How we keep Noisebridge safe
- 1 How we keep a healthy, safe Noisebridge community
How we keep a healthy, safe Noisebridge community
- NOTE: This is a living document that attempts communicate to newer (and older) people in our community how our no-process tools and patterns work around dealing with issues in the space, without actually defining a formal process. Those that have been around a while should feel free to update it, but please try to keep it as a description of what we actually do in practice, versus what we aspire to do, to avoid unnecessary codification.
Noisebridge has learned a lot in the past few years about how to keep our community healthy and safe. We've tried a lot of things that didn't work, and in the process, found a few that did. This is an attempt to catalog some of the things we've learned, both to help pass on our learnings to newer community members as well as to share with other communities that may benefit from our past.
Noisebridge is a very unique community in many ways. We want to be able to have nice things, and a space that everyone feels safe and comfortable to hack, learn, and teach in. But we also want to be radically inclusive and as open as possible. This is sometimes in conflict with our surrounding neighborhood and the culture we live in. Because of this, we've had to learn new tools and approaches to problems that other communities either don't have, or solve in different ways that wouldn't work for us.
Here are some of the components of maintaining a safe, healthy space and community at Noisebridge:
- Progressive vetting: access card levels, slack access, membership
- Ongoing discussion and spreading the culture around how we maintain a safe, healthy, welcome space and community.
- Presentation every weekly Tuesday meeting by a knowledgeable community member describing, in their own words, what "safe space" means at Noisebridge.
- Always greeting people at the door, filtering who comes in and giving newcomers tours, and training people how to do this.
- Closing the space at night when the last philanthropist or member leaves, or at 11pm if people no longer want to be responsible for keeping the space open.
- Actively talking about people that exhibit red flags, even before it reaches critical mass in person and/or on the #space-guardians slack channel.
- Empowering individuals to do-ocratically ask people to leave and/or not come back
- Reciprocal safe space bans with other bay area hackerspaces
- Maintaining the 86 page on the wiki with photos and descriptions of people that are not welcome at noisebridge
- Our Anti-Harassment Policy
- TODO: more antiharrassment stuff here
We like to gradually get to know new people to the community before we trust them with the keys to the kingdom.
Here's a couple ways we do that:
RFID access cards
We use RFID cards to open the downstairs gate/upstair door at noisebridge, both to let ourselves in from outside, and to let others in from inside the space.
These are the different access levels for door access:
- Doorbell: When you first come to Noisebridge, you can ring the doorbell, and if there's someone in the space with an RFID who has time to show you around, they'll let you in. Everyone is welcome to ring the doorbell any time!
- Temporary daylight access: Once you've been to Noisebridge a few times and get to know a few people, you can ask any member to give you temporary 30-day anonymous access during daylight hours (11am-10pm).
- Permanent daylight access: Once you've gotten to know the community a bit better, you can ask a member to have your name/email address associated with your RFID card. This makes your card no longer anonymous (so we can remove your access if you screw up), but will never expire.
- 24/7 access: Philanthropist and Member have full time access. Here's more information about how to become a member/philanthropist: (TODO).
We have public Mailing lists and an irc channel that anyone can join. However, we have a slack community we use heavily for discussion within the community. It's really high signal-to-noise, and very low on trolls and sock puppets. We try and keep it that way by only inviting people to Slack once they've been hanging out in the space for a while, and we've gotten to know them.
Philanthropists have 24x7 access to the space, and as such, may potentially be by themselves either late at night or early in the morning, or may be sponsoring other non-philanthropist/non-members in the space later at night. As such, we want to make sure we trust them to treat the space excellently, and make sure they know how to greet people at the door, how to give a tour, and how to close up the space at night if they're the last person in the space. See Philanthropist for more info
Members have the ability to single-handedly block our Consensus process. Thus, we really want to get to know someone before they become a member. Generally, we suggest that people don't apply to be a member until they've been active in the community for at least 6 months. There's lots more info about the membership process on the wiki.
Oh my god, are we having THAT discussion again? Yes, yes we are.
We mostly spread culture at Noisebridge through talking about it. This happens pretty readily with topics hackers generally love, like the one true text editor (hint: it's vim), but less readily with topics hackers like less, like how to handle interpersonal conflict. We've learned a lot about how to keep our community healthy over the lifetime of Noisebridge, and we share that knowledge by continually talking about it. This means we often have the same ongoing conversations, particularly with newer community members, about how we greet people, what we consider acceptable behavior, and how we deal with problems when they come up.
An important mechanism of keeping Noisebridge safe (and keeping our Noisebridge culture alive and thriving) is an ongoing discussion within our community of what is, and is not, excellent. Thus, our one rule -- Be excellent to each other -- which is purposefully subjective -- stays continually meaningful.
How we handle people causing problems at Noisebridge
Participation in Noisebridge is a privilege, not a right. The health of the Noisebridge community comes first and foremost. Everything else is built on that. There's a balance between being fair and attempting restorative justice, and preserving the precious energy of core community members.
Repeat after me: there is no process.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Formal process is too easily gamed.
- Formal process that requires putting the same amount of energy into all situations burns out core community members.
- Most people come to Noisebridge to hack, not to deal with curating the community. Not having a formal process limits drama to those involved and those willing and interested in dealing with it.
Channels for dealing with people that are causing problems in the community may include (but not necessarily):
- In person 1:1 discussion between community members
- Conversations with the problematic person
- Discussion on the #space-guardians
- Out of band slack discussion (often used for sensitive issues)
- In person group discussions
- Anyone can ask someone to leave
- Anyone can ask someone to leave and not come back
- Informal consensus among community participants can lead to:
- being asked to leave
- an informal ban
- being added to the 86 page
- re-including someone back into the community who was previously asked to leave
Some things we used to do that we don't do anymore:
- Ask people that have been asked to leave to come to the next Tuesday meeting. This frequently turns the Tuesday meetings into a giant drama-fest, which drives away new community members, burns out existing community members, and makes people not to want to come to the meetings anymore.
- Have a formal banning/appeals process. Having a formal process assumes that there's a single one-size-fits all process to handle all situations, which we've learned simply doesn't exist. Each situation needs to be handled separately, in the context of both the situation itself, and the current state of the rest of the community. In addition, having a formal rigid process gives an opportunity for those not welcome in the community to game the system and/or drag out the process, exhausting any community members will to engage in the process, which eventually leads to burn out.
- Guarantee the same level of due process for everyone, regardless of the situation. As a fully volunteer run community, our time and energy is incredibly scarce and precious. Not all situations deserve the same level of investment.
- Involve people who don't want to be involved with safe space issues. If you don't want to deal with drama in the space, you don't have to. You don't have to answer the door, nor do you have to be subscribed to #space-guardians on slack. If you just want to shut up and hack, you're encouraged to do so. By keeping safe space issues and interpersonal drama out of the weekly Tuesday meeting and off the noisebridge-discuss mailing list, we allow each person in the community to make this choice for themselves.
- Mediation by demand - We only do it if it's likely to succeed and everyone involved wants to do it.
Red and Yellow Flags
Red and Yellow flags are small signs that someone might be doing or going to try and do something that hurts the Noisebridge community. Seeing one warning sign is a reason for concern, but not a problem in and of itself. We talk about red flags when we see them to figure out if there's a larger pattern of behavior that no one person is seeing. Ie, someone found someone asleep on the couch, but didn't think too much of it. They mention it, and find out that three other people have woken the same person up, and a fourth person saw them stashing clothes in the wood shop. Now there's a much different story, which makes it pretty clear that this person doesn't belong at Noisebridge.
Some people may just be having a bad day or just not really know how Noisebridge works yet. Lists of behaviors should not be used as excuses not to be excellent to someone. Even someone who seems to mean to do Noisebridge harm should still be treated a whole person.
Red flags include, but are not limited to:
- Name dropping to invoke privilege. Particularly if that person is Mitch, "the owner", or "the people in charge".
- Bolting past the person opening the door for them and heading for the back of the space
- Lying... (not lying like "my mom's calling me" when they need an excuse to tap out, but lying like "I'm one of the NB board members" when they are not.)
- Giving people a hard time when someone questions their behavior or asks them to leave.
- Only taking from the space - e.g. direct theft of tools/hack shelf contents/laptops/materials/etc or constantly bothering people for no productive purpose.
- Only giving to the space - this is also known as the Savior/Martyr pattern (see below).
- Storing personal items/clothing at Noisebridge, particularly in out-of-sight places
- Repeatedly sleeps in the space (treats Noisebridge as a squat)
- Shows up obnoxiously drunk/high.
- Invokes anarchism as a reason why they can do whatever they want and don't have to listen to anyone else.
Yellow flags: could mean the person is having a bad day or doesn't really understand Noisebridge yet, so take this list with a grain of salt and use kindness first! Never use this list as reasons to kick people out in and of themselves.
- Immediately heads to a hidey-hole - a dark, unpopulated corner of the space
- Immediately rummages through things right after coming in (hack shelves, other people's projects, etc)
- Immediately asking about the 24 hour access policy.
- Immediately tells you "I've been coming here for years."
- Doesn't seem to respect "Do Not Hack" tags or boxes labeled as people's projects.
- Demanding help/attention when first coming in to the space (ie, fix my laptop/phone)
- Reacts poorly when people introduce themselves or want to chat.
- Napping in the space.
- Repeatedly ringing the doorbell late at night or early in the morning (when Noisebridge is not typically open).
- Showing a sense of entitlement - an attitude that Noisebridge exists solely for their benefit
- Not making sense - racing thoughts, paranoia, etc
- Argues about how Noisebridge should be when brand new to the community
- Gets argumentative quickly vs discussing when things don't go their way
The Savior/Martyr pattern:
- Shows up at Noisebridge incredibly enthusiastic to "Make Noisebridge Better!"
- Almost immediately starts working on the Noisebridge infrastructure, often making unilateral decisions about major things (e.g. setting up new spaces).
- Makes lots of suggestions for what Noisebridge is doing wrong and how to improve it without getting to know the community first
- Doesn't explore or do any of their own projects
- Doesn't make use of the Noisebridge classes/workshops/other resources
- Develops a sense of propriety at Noisebridge - they are SAVING Noisebridge by making a huge personal sacrifice
- Gets frustrated when they aren't in complete control, or resents that people don't recognize them enough for their sacrifice
- Doesn't change their behavior when people give them feedback
- Eventually gets unwelcomed or banned in a spectacular explosion
Often people that exhibit this pattern start out as very good contributors to the space, and are often well liked within the community.
Left unchecked, the Savior/Martyr individual inevitably creates factions within the space just by virtue of being seen to be attached to the outcomes of an impossibly large array of things that happen at Noisebridge. These factions inevitably get into unresolvable conflicts until the Savior/Martyr person is either asked to take a break (note this is not the same as "Asked to Leave") or they wind up banned. We hate banning people, but if someone isn't willing to listen to feedback and update their behavior, that someone usually ends up on the wrong side of the 86 list.
Shit that might feel unfair:
- Some individuals' opinions carry more weight than others.
- Not all conversations, particularly about safe space issues, happen in public forums. Sometimes there will be conversations you're not privy to.
- Not everyone is guaranteed the same level of due process.
- Not everyone who fucks up in the space will get the same level of attention.
Someone asked me to leave. What should I do?
As with other aspects of how we keep Noisebridge safe, there are no formal procedures for this. But, here are some things for you to consider:
Wow, sounds like you probably fucked up pretty bad. Noisebridge does not often ask someone to leave without a lot of discussion and consensus beforehand. You should leave without arguing. Now is not the time to make a stand. Refusing to leave or arguing about leaving significantly hurts your chances of ever being allowed back. Once you've left, reflect on why you were asked to leave.
The starting point for resolving problems within the Noisebridge community is having a genuine willingness and ability to:
- Hear feedback on how your behavior is affecting others
- Engage in productive/constructive dialog about the feedback
- Change your behavior based on feedback
That being said, you might not be welcome back. There are no guarantees. It depends on how badly you screwed up, and whether a core community participant that other people trust and respect is willing to vouch for you and work with you to help you understand and address other people's concerns.