Today, Noisebridge won the Bay Area Maker Faire's Editor Choice Award. Two years ago when I first moved to the Bay Area I'd rolled up my sleeves and jumped in to the middle of the Noisebridge Reboot. I'd not had a chance to get my thoughts in order to write coherent though now seems a time as good as any other.
I see the award as an effect of the very real and very meaningful work I contributed to Noisebridge back then. The space was struggling to find a sense of itself; it'd underwent a legitimacy crisis of its own design. In 2013 - long before I'd arrived myself - Noisebridge was occupied by the Occupy movement. Anarchists from around the bay flocked to the self-described anarchist hackerspace under the guise that it could be turned into a utopia free from capitalism, racism, sexism, and other oppressive systems. The unsettled question though, was whose utopia?
The answer I'd discovered for myself was that it is for everyone. As is with everything else at Noisebridge, this comes with nuance: Everyone is welcome to visit Noisebridge; not everyone is welcome to stay.
The next year after landing in San Bruno I'd spent much of my free time at the Noisebridge. In the beginning, Noisebridge was starting to clean itself up. Literal tons of e-waste, trash, garbage, broken equipment, and failed experiments made their way to the city dump. Walls repainted. New networking lines installed. An all new electrical system. Even the floors were sanded and refinished. Noisebridge was physically rebooted.
But we went deeper than that. The ability of Occupy to occupy Noisebridge came from an out of balance culture. Noisebridge's ability to weather the years more or less intact comes from a unique property of anarchy. In order for anarchy to continue, there must be constant revolution.
Occupy had pushed out all the revolutionaries. It had overwhelmed the cultural immune system.
Noisebridge was sick. So we started a cultural revolution.
The first move was the most radical change I have ever seen Noisebridge agree to in my years of following it. A lockable door was installed on the space's entrance, and only a handful of hackers were given keys.
This had the immediate effect of breaking the cycle of people sleeping at the space overnight, which was the largest drain on the positive energies we wanted to see. It allowed us to establish boundaries between Noisebridge and the rest of the world. We had a threshold at which you were required to honestly declare that your intent is to hack the planet.
Once we had established this boundary, we were forced to explain what it meant. The role I'd found myself in was participating in the discussion. We'd wax poetic about the virtues of excellence, consensus, and do-ocracy. Real Consensus was adopted where a block meant you'd walk away from the space; it wasn't a quick procedural way to shut down objectionable discussions. The versatility of Do-ocracy was hefted to its throne. If one wanted something done, they should do it. Taken along with the final piece of the triumvirate - excellence - Noisebridge embraced the pattern of coming up with an idea together, doing it, and self-organizing itself along the way.
I see my participation in Noisebridge during this time a boon to myself. I'd learned so much about myself by being surrounded with the genuine love of this new family I became part of. I'd explored my queer identity. Met some of the most amazing people. Built beautiful relationships that still continue to this day. I'd also further developed my ideas of anarchy into ways that I reflect in my day-to-day work with East Bay Forward and The Out of Band.
I feel that Noisebridge winning the Editor's Choice award reflects some of the work I put into Noisebridge. I relish the feeling of accomplishment, that what I've done is having a ripple effect through time. I've worked hard and it shows.
Its the nostalgic feeling of accomplishment for doing something great long ago. Its a feeling that comes up again and again in my life. The unmistakable feeling that I am a time traveler.