WHY Guilds? The social angle

Thesis: Noisebridge functions well only with a working community aligned with an agreed-upon structure that ensures knowledge transfer, infrastructure maintenance, financial security, and cultural continuity.

Cultural continuity, infrastructure maintenance, and knowledge transfer go hand in hand; physical failures such as dysfunctional machines, messy spaces, and missing objects arise directly from the failure of the community to inculcate a sense of stewardship in a sufficient number and variety of individuals. Infrastructure maintenance can become impossible in the face of trust and community breakdowns. Financial stresses directly follow from a lack of faith in Noisebridge as an institution.

A Guild Organization is one possible strategy for reformatting the Noisebridge community and structure to mitigate the typical stresses of ongoing and inevitable culture shifts, providing a mechanism for what is considered “Noisebridge” to scale competently and avoid bottlenecks such as “private clubs”, inner circles, secret cabals, etc.

Some of the most problematic social situations come about when people feel they are cut off from access to having a voice – which means being unable to influence consensus – because they don’t fit in with the dominant group. This causes emergent traumas such as bullying/silencing, an insistence on conformity, an impetus to drive away people who are different, and a tendency for out-groups to either remain at a distance or to attempt to supplant the dominant group through social violence.

Needless to say, a perceived scarcity of social capital tends to bring out less-appealing aspects of people’s personalities.

People in non-familial organizations tend naturally to self-organize into interest-based collectives. When these groups are fairly small (up to 20 people or so), affiliation is intimate and fairly simple. As groups grow, the propensity for any given individual to really understand and know any other individual naturally shrinks – it’s just a matter of arithmetic. When individuals know each other decently well, there is good group cohesion. When a group scales beyond the threshold of (say) Dunbar’s Number (150), it becomes nearly impossible to keep track of people’s individual needs and sensitivities in a way that is needed to preserve the health of the community.

And indeed, Noisebridge has followed this trajectory.

So – what if we could generate any number of smaller communities under the aegis of Noisebridge as a whole, rather than expecting everyone at Noisebridge to know, understand, and get along with everyone else at Noisebridge?

That’s where Guilds come in.

People’s natural tendency to self-select into smaller tribes leads them to hang out more on, say, Mondays during Circuit Hacking. Or on Thursdays, to sew. Or on Fridays to hang out late.

In effect, we can make tribalism work for us.

“[I]t’s the anarcho-syndicalist dream”, says @tdfischer (Slack, #bravespace, 1/25/2019).


A Grand Unified Theory of Anarcho-Syndicalist Noisebridge.


I think that a small group of people working closely together for a sustained period of time can completely change the rest of Noisebridge. I think the processes and procedures that we develop around the possibility of guilds is fine, but a close persistent group of people with a common goal, such as I imagine a guild to be, is a pretty much unstoppable force at Noisebridge whether they are Members, Philanthropists, or otherwise and whether or not they agree to meet requirements to be a capital “G” guild.

I’d like to see guilds grow and become the essentially default decision makers of the space via do-ocracy and little c consensuses. Then our community and the guilds can see if we feel it’s appropriate to turn over the reins to Membership and defining requirements to join guilds.

I am in favor of encouraging their growth.

(I posted this on Slack but I want to start driving my posts to discuss, so i’m cutting and pasting here)