with people power.

Yes, if you mean, people who leave the sink full of dirty dishes (while 
folks like you insist that expecting folks to clean up after themselves 
is fascist).

Yes, if you mean people who leave a disaster in the component shelves 
(because folks like you think holding people accountable for how they 
treat the commons is fascist).

Yes, if you mean people who break the circular saw because they don't 
know what they're doing (while folks like you say requiring them to 
learn first is fascist).

>3) We should fail even faster and harder
Agreed, if you mean CHANGE.

>I'm in favor of trying further experiments

>-- maybe having multiple blocking?
If you mean require more people to get a block, I think that would be an 

>Maybe having anonymous collaborative decision making?
Interesting idea. Let's try it.

How about working groups with autonomy + report-backs.

>We should be innovating and failing and not falling back into broken 
>systems of yester-century.


>4) I'd just ignore the rules anyway, and so would other people
If the community agrees on rules, then people who ignore those rules 
should be escorted out.

Your misconception is that "rules = fascism". If everyone agrees on 
rules through a fair and transparent process, then those are 
community-rules, not fascism.

>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.

Since you don't care if people sleep at Noisebridge, and since you 
imagine that street people actually hack at Noisebridge, that may say a 
lot about who you're giving keys to, and why.

If you're giving keys to non-hackers, whether or not they sleep at 
Noisebridge, I think that should be a cause for concern.

If you support Noisebridge's Mission Statement, then you cannot support 
giving keys to non-hackers. And if you do NOT support nb's Mission 
Statement, then why are you here?

Street people who actually hack are the exception. I believe you're 
wrong, Praveen.

(Activity in the space MAY be changing as Associate Membership has taken 
effect, but too soon to tell.)

>5) We really should be data driven about this whole thing

Absolutely! Applause.

Which means, determine how to MEASURE the degree to which we are 
fulfilling the Mission Statement.

And then quantify it. Like, Theft Statistics. Broken Equipment stats. 
New Member stats. Drama stats.

And then adjust to compensate. A feedback system. An adaptive 
organization. My vision is a permanently adaptive, ever self-redefining 
structure. NOT lack of structure, which is what we have now.

>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....

+1! Great statement.

>being asked whether I belong somewhere is one of my biggest peeves, as 
>I've had to deal with it in many forms my entire life.  In so far as 
>hackerspaces, I was turned away in berlin and new york, it's really 

If turning non-hackers away peeves you, let's stop calling it a 

If somebody's not a hacker, they don't belong in a hackerspace. Under 
"hacking" i include "making, teaching making, and learning making".

>unfairly treating people who don't look like cookie cutter hackers

Baloney. There is currently NO filtering that brings in hackers to nb, 
cookie cutter or otherwise. Becoming a member is a popularity contest-- 
it's NOT based on your hacking activities, NOT based on what you've done 
to help the space.

We SHOULD filter for hackers. But not cookie cutter hackers (tho' i have 
no idea what "cookie cutter hacker" even means).

A kitchenless person coming into nb to make spagetti might be something 
nb chooses to support out of a sense of social goodness. But please do 
not pretend that's "hacking".

>when someone looks like an institutional white male hacker, they can 
>get away with a lot of harassment with impunity.  I had to mediate in 
>nb drama against one particular hacker who was trying to do away with 
>houseless people at nb.

If you think asking non-hackers to leave a hackerspace is "harassment", 
Praveen, then you and i have a different definition of "harassment" and 

>it took months before anyone was able to do anything about it because 
>he looked and talked the part and had a cult of personality around him.
You mean he really WASN'T a hacker? Or the people he was kicking out 
really WERE hackers?

>we are tossing kludges that aren't really fixing the underlying issues

Such as? Please, mention one or two kludges, specifically.

>Our fundamental problem is not that we need to exclude, but we that we 
>need to re-engage:

i quite agree. Noisebridge should re-engage houseless people THROUGH 

That's why i applied for an Awesome Grant to conduct a Homeless Hack-- a 
series of hacking workshops designed to address the special needs of 
homeless folks. Sadly, i did not get the grant.

Re-engaging people does not mean indiscriminantly hand keys out to them. 
If that's what you're doing Praveen, then i think the community needs to 
address what you're doing.

>After doing some basic interviews,

Did you document your interviews?

I also did some basic interviews. I recorded them, and posted the 
recordings on the Noisebridge wiki:

>I maintain that it's the lack of engagement that is the number one 
>problem at noisebridge.

Who's lack of engagement in what?

>we need to have a minimum number of hours that any existing member of 
>noisebridge do in order to be civicly active and maintain nb presence.  
>This could come in the form of participation of mediation, docent duty, 
>consensus, mailing list... *Something*.

Yes, i strongly agree! Add cleaning the bathroom, sorting capactors, 
processing ewaste, taking out the trash.

Except not "consensus". Whatever our decision-making process, it's 
something everyone should be participating in. Participating in the core 
process does not count as "extra-credit". That's separate from giving 
your time to help the space. If we count going to meetings as "helping 
the space", then you're proposing exactly what we already have, Praveen. 
Loud-mouthed non-hackers dominating meetings.

>we need to *really* branch out and connect with all the people who have 
>long since left nb-discuss or long since left nb itself.
Yes, but also realize that the demographics of SF and the hood are 
changing. Some things that made sense for nb 5 years ago may no longer 

>Why do you think that sleeping shouldn't be allowed at nb?
No non-hackers LIVING at nb.

(We should not pretend a "live-in" superintendent helps "people"-- that 
would only benefit ONE houseless person).

>Why do you think [sleeping] should be allowed?
Hackers napping is ok.

>you can't downplay the issues of alienating people.
Which people? If they are non-hackers, why not alienate them? It's a 
"hackerspace", not a shelter.

>I would like these surveys interviews to be open-ended, and be open to 
>including mixed media
then forget about the "data" you mentioned. You could *include* 
open-ended or mixed-media answers, but for stats, you need closed-ended 
multiple-choice questions.

Happy Jew Year.

Johny Radio

Consensus: tyranny of the one over the many.
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