Meeting Notes 2011 04 26
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.
- BAHA - will be hosting Dan Kaminsky for a talk about something or other. Stay tuned for your opportunity to hear this talk.
- BayCon - Noisebridge is the official charity beneficiary for BayCon, a 2000-attendee science fiction convention that happens in Santa Clara every year. We need some things to donate for the charity auction and could use at least one volunteer and maybe two to help us staff our Noisebridge booth there. We have less space at BayCon than we do at our Maker Faire booth. Dr. Jesus is coordinating our participation in BayCon, so please talk to him.
Q. What items should we donate for the charity auction?
A. Hilarious and/or shiny ones.
Q. Like items on the hack shelf?
A. More hilarious and shiny than those, if possible.
A. May 27-30.
Q. Maybe Dan Kaminsky could donate something? Like a signed item?
A. People at BayCon may not know who Dan Kaminsky is.
A. Or they might!
OpenAMD is doing RFID tracking of attendees at CCC. Talk to aestetix or visit openamd.org.
Funds in bank: $1,000 in corporate donations have come in recently! They will get deposited.
We have $13,080.16 in the bank after paying rent and before depositing the corporate donations. Pay your dues.
If possible, set up a regular recurring donation.
Q. Can we donate Bitcoins to Noisebridge?
- Read off any names from the binder for the past month.
- Anyone up for join this week should introduce themselves then leave the area in search of gifts (traditionally beer and a lime) for the rest of the group. The rest of the meeting should consense on whether they may join.
What's Going On at Noisebridge
Vegan pierogi and Snickers bars are being made in the kitchen right now!
Moving hack shelves away so that all shelving in the member shelving corner is member shelving. This requires about $300-$400 for new, additional shelves. Talk to Miloh. We might get more members if we had some member shelving space open for new members to enjoy!
Q. Have you mailed the list?
A. Please write to Miloh about this.
Q. We previously proposed using Noisebridge funds to pay for this. Shouldn't this become a consensus item? Wasn't it supposed to be a consensus item already?
A. The problem was that nobody who was a member attended except Kelly during the meeting where the consensus item should have been consensed upon. So it got dropped as a consensus item.
- Shannon was reluctant to use Noisebridge money for capital improvements rather than required expenses. However, people could realize a tax benefit if they donated money to Noisebridge for this purpose.
- However, you can realize a tax benefit for in-kind donations. If you donate something of value to Noisebridge, you can receive a receipt from Noisebridge for this item, by contacting the treasurer. Then, if applicable to your situation, you can claim this as a donation on your tax return.
- We will propose a consensus item for next week for appropriating a proportion of the money needed for this.
For next week: Noisebridge to pay Miloh for shelves in an amount to cover whatever part of the expenditure that Shannon does not raise via his fundraising efforts (somewhere between $0 and $300).
Isn't it somewhat difficult to determine what's going on here?
E.g., some meetups don't actually occur but they are still listed on the web site.
When people create meetups and events, they list them, but when they stop doing them, they don't remove them.
If you show up to something that doesn't happen, maybe you should remove it from the list on the web site.
Someone was trying to make the wiki automatically incorporate the items from the homepage into the meeting template so the events discussed in the meeting would actually be current (according to the website). However, maybe we also need a mechanism for people to actually try to attend an event to see if it's going on.
Maybe events should have contact names associated with them so that there is a way to contact someone to find out about the status of the event.
Cool, the wiki does pull the current item list from the home page. So one mechanism is that if nobody ever comes to a meeting with personal knowledge that something is still going on, we can remove it.
Instead of a name, we should perhaps have a contact e-mail address. And every group that meets here should have a wiki page on our wiki and an e-mail address that's listed on it.
However, maybe some people who host groups don't know how to edit the wiki. But some people think this is very easy and they should probably learn.
A particular change that we can try to make is to have a more detailed dialogue with people who come to weekly meetings wanting to use the space for an event. In particular, we can try to start enforcing a norm that when you come to a meeting wanting to use the space, you should actually take responsibility for documenting your event via a wiki page! There is sentiment in favor of this norm. It doesn't seem very hard and it seems like we could easily institute this norm and get benefits from it.
We can also print the events page out on paper.
If people want to use the space to host events, they should try to be in touch with the community to a sufficient extent that their events can be documented on our wiki accurately.
One idea is that the secretary should actively maintain the event list. People like this idea.
Is there a joke here?
I'm a frayed knot.
Some time ago, we banned someone for the first time. We didn't have a formal process or precedent in place for this. This was a difficult process to go through. At the meeting where the ban was consensed upon, it was tense and it would have been difficult for someone to stand up in defense of the person being banned.
Perhaps we should talk about how we should do this in the future if it should seem necessary, to have a better process available for it.
At that time, Kelly had volunteered to lead a meeting or discussion about this issue. She talked to various people who had qualms with what happened and some of them were interested in talking about how to handle it in the future.
Q. What were people's qualms about what happened?
A. By the end of the process, there was only one person with major qualms, who refused to read the evidence. The other people who had major qualms read the evidence and then felt agreement with the consensus. There were many people who felt that it was poorly managed but was ultimately the correct decision; however, this could still be described as having major qualms with the process even though they came to agree with the decision.
- Indeed, many people were concerned with the process even though they agreed with the eventual decision. Some of these people felt that it was uncomfortable because they were strongly criticized for raising process concerns. They would like to be able to raise process concerns and other concerns without being attacked because they felt that these concerns were legitimate and should have been able to be aired.
- There is a recognized group phenomenon of "mobbing" where a group turns against a particular person in various ways. This group dynamic has been studied and Noisebridge's actions can be interpreted as meeting criteria for this dynamic. That doesn't mean that our decision was wrong but some people would like to see a means of avoiding relying on or repeating this social dynamic.
- Perhaps we should talk about what we would like to see in a process to use in the future.
- In fact, there have been four cases before this one where there were attempts to ban or exclude people from Noisebridge and in all four of those prior cases, someone stood up in defense of that person and the person was not banned.
- We make a point of being radically inclusive, so we generally feel quite reluctant to ban or exclude people.
- Maybe one concern is that there was nobody speaking on behalf of the person who was going to be banned. We already have an idea that if there's someone who wants to remain anonymous, someone can represent them at a meeting. Should we say that we should seek to have someone represent the person who might be banned?
- We should also have a way that people who may feel threatened to be able to see what the process is or how to bring something to the community's attention. Some people who felt threatened in the most recent incident didn't really know what they were supposed to do or how they were supposed to bring it to the attention of the community.
Q. If a group is already engaged in "mobbing", is there some way to mitigate or defuse that particular dynamic?
A. We don't know. In legal systems, that's part of what legal process is for. One of the reasons that we have process in court systems is to prevent people from being lynched.
Q. Is there a way to break the cycle or break the dynamic?
A. We're not experts on this.
- In the most recent incident we attempted to have a mediation led by a neutral moderator. It wasn't possible to have a neutral or moderate person representing the interests of the person who was going to be banned because he wasn't interested in participating in that way. The idea of setting up some of these kinds of process assumes that a person who is being considered for banning actually wants to participate, for example for appointing someone to represent them.
- It would have been difficult for someone to have stood up to represent him in that case.
- No, it would have been possible if he had wanted it.
- We shouldn't have to oscillate between "nobody says anything" and "we have to convene a tribunal". If we choose to adjust the culture, almost anything that we do makes it slightly more confrontational by encouraging people to confront people about their behavior, like encouraging people to say "I think what you're doing is abusive and you should leave the space now". In the status quo we seem to accept that a doocracy can eject someone and that we can ratify their actions on a case-by-case basis, because that's what happened most recently.
- The "problem" in this case was specifically that some people decided to do the doocratic banning thing and nobody said that this was unacceptable.
- But maybe what went wrong was that it went on too long before anyone actually did anything. And then it had escalated too much.
- No, we did it as fast as we could. It was a very quick timeline.
- There was a general perception that we were incapable of banning someone because it couldn't be achieved as a consensus-based organization. So we spent a lot of time talking about what we could do without consensus, which took a long time. It was assumed that consensus couldn't work. It was a surprise when consensus was achieved because people expected that this would not be possible. This is a harmful kind of group powerlessness.
- Maybe doocracy can be interpreted as people's right to define their personal boundaries in asking people to leave, and then the political problem is how to interpret these requests and exactly what their weight is. Clearly people can ask other people to leave already.
- There is already disagreement about the nature of the difference between people defining their personal boundaries and the actions of the organization of the whole. But we could hypothetically just assume that kicking someone out of the space or asking them to leave is potentially considered as an unexcellent action that could get the ejector banned -- or not -- then we already have something equivalent to a "process", because kicking someone out is unexcellent and then the general meeting can later decide on a consensus about whether it was necessary or whether it was on balance unexcellent, etc. In that sense people can already take action when necessary or urgent, realizing that they are taking a risk and that the outcome is not foregone. This can be interpreted as a process and a mechanism for banning people: you can act at any time and then you can let the slower consensus process decide whether it agrees with your judgment and ratifies it.
- There seems to be disagreement about whether we did it too quickly or too slowly, or whether particular parts of the process were too quick or too slow.
- Could we have more discussion about what's going on so that situations don't develop in secret and then appear to get "sprung" on the community in a way that appears sudden to people who weren't involved?
- Suppose that someone presents evidence that someone is making the space a hostile environment for other people. If it takes a week or two to ban that person, this seems glacially slow because it's not OK for it to take weeks to change the situation so that the space is no longer a hostile environment. Ejecting someone from the space should not require consensus ahead of time. The consensus process can evaluate whether the people who did eject someone have done something wrong by ejecting that person. It can do this after the fact.
- This last process seems to have developed very slowly but then come a head very quickly.
- This is not actually the first time that we have thrown someone out of Noisebridge. In the past it has happened because someone who appeared authoritative, such as a long-time, early member, responded by personally asking someone to leave the space. This works because we have a distinction between people who are members of the community, members of Noisebridge, etc. People who have been thrown out have been not members of the community. In the most recent case the difficulty was that the person who was banned was actually a member of the community. So it was difficult because we were ejecting someone who was "one of us" rather than just having a stranger or non-community member acting badly.
- We should actually be willing to look in public at what people did in kicking this person out and discuss whether it was actually OK or not. These decisions had a huge effect in determining the direction of things.
- There are distinct Noisebridge cultures, e.g. between the IRC channel or the general meeting. The IRC channel is more caustic and confrontational and they had previously decided that this person ought to be banned. This culture seemed to leak over into the general community over time. In this case things built up over time with generalized sentiment against him until we felt that we had created enough evidence.
- At the doocratic meeting, there was a proxy for someone who felt very personally threatened. After that, more evidence was brought to light. So the evidence came to light in that conversation in response to people choosing to describe or reveal their own experiences which they had not previously shared with the community.
- We don't need to revisit the consensus itself. It was a consensus according to Noisebridge's norms. The thing that needs to be discussed, if anything, is what happened before that consensus, in terms of process and doocracy.
Q. Do we think it's viable to ban people from the space without prior consensus? If we think that we need prior consensus then it's going to have to be very slow. If we don't think that it requires consensus, then what does it require and what kind of review can we expect to happen afterward?
A. If there's a consensus item passed that gives the board the authority to call the police to enforce it... because the police would want a particular point of contact telling them that the space has banned someone.
- But it's already possible for anyone to call the police!
- I worked in a large bureaucratic organization that had many policies, including equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies. They designated people in every location as EEO counselors, who were, among other things, empowered to receive complaints about harassment and then to process those complaints. If people have complaints about someone over a long period of time but they don't get processed for that long period of time, then the complaints apparently aren't being given to the right people to act on. When an EEO counselor gets a complaint, they're trained to act as impartially as possible in response to the complaint, by not taking anyone's side, to the best of their ability. They try to increase everyone's confidence that any complaint will be handled in a fair way.
- It should be acceptable for individual members to doocratically act people to leave at the moment, but they shouldn't be acting as if they have the authority to permanently ban someone.
Q. So they can /kick but they can't /ban?
Q. What kind of authority do they need in order to /kickban?
- Perhaps anyone can /kick but individuals can't /ban without the consensus process.
- There are lots of parts of the process that happened and some were OK but others might have been out of order. It would be useful to have an actual process where people know that there's something they can do, e.g. telling a designated person, like a sexual harassment counselor or someone who would be in a position to notice that there is a widespread or serious problem with a particular person. We got to the point we did and so people felt that it was important for him to leave, but there was debate about why it was permanent rather than temporary and whether there could have been a way to de-escalate so that people can still feel safe. People appreciate that the community is concerned with harassment complaints and takes them seriously. We should want to figure out a way to keep this sensibility while having a way to de-escalate situations when possible.
- Some process actually happened and seemed to work. But one reason that we're talking about this now is the doocracy issue because we're not sure exactly how appropriate we feel that was in retrospect. Whether it was a bad idea.
- The doocracy thing was actually OK but it was sent in considerable haste and should have been slept on. And then still happened, but after being slept on.
- People came to a meeting who were supposed to mediate... but then they decided that they wanted to censure instead... ?
- In the past Noisebridge successfully had personal confrontations with a neutral mediator. This has actually happened and has actually worked. People have been willing and able to be neutral mediators and this has happened. We were going to use this process in this case too but then we discovered that there were a group that had already performed the ban before the mediation happened.
- There were apparently three different bans or ban processes that happened! Some of them foreclosed others, such as the use of a mediation process.
- Concerns: (1) The doocratic e-mail was set in haste. (2) The ban began immediately with no warning so the police ended up getting called. Possibly the person who was banned didn't even know about it! (Debate about whether this is true.) ...
- People who were involved have chosen not to come to this meeting to talk about it. They might only come if there were a consensus item.
- "Kick not ban"?
- A list of suggestions to use when people have problems with someone in the space?
- Establish a team of volunteer moderators?
- Next week we will discuss consensing on some of these ideas?
- This is too vague. We should have a specific item about what happened.
- Creating a list of guidelines for how to respond to problematic behavior and then consensing on these items?
- We could create guidelines for how to hit on people in a socially accepted way? (for discussion)
- Discussion proposal: Create guidelines at the next meeting for how to respond to problematic behavior. For potential consensus on May 10.
- Maybe we should tell the people involved in the previous ban that they have used up their ban quota?
End of Meeting
- PGP Key Signing could happen now, check the list to see who wants in on the action.
- Put back the membership binder by the Shrine.
- Save the meeting notes to the wiki.
- Send a copy of the meeting notes to the discussion list.
- Copy the Meeting Notes Template for next week's agenda and update the main wiki page's link to it.
- Enjoy a cocktail with your fellow hacker or robot.