Hackerspace Brisbane is not a nice place pt 2 | Retaliation against public complaints and exec conduct

This is “part 2” (which I hadn’t planned on writing until recent events). Please read part 1 first for important context.

Removing access and not telling people

HSBNE (also known as Hackerspace Brisbane) has historically had a bad reputation for removing volunteer’s access to different resources without properly documenting why or even letting them know (even I’m guilty of this). The executive implemented a Privileged Access policy to stop this happening.

Several people have had access to the hackerspace resources removed and were not told about it. I don’t really have an issue with the removal itself, as we’d stepped down from volunteer duties. What I do take issue with, is that we weren’t told. This is a clear breach of the executive’s own policy. I spent nearly 4 years and thousands of hours building the membership portal that HSBNE relies on and I even offered to help ensure a smooth transition after I left. I find it extremely disrespectful to not even get a “hey we removed your access, let us know if you have any concerns”.

You might think this is a minor thing to complain about, but is another example of the executive doing what they want and treating volunteers badly. The way I found this out is what frustrates me most. I tried to update the hackerspace member portal as I had just fixed a major bug due to a change canvas made in their API. Going around and removing access to someone who’s volunteering their time is a great way to burn bridges.

Relevant excerpt from the Privileged Access policy:

There is no requirement for notification prior to access removal. However, it’s best practice in non hostile situations to notify beforehand. Notification after the fact must happen within 48 hours.

Not only was I not told before hand (please someone reach out if they think I’ve acted “hostile” towards HSBNE since resigning), but the first time I noticed I had lost access to some resources was well over 48 hours ago.

Accusations of data theft/misuse

Last night both myself and another infrastructure volunteer received an email letting us know that our access was being reviewed/removed (great, but more than 48 hours after it started to happen). The wording in those emails did not match up with their actions and appear to be a way to justify breaching their access policy.

That alone was bad enough, but in the email I received (relevant excerpts below) the executive committee made direct implications that I had, or was going to, misuse HSBNE information/data.

You will be aware you also have access to personal information of HSBNE membership, Security information (surveillance, access systems, logs, and other historic data), documents and documentation, software, passwords, and access codes. We ask that you help us ensure a smooth transition off these systems and that any deactivation of your credentials, accounts or access systems do not jeopardise the operation of HSBNE public and private systems and data operations.

HSBNE requires that you provide assurance that any personal information of members, private documents of the organisation or any privileged information of HSBNE both printed and electronic are returned or destroyed. HSBNE information is not to be retained by yourself nor provided to any organisation or entity without written authorisation of the owner of the information and by HSBNE executive. 

HSBNE Executive, 21st October, 2021 via email

This is grossly inappropriate and offensive, given that I have dedicated thousands of hours, and 5 years of my life contributing to HSBNE to make it better. I was honestly just shocked that they thought it was appropriate to make allegations like these (even if via implication). This made me feel awful, and made me question if I had actually done anything wrong.

Executive retaliation after publicly criticising their actions

No other volunteer who has recently resigned received an email with implications like these despite having access to similar information. In my last blog post, I raised very serious concerns with the conduct of the current executive and the way that Mike was treated. They banned Mike for 3 months after he made a discrimination and harassment complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

Is this another retaliation for someone publicly criticising the executive? I would hope not, but from my perspective it certainly seems like it.

Why have the executive acted like this after my efforts to make this a smooth transition?

Recently I spent nearly an hour on a phone call with the treasurer to help fix/explain some things that he didn’t understand. I also spent hours fixing bugs that I found out about, and fixing the access system when it went down yesterday (which was made more difficult as access to some resources had been removed without telling me). I didn’t have to do any of this, but chose to for a smooth transition for Hackerspace Brisbane members.

After doing all this, my access rights were pulled without being told until well after the fact, then I get an email asking me to confirm that I wouldn’t misuse HSBNE privileged data/documents? This was like a kick in the guts and an attack on my personal character that I was not expecting. It feels like the exec got what they needed from me then gave me the boot.

HSBNE executive, consider this bridge burned. After being treated this way I refuse to engage any further with the current executive committee. I am immediately ceasing all further interactions with HSBNE operations (other than occasional personal use of HSBNE facilities when needed) and will not be volunteering another minute of my time.

I tried to do the right thing by Hackerspace Brisbane, but this has not happened the other way around which seems to be a very common theme. I am very disappointed at some specific members of the exec that seem to support this behaviour as I thought they were friends.

Update: I’m not some lone, disgruntled member

For a similar story by another member click here, one by their partner (who was also a member), click here, and a relevant follow up comment click here.

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