The Nowhere festival is in deep trouble…
… and almost no one is talking about it.
I’ve had enough watching from the sidelines and complaining about it. In this and the following series of blog posts I’ll dissect a number of the most critical problems that face the festival right now and attempt to offer some solutions.
But, before I do, let me give you a little background on who I am and why I am speaking up. Back in 2000 I created the MusicBrainz project, which is IMDB for music, but completely open source and open data. In 2004 I created the MetaBrainz Foundation to be the legal entity for MusicBrainz. MetaBrainz is a California based 501.c.3 (tax exempt) non-profit. I’ve run this non-profit since inception, working for 5 years with no pay in order to bootstrap the project and non-profit. I’ve experienced the ins and outs of running a community focused non-profit. Doing so is extremely challenging and non-intuitive and I would love to share some of my hard learned lessons.
I’ve also gone to Burning Man for too many years and Nowhere for 3 years. I’ve seen Burning Man grow from when it was 2,000 people; I’ve seen the organization respond to many growing pains over the years. None of the solutions put in place by Burning Man were ever perfect from the get-go, but with determination and a lot of dedicated volunteers the organization repeatedly managed to overcome the obstacles it faced on its long journey.
I have a deep appreciation of what Burning Man has accomplished and what it has taught me over the years. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for Burning Man. That said, Burning Man is not a perfect organization, but it kept moving in the right direction for many years and serving its community really well for many years.
I wish I could say the same of Nowhere.
In the three years I’ve attended Nowhere, I’ve not seen the event mature much. I’ve seen confusion, lack of proper management and leadership. I’ve seen overtaxed volunteers burning out. I’ve seen the organization attempt to deal with troublesome members in the community only to waste amazing hours of effort without accomplishing much of anything. The troublesome members continue to make trouble and continue to waste the precious little resources available to Nowhere. I’ve seen conflicting ideals where people cling blindly to the 10 principles, creating deadlock and preventing any further progress for the entire event.
There are many broken aspects of Nowhere and over the next few weeks I’ll attempt to weave a coherent narrative that identifies the problems at hand and how they relate to each other. And what might be done about them.