Talk:Free Geek Space Usage
Reasoning, and Rant:
When Jhasen moved around the benches in recycling to make everything a little easier to access, he did so from the knowledge of how recycling works. He watched how people went about recycling, and then he tweaked it continually. Within FreeGeek there are an almost infinite number of processes going on continuously, and the best use of the building space of FreeGeek will come out of the collective knowledge of as many of the people who use the space as can be involved. The more people working on the design plans, the more likely the building will be allocated in such a way that the space is all used well.
Yet the process of allocation of space in the building remains opaque. As one of the most difficult and important things to making the FreeGeek Consensus Process work well is transparency, I look for things that remain opaque. A good guide to finding them is finding people complaining about things, because they feel marginalized by a process that affects them but that they cannot understand how to ameliorate. The latest on my list of such things is the organization of the building. Staff say that the Action committee is now in charge of that, but even there it's not purely clear. And there remain frequent complaints that large scale decisions just happen without a clear process for involving the voices that should be involved.
A few trivial examples:
1. When Collab started, we heard the rumor that the office that we took over was going to be used for someone else's office, and so we strung wire and squatted. Because no one had a good idea of how to make a request to use the space that would be considered seriously, and not just dictated, we figured that if we were in there using it, it would be ours. There was, as will be shown, a better choice. But there was no way to find it at the time, because it wasn't at all clear how to go about deciding such things.
2. The old server room is going to move out in the coming months. I no longer have any idea what it will be used for, and I'm fairly sure the many ideas of what it could be used for aren't being heard. Someday the White Hole area will become available, and the dream from long ago was an internet cafe. In neither of these cases will brilliant ideas that astound and surprise us in a good way appear from the current opaque process.
Before I show the big example, let me state that the major problem is that these rumors are counterproductive. The lack of transparency is a detriment to the community feeling of FreeGeek. All together, we can probably come up with a fabulous use of the space, whereas a few people alone making the decisions will lack the fundamental understanding of the way it gets used that the mass of users have.
The big one, is the classroom. We needed a new classroom, as the lab has many problems when teaching classrooms. Those problems include that it is at the center of a noisy traffic corridor, so it is both very loud and very trafficked, classes resulting in either a partial mobility loss of FreeGeek or lots of student distraction. While it was a reasonably flexible space at the time, more flexibility could have helped too.
Then, suddenly, the new classroom was built. I was unaware at the time of the decisionmaking process for building the new classroom, so I won't comment on it, but I will say the decisionmaking process was clearly not fabulous, as it failed at its mission. The new classroom, while less trafficked, is still functionally a traffic corridor, and the replacement of the noise is the large, somewhat unfriendly space to teach in. The flexibility has gone up, somewhat, but the size of the space is daunting. The rumored movable walls to make the space small enough to be comfortable have been replaced by bookshelves that, when in place, serve as nothing but a roadblock to entrance. And the second half of the classroom, the stage area, is currently inefficiently used. The expectations of using the space as a venue have not materialized, and it frequently lies dormant.
All of this could have been predicted by a group of teachers used to FreeGeek. A better design could have been found that still had a stage, still had flexibility, and was comfortable. Let me show you what it might have looked like:
Move the stage to where the doors into the classroom currently are. Move those doors to where Tech Support was. Behind the stage, put two large rooms -- the current, planned storage room, and a large room originally for Collab, now for the White Hole/Server Eval. Doors at the end of that into the Conference room, and into the classroom. Because we rarely use both the conference room and the classroom at the same time, the effect of the traffic corridor to the store/office would have been diminished, the classroom would have been cozier, and we would have had a large, usable space behind the stage. What would we have lost? The gigantic, cavernous event space which we rarely use, and which is frequently mocked as the least used space in FreeGeek. The classroom would still have been usable as event space for lectures (just smaller ones than the ones we've never had), the classroom+conference room+White Hole would have still been usable as dance space for our parties, just slightly more split up. And the space that's currently the lab wouldn't have been segmented into barely usable little corners, but could have been redesigned into a usable space.
Of course, with many other people contributing to the ideas, we might have come up with this long ago, and we might have come up with something even better. Now, though, the construction has largely been done and changing it to the above vision is an unrealistic budget expense. So we're somewhat stuck with a space that's not very comfortable.
I'd really like us to do better with the future decisions on space allocation. I'd even like to find a way to rescue the classroom from what I feel is a poor use of space.
- Jeff Schwaber
For what it's worth, I agree 100% with everything you say. It seems logical that, in the absence of transparency, individual assertion of project groups (like the squatting you mentioned) would become an effective, and yet undesirable, option. As a relative newcomer, I would have to say that most of the frustrations I have with FreeGeek probably boil down to a lack of transparency (I would have said, a lack of consensus about how certain decisions are made...but I think it's the same thing.) I am very encouraged to see you putting so much thought into this issue, and bringing it to the attention of council in a concise and manageable form. --Pete 22:55, 10 Apr 2005 (PDT)