It’s that time of year for OSCON, and I’ve been lucky enough to travel back to Portland which I consider my “hometown”. Though I was born and raised about an hour southwest in the Willamette valley, Portland is where I “grew up” and experienced my first real kiss, sushi and all night-party (on different occasions, mind you). It is also where I made friends that will last a lifetime and met the woman who is now my wife.
I went out for some sushi at Dragonfish, drank a little sake, and wandered up toward Portland State campus at dusk. Meandering around campus brought back memories noting how much had changed, and in reality how very little had changed. On a whim, I walked towards the Theater Arts building, home to the aformentioned “comfy couch” which warranted its own personal blog entry. I didn’t expect the door to be open, but it swung freely at my fingertips and I was greeted with the smell of Lincoln Hall exactly as I had remembered.
In disbelief I jaunted up the stairs and around the corner to check out the “lounge” of which I had such fond memories and felt my first real sense of community. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted not only with a new full pane glass door, but also a punch-code keyed lock on the door. Inside fluorescent lights blared with an intense regularity on a few rows of fairly neatly arranged gray berber chairs. Where was my comfy couch in all its run-down glory?
My guess is that something “happened” in that lounge and it was decided that the only way to clean it up, was to lock it down. Password protect the door, replace all the furniture with matched sets and force all public art onto one bulletin board. Likely what happened in the lounge was something like recurring theft, vandalism or maybe just someone getting hurt. Being embedded in an urban area, it was not uncommon for transients and other unfriendlies to seek refuge in Lincoln Hall and as the space was unmonitored objects left unattended were apt to walk off.
And what does this teach us about online communities? The lounge and people who frequented it didn’t have the tools or resources available to them in order to properly police their space. How many times have we seen messageboards crippled under the weight of spam, abuse or flame wars?
Let’s just hope we get better and protecting our comfy couches. May it rest in peace.