Abolish membership

Yeah, well, i think that points to a much deeper cultural problem than just Membership issues.

And it’s not even limited to Noisebridge. The greater cultural pattern in the Bay Area – the one that Mitch consistently points to as the reason he now lives in Berlin – is the tendency for “groupfeel” situations to attempt to suppress conflict in an attempt to bolster social harmony.


Yup. Conflict isn’t a thing to be avoided every time, all the time, but it certainly is something to be hashed out and resolved. Noisebridge has taught me so much about how to do that. I guess I’ve been operating for the past year on the assumption that this generation’s working set of Noisebridgers was at least somewhat versed in how to resolve conflict but clearly that isn’t the case and we need to be more proactive and visible in doing it so that others may grow by example.

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How do you square this against the fact that this phrase only appeared last year – after 11 years of it not being a thing?

When I coined this turn of phrase, others asserted that it rang a bell with them. It’s been named in the last year, maybe that’s why it’s coming up more in the last year.

Agreed 100%. I don’t know if I would support a selection process or not.

Selection advantages:

  • Helps set expectations so people don’t look like fools for trying to pay us money and join then get sad when they find out it’s not joinable by default like a gym.

Selection disadvantages:

  • aforementioned loci of agency is on the group to bring someone in… well this isn’t exactly how it works. Usually someone asks a member to invite them in these sorts of situations, so I don’t totally agree that selection puts the loci of agency on the group edited

I guess I want to seperate this part out: membership is a selection process BEHIND a application process. :zipper_mouth_face:

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This is frustrating. Maybe anonymous blocking should stay since it leaves a safe outlet for people who fear retribution. This is a tension of Noisebridge. You might have enough energy to do work at Noisebridge but not enough energy to fight a turf war.

If you think of time as bi-directional, under the course of events where someone who was blocked could have made a perfectly great member in one branch of events, or they are blocked and leave in some other branch of events – if we are in branch 1 (the person becomes a member) but as a result the person who blocked them leaves, who has more rights? Since time only flows one way, humans generally provide control to the people who have a proven record of ownership. This is pragmatically right, but also underlines a fundamental issue with a binary membership status for each member of the community. It creates these situations, afterall.

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Membership grows less relevant with each passing year. A reason this convo is just bouncing between a few members is because others do not have anything to say on it. Consensus isn’t needed on doocracy items, and a little bit of excellent planning can circumvent consensus entirely. My .02


The problem I have with these blocks is that it means the blocking member cannot trust anyone else in Membership to represent their reasoning.

Why is this person in Membership if they cannot trust one other member? Why does Membership want to encourage a system where this person continues to be a member when the entire body is not trusted by the blocking member?

fwiw my block was not technically anonymous as the blocking member executed it. they indicated it was for someone else. I’m totally fine with this type of block, it showed trust between some people. anonymous blocking as I understand it does not.

It does keep that individual safer, but the unintended consequence is that it allows one person to maintain the benefits of the community without participating in the trust network. This does not leave the community safer.

Why are people so concerned about others leaving? The people leaving might not be good. The assumption that all members are good has proven false.


Noisebridge membership == absolute veto power

Noisebridge’s membership is a permanent power clique. Any member can veto any consensus proposal or membership application, for any reason, without debate or due process, or any meaningful recourse. Single veto means 100% control over change. Being a member means that you, individually, have 100% of the power.

That power cannot be appealed, altered, or revoked, not without the complete agreement of all of the existing membership. So, naturally, this proposal to abolish membership will be vetoed. Or probably never brought up at two consecutive weekly meetings, because the outcome is fait accompli.

Single vote power blocs are just bad. It’s a shared BDFL, and you only gain that status if existing BDFLs accept that your belief systems, culture, behavior patterns, &c, are compatible and acceptible in their collective worldviews. If you’re different from any of them, i.e. Beka vs Matt, or Mitch vs Lizzie, forget it.

Nothing will change here. There is another option, however, which is to delete the current Noisebridge corporation, along with this system of control, and replace it with a new corp, with bylaws and policies reflecting what current Noisebridgers want in a new organization.

The best opportunity for this is when changing Noisebridge’s location. Break with the old, boot up a new org, and hopefully consider some form of democracy, one that doesn’t reduce to one person == 100% power.

When presenting a problem, it’s most excellent to follow up with a solution. What system would be a healthy and balanced replacement to membership?

I do want to weigh in on this draconian “absolute veto power” that you mentioned.

Members are not a big clique that get together to cackle about their supreme hacker status over club mate. They’re just regular folks that are well aware of Noisebridge’s culture and want to take part in seeing it succeed.

As for this “absolute veto power” - it really isn’t an issue in today’s Noisebridge. When a member says the current consensus item doesn’t work for them, Noisebridge must decide whether to move forward with the item and without that member.

Note that the item is not struck down - the member speaking up against a consensus item means they will leave if it goes through.

That’s not power; that’s a risky ultimatum.

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Interesting interpretation. Because I had always heard that a block was not something to be overrode. Generally I’ve heard that a block just means that the consensus item is dead in the water.

Have there been many instances where NoiseBridge has just oushes through a member block?


Yes. The Lizzie fracture in summer 2018 was a result of Mitch blocking her membership, and the community moving forward without him.

I don’t know enough to say if we should yet. (I know there is a problem)

The problem I see:
Not enough members make it to our weekly meetings.
-This is shown in the faces i see at the meetings: lots of frowns.

Important things can be blocked by a single member for any reason (anonymously)
-#FakeMember blocks our moving to Guerro because, when they get off of bart they have to go out of their way to get to their favorite burrito place on the way to NB. (But we don’t know the reason.)

Move fast and break things is good in tech, but when i comes to emotions, peoples hearts, and the trust in each…we must take our time and change something small each month, instead of just abolishing members(Which would mean the hard work our Members put in could be invalidated.)

I do know that we(people like me who come in off the street to learn and play) will look around for someone who knows the rules of physical engagement, social engagement. We will look around and see what others can and cannot do.

I have heard things like, “Members” have been really busy with their lives and don’t make it to meetings. -> Maybe we need more members to help ease the load, share the stress.

But if we have too many chiefs in the room, and lots of forest to roam in there are many paths to walk. How do we get everyone on the same path

That get’s me thinking what (IS) the path: To be a place where ANYONE can come hack and learn and share.

But we cant have just ANYONE leading the pack, maybe they will start making it harder for ANYONE to get involved which is not excellent.

So…We(everyone at NB) use some form of decision to divvy out trust. How we share and give trust within our community will shape how we act. and how we act on a regular basis form the behaviors that become the norm in our space.

Maybe we could just change one of the names in this list because for me it is extremely confusing.

  1. Member
  2. Philanthropist
  3. Member

Which one comes first…In good business the Chief always eats last. is that 1 or 3…

With a name change we can change what it means to be a Big M Member. We could change the psychology of how the Big M members act and how new Big m members will act in the future. We give a lot to a name. If I miss-pronounce yours constantly you might become irritated.

We can use this name change to give our members the clarity about what big m members actually do and show the marked difference and the responsibilities in maintaining which path in the forest we actually want to walk.

  1. Member: As someone who walks in off the streets I want to be called a member by others, it gives me the feeling that I am already included. That I am not left out.

  2. Philanthropist: Is a Member & Promotes the well-fare of others

  3. Contributor: Is a Member & a Philanthropist & Gives the space direction, and


There is significant social recourse.

Anyone who is made a Member has been given the responsibility of full participation in Consensus, and in who else is made a Member, with the understanding that the ability to block shall not be taken lightly.

Objections must be principled objections. Not “I want to be closer to my favorite burrito place” objections. Members who consistently throw up frivolous blocking objections (and yes this is a matter of opinion) will find themselves dis-Membered pretty quickly.

Furthermore, a block is absolutely not a “veto”. The Consensus process continues until blocks are resolved – which means the community finds a way to move forward with everyone on board.

The whole concept of Membership is rooted in the creation of a strong trust network that can withstand the ebbs and flows of social cliques and cultural shifts.

You are right that it is an issue that not too many Members show up to meetings. What you are lacking is the historical context that created this situation (see also the breakdown of the trust system alluded to by @gaardn – this was truly catastrophic and really ought to be revisited at some point).

It is also a problem that people don’t understand what Membership is or why anyone should want to be a part of it. This, combined with the nuclear community bomb that went off about a year ago this time, has weakened the concept of Membership to such a degree that the culture around Membership just isn’t present, and here I am explaining why frivolous blocks actually just don’t happen because there are heavy social consequences for them.

If we are going to do away with Membership, so be it. But I won’t hear anything about Membership being a dastardly power clique that leaves others powerless.

The vast, vast majority of things that get done at Noisebridge – and the power positions that people hold at Noisebridge – are all done through do-ocracy.

Show up. Become known. Do something positive. This will get you more power and recognition than becoming a Member.


Sorry, I have to correct this misconception.

A block doesn’t stop the consensus proposal.

Think of it like a roadblock that the community couldn’t see before.

Because every member within a consensus model needs to agree in order to pass it, the member body needs to find some way to accommodate the block in order to come to consensus.

For example – and I must stress this is a dumb example – let’s say Noisebridge wants to build a bikeshed. Almost everyone’s agreed that the color will be traditional Noisebridge red. However, Hacker Joe feels he hasn’t been heard in saying that painting the bikeshed red will cause untold suffering unto the community, and so they must paint it any other color instead.

Hacker Joe formally blocks the proposal.

Is the proposal dead? Hell no. That would be an affront to the time and effort already placed in the conversation.

What happens next is that the community continues the conversation, working with Joe to understand his objections and potentially find a different version of the Consensus proposal that works for everyone.

So, in the end, the community decides on a green shed, and the proposal passes.

But let’s say Hacker Joe objected to the very idea of a bikeshed at all. Hacker Joe might have a frivolous objection… but if he did, he would cause a great deal of social strife. A lot of people would wonder why he is standing in the way of something that isn’t going to hurt anyone and which the rest of the community wants to do.

A block is not something to apply lightly. The community wants to know that you put up a block out of love, not out of spite or trollishness.

Let’s say, instead of it being a frivolous objection, Hacker Joe has a very principled objection to the idea of a bikeshed. He believes, perhaps, that it is a waste of Noisebridge resources (the only reason to have a Consensus proposal to build something would be that it would draw on Noisebridge resources). Perhaps he has information about city permitting for the bikeshed that could endanger Noisebridge’s existence.

Whatever the case, if someone has a principled objection that they are putting up as a block to consensus, it doesn’t mean the consensus process ends. AND it doesn’t mean you effectively eject that person from the community by declaring their block irrelevant to the consensus process.

Membership bestows full participation in Consensus because Membership entails a deep and vulnerable connection of trust. Members must trust each other not to use their power frivolously or destructively.

Used in earnest, a block is an act of caring, not of destruction.


Yikes. I wouldn’t say “the community” moved “forward” with anything.

The feeling of the community moving forward with a decision is a feeling of people nodding their heads and smiling at each other. That’s literally the opposite of the feeling that was left behind after Lizzie’s catastrophic bid to become a Member.

I find it hard to consider that “the community” left any kind of Consensus-based precedent in last year’s case whatsosever when there were literally two factions warring with each over how it would turn out.

That’s not Consensus. That’s a community in a deep and horrific trust crisis.

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It might be interesting to have Blocking Members and Non-Blocking Members (aka Cenatawrs). The Cenatawrs have the opportunity/duty to voice their opinions publicly and should be given sufficient respect so that Blocking Members at least listen to what they have to say on important issues. Blocking Members can continue to do their thing as they have been for over 10 years but in order to become a Blocking Member one should note that there is a counterintuitive vetting process and you shouldn’t take it personally if you become a Cenatawr and not a Blocking Member when you apply.

Maybe this pool of Cenatawrs can be given one block. Then they vote democratically. This way they at least have some teeth if they feel something is going really wrong. Or like, N Cenatawrs can pool together and block something if they need to.

I like the ingenuity here. But I really think we should avoid an electoral college at NoiseBridge lol.

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A democratic block is different than an electoral college though. Anyway my understanding is certain people who were active positive contributors to Noisebridge were denied membership. Why were they denied membership? “Trust”. Why not spread that trust out a little bit then?