Towards an Anarchist Hackerspace


I’ve visited Noisebridge a few times and I appreciate that it is willing to present itself as a place for Anarchists. I’ve been thinking about the subject for awhile and I came up with a few ideas about how a hackerspace could internally prefigure an Anarchist society. I know that many other spaces would follow if Noisebridge chose to experiment with prefiguring an Anarchist society. I hope that you all will seriously consider it! In any case, your feedback on the content of the link bellow would be greatly appreciated!


Have you been to one of our meetings? I appreciate the article. It seems like we have several components, sans the subspace concept (we have toyed with Guilds, but the concept was scrapped).

If you have, let us know what we could do to be more Anarchist!

It’s important to keep in mind that you can form a Co-Federation based on what you can agree on if the space should split at some point. Also, you could always merge at some later date.

y tho?

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For instance, you might share a policy on accessing equipment and visiting the spaces for members of either one.

Greetings @Jason_Stone,

Interesting to see you here.

For the benefit of Noisebridge folks, I recognize Jason from the Game B Facebook group as well as the Metamoderna forum.

You are bringing up a lot of stuff here that Noisebridge has concrete philosophies and practices around already, which is why people are asking if you’ve ever been to a meeting. But I welcome the opportunity to elucidate afresh.

We do share one type of policy, a reciprocal ban policy, with a couple of other hackerspaces in the Bay Area.

Other ideas and questions you’ve raised I’ll get to later. This is my regular work day…


I think of noisebridge as a special place because it represents Anarchism and hackerspaces for a large number of people around the world. I know that you guys already do some Anarchist organizing but I thought it would be great to see a prefiguration of an Anarchist society operating within a hackerspace so people can get a better idea of what Anarchism is like in practice. It should lead to a lot more activity and enthusiasm in my opinion. The simple reason is that more people will have the developmental experiences of starting their own space and forming their own rules, memberships and collection of resources. It should liberate collective intelligence processes that will keep the space adaptive and vital. imagine taking over an entire multistory building with a diverse set of labors of love where the groups gladly follow the rules they create and enforce themselves - with the ability to easily exit subgroups and join or start new subgroups.

If it works out at Noisebridge it’s likely to get replicated around the world and it will mean massive amounts of new converts to the idea that grownup versions of Anarchism have something valuable to offer the world. Anarchism removes bottlenecks on processing information. It’s potential for producing dynamic, thriving communities seems vast. Anarchists often seem to have trouble delivering thriving communities perhaps due to some confusion about what to focus on. My approach is focused on what I feel is the core content of grownup Anarchism - free agreement and free association. We need a win!

Here is how Noisebridge defines Consensus.

Additionally, we reinforce and reinterpret Consensus at (almost) every Tuesday meeting (at our discretion, depending on who’s present). For example:

We have found that if we don’t do this as a ritual, people lose touch with how it’s supposed to work – especially when we don’t have any formal consensus proposals for a while.

We take it as a sign that we need to keep talking.

Sometimes, what happens is that the Consensus proposal is retracted. If it’s important enough, a new proposal can be put forth with different wording.

If the community is healthy, a block signifies that we don’t have the will of the community to complete an action as proposed; nothing more, nothing less.

However, if the community is not healthy – people aren’t really communicating with each other, there are deep value rifts and ongoing resentments between groups of people – a block may signify something worse.

I think blocking should only be used as an ultimatum that means “if the vote doesn’t go the way I want then I will leave with my share of the stuff and try to get others to do the same”.

Then you’ll want to read about the social pathology that we saw arise when this was the going interpretation of blocking.

Also, we don’t have a “share of the stuff” at Noisebridge, and it’s a damn good thing we don’t, IMHO.

Among Noisebridge’s founding inspirations was the novel The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Definitely worth a read if you haven’t already.

Relevant conversations:

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My notion of consensus is something like “if you stay then you consent” and block is an indication that you intend to leave if the vote does not go your way. You don’t have to dived the resources when a split occurs but how do you interpret a 50/50 split? Who should own the resources then?

I would build on the guild system possibly with the special portion of the dues that users can pay to any guild they like plus I would experiment with subleases. If you guys aren’t comfortable with splitting up the property on a group split that’s ok, but it should be in the agreement that one accepts when they join.

The real magic of anarchism may not be visible until you have a dynamic set of free associations. That’s why I’m hoping a Hackerspace will prefigure that type of society with internal subgroups that can sublease and acquire and manage resources.

Check out the Omni Commons, which hosts Sudo Room, in Oakland. They practice something very similar to what you’ve described. The space is split among a dozen collectives in the same building. Also, the build is absolutely massive.

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We have not built an alternate system. Apologize if I insinuated that the concept was permanently dead, I we can definitely workshop it again once normalcy is returned.

Yeah, saying the concept of Guilds was “scrapped” just isn’t accurate. The state of things is closer to what @Mark described.

From a civilizational perspective, it’s very difficult to get people to organize in higher-order abstractions when you only have about 25 people actively paying attention and participating, which is probably where Noisebridge is at right now.

Guilds were invented to solve the greater-than-Dunbar’s-number level of problem, i.e. distributed decisionmaking and the having of Nice Things at a hackerspace where no one really owns anything.

Right now our level of problems are only barely at a single-tribe level. We have yet to provide for basic “hackerspace subsistence” in our current incarnation – by which I mean, we don’t even have the woodshop and electronics shops set up! – and it’s very difficult to arise past that point in a world where COVID-19 infection is again accelerating.


Yeah so let me tell why there’s a problem with that last part.

When the assumption is “this person will leave if we don’t resolve his block”, then it becomes a de facto method of running roughshod over that person.

You might say, “well that’s fine, that person made their position clear.” Well, no, they didn’t. Putting up a block doesn’t indicate a single state; it indicates two potential states. One state is that the person would like to stop the community from doing something they see as ruinous, and they care enough to talk about it; the community really should consider that the block is well-intentioned and that the person wants to stay.

The other state could be that the person has had enough of this community and is making their final stand to see if anyone will listen to reason before they leave.

Neither state is a problem on their own. The problem is that you cannot know which position the person is taking when they issue their block.

If the community treats a block as saying “I will leave if this goes through”, then the community may take the easy (and ruinous) road of not trying to resolve the block and instead forcing that person out by going forward with consensus.

Forcing people out through a funky legalistic interpretation of what a block means, instead of trying to understand where that person is coming from, is a great way to detonate a nuclear bomb in the community that you won’t recover from for a long while.

This isn’t theoretical, by the way. This happened in 2018 (see the places i linked above).

Noisebridge owns the resources. Easy.

Yeah we have talked about that somewhat. To some degree we already do that; you can donate directly to a particular Guild’s fund (e.g. the laser cutter, the sewing room…)

Then you’ll also be experimenting with being a landlord…

“should” :joy:

What problem does subleasing and ownership solve, though?

All I can see is more problems being injected into the social space, as property ownership creates a feeling of entitlement. And what might usually be petty disagreements blow up to knock-down-drag-out fights when there is actual material property at stake.

In an anarchist society as I imagine it, there will be shared land that we gain the right to use in exclusive ways by giving something back to the entire community. My suggestion is that in order to obtain a sublease you have to explain how you intend to benefit the entire group. Even a for profit organization could occupy a sublease as long as the container space feels they are doing something for the entire group too.

Imagine finding someone who’s dream is to run a perfect woodshop and they just need some space and freedom to do it.

I’m not quite following your objection on blocking my way. Presumably, each member is valuable enough that the group would attempt to talk them out of leaving, even if that meant reformulating the proposal. However, I see that your goal is hold the group together at all costs and the idea of explicitly adding a procedure that involves exiting the group do to disagreement is scary. My opinion is that you really don’t see the magic of anarchism until its really practical to do things like leave groups, form new groups, co-federate groups and merge groups. It’s at that level that the system becomes very adaptive and the members of the groups tend to have a high level of consent for whatever groups they belong to. It’s like divorce. Unless the wife can take some of the resources she may be trapped in an abusive relationship. Making it practical to leave means that people who really don’t consent won’t stick around and cause problems and under actualize their own potential.

That’s the presumption that is not always a good one to make.

No one needs to add that procedure. People are free to leave.

My goal isn’t “to hold the group together at all costs”, it’s to keep Noisebridge’s community healthy, diverse, and upholding the values that make it Excellent.

You seem to think one person leaving is merely about one person leaving. It’s not just about that. These events have knock-on effects. They shake the rest of the community’s faith. They often take chunks of the community down with them, or at least make people feel disenfranchised to the point where they retreat from the meeting table, which makes communication across the community far worse.

I realize that you all can only do so much with your resources and collection of participates. I think that the future of anarchism will be making it more graceful when groups startup, fork, merge, and co-federate. I’m still attempting to characterize this, but I think that these are the activities that instantiate much of the adaptive intelligence that makes anarchism attractive compared to more centrally controlled arrangements. Whatever happens, I appreciate the interesting conversation.

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Sure. The advent of Guilds at Noisebridge is explicitly an attempt to capitalize (if you will) on natural human grouping tendencies within the hackerspace, with an eye towards being able to expand the concept of What Is Noisebridge into a more distributed model of governance as well as syndicalism-oriented forms of ownership.

In years past, Noisebridge has fractured and spawned new hackerspaces. Since property at Noisebridge is 100% donated, the idea of “taking our toys and going somewhere else” hasn’t introduced further strife into what were, at times, already stressful social situations.

Prior to 2020, when the pandemic basically cratered Noisebridge’s daily visit potential due to mandatory closure – San Francisco was (I think) the first city in the US to formally issue a shelter-in-place order – Noisebridge’s problem set fell more into the domain of “how do we create coherence within a community of greater-than-Dunbar’s Number of active participants”.

These days our number one problem is keeping more than a dozen people actively engaged at once, given that we’ve decided only 4 people at at time should be able to gather within the physical space at one time. It’s true that Noisebridge is not literally the space – we are the community – but without a fully-activated space to center our activities and outreach, our need for complex social theories and community working groups and such isn’t tremendously high.

just fyi we are currently proposing to raise that number to 6 indoors in the new space (implying possibly a few more outside as well, weather permitting)

Just a detail not in contradiction to the main point from post quoted above - in case anyone’s interested

While we’re here … might point to this current Consensus proposal as a bit unusual as it seems to be in essence a barely coherent rant (reflecting perspective on an emergent omnibus of do-ocratic realities rather than any deep analysis of theory and practice …)


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In addition to the social challenge of having legally entitled federated subgroups within Noisebridge, there’s a substantial administrative challenge. At any given time, there are 0-3 people at Noisebridge with the skill, capacity, and interest to handle the numerous administrative challenges to keep Noisebridge going as an entity. There are bills to pay, permits to get, legal challenges to fight, insurance to pay, donations to collect, IT infrastructure to set up and manage, and so on.

At one point a few years ago there was a subgroup within Noisebridge that wanted to set up a hackerspace on the west side of the city, and I suggested setting it up as a fiscally sponsored project within Noisebridge’s legal entity. A fairly disruptive person blew up any progress along that track because having Noisebridge as the sponsoring entity would impinge on the short-term power of the membership of the new hackerspace, and they had “moral objections.” Really it was a weird power thing. So there’s no west side anarchist hackerspace, oops!

The reality, though, is that it’s really, really hard to maintain the administrative infrastructure that Noisebridge has in place, and much harder to create it from scratch. Especially now, with rent prices being what they are.

However! We do have one fiscally sponsored project that operates pretty much independently from the Noisebridge entity: The Roguelike Games Conference, which has been running for a few years, operates separately, raises money independently, but uses Noisebridge’s payment and legal rails. Every now and then the Noisebridge treasurer and the Roguelike team compare notes to see what money from the Noisebridge treasury belongs to them and what bills need to get paid.

I think the best approach to having federated groups within Noisebridge is to have more fiscally sponsored projects that can use Noisebridge’s administrative infrastructure. This is separate from the core space being broken into subgroups – like the woodshop and electronics lab being separate groups, or something. If you had some hackery project that fits generally within Noisebridge’s broadly defined mission, you could get a big headstart by working out a fiscal sponsorship deal with the treasurer.

Last note: Fiscal sponsorship doesn’t mean that Noisebridge gives any money to the new subgroup. The money flows the other way. The subgroup typically gives 5% of the money it raises to Noisebridge as payment for using its administrative rails. This is an excellent deal! Over time, if the subgroup matures enough to set up its own administrative backend, they can form a new nonprofit and Noisebridge can transfer all of its funds to the new entity.