Why I am publicly disassociating myself from the Recurse Center

Posted here is an email I broadcast to the entire Recurse Center alumni community, of which I was a part, through their internal email list serve called Community (source code). The subject of the email was “Why I am disassociating myself from the Recurse Center.” Predictable spoiler alert: after sending this email, RC faculty has “removed” (banned) me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I was accepted to the Recurse Center in the Fall 2, 2016 batch. Half-way through my batch, I was so heartbroken by what I found that I stopped showing up. I dropped out of RC because I found it to be, at its best, a diluted but essentially identical version of the Silicon Valley culture that I had already vehemently rejected years before.

I realize many of you have had very good experiences at RC. I have had some good experiences, as well. A number of my very good friends are RC alumni, people with whom I share political views, go out drinking with, and hack on projects with. However, I can do all that outside of RC, in spaces that I feel are just *better* than the Recurse Center’s community is.

This week, I made a rare re-appearance at RC by posting a request for hardware donations to the New York region’s Community thread in order to resource a small, community-run computer lab that I and some friends are helping to build and administer. This is the second time I have made such a request of the RC community, the last time being in 2017. I’m very heartened to see that, both times, a number of RC community members generously offered their help and I am happy to be coordinating an equipment pickup for later this week.

Thank you so much to everyone who has made my time at and involvement in RC better. As I understand it, this kind of generosity—where we approach one another in good faith and support one another’s efforts to become increasingly skilled technologists—is what RC should be all about. It’s why we were all members of the RC community. I will genuinely miss the opportunity to meet the many well-meaning people that having access to private RC discussion channels provides.

Unfortunately, very quickly after I posted to the Community forum regarding my interest in your unused, old hardware, someone replied asking me to effectively prove my worth as a recipient of their electronic waste. As strange as it might sound, they cited the possibility that I might be using RC’ers’ donated electronic garbage as part of a monetized YouTube channel to fund a Machine Learning startup. This is even funnier for those of you know that know even the faintest bit about me and my deeply held radical Anarcho anti-capitalist, anti tech-industry leanings.

Here’s the thing: this kind of response strikes me as being directly in opposition to the purpose of RC as a community in the first place. The response I got might have been appropriate had I posted on CraigsList. But a closed, pre-screened community like the Recurse Center?

Sadly, this is not the only incident spurring my choice to formally distance myself from RC. It is just the most recent. Enumerating all the times I witnessed disappointing behavior from respected RC community members isn’t the point of this message (but I will happily do so in private conversation should anyone feel the desire to reach out to me to learn more) so it is enough for me to say that I recognize a pattern of behavior in the RC community that makes me deeply uncomfortable. This is a pattern I routinely see elsewhere as well, especially in largely upper-middle class, predominantly white, neoliberal spaces such as RC. These patterns are even more pronounced in “tech/developer” spaces. The prevalence of and the unwillingness to acknowledge this pattern is precisely why I am not a member of almost any space or community that meets this description.

Like clockwork, after expressing my anger at being told to provide “indicators of trustworthiness” sufficient enough to be bestowed the honor of receiving discarded electronic waste from this man, the “let’s all engage rationally” peace-police arrived and told me I was “arguing when I could have engaged” with this man’s demands. Here’s the thing: there’s nothing to engage with. It is my firm belief that people who demand that I prove my worth to them for the opportunity to maybe, if I meet their standards, receive their waste, *are not worth engaging with*. This does not seem to me like something that should be a controversial position. Moreover, communities in which respected, well-to-do members treat an expression of anger at being demanded such a thing to be so unacceptable as to defend the demand suffer from a systemic pacifist neoliberal poison that I believe is harmful to society at large and know is personally stressful for me to be exposed to.

The Recurse Center was, for the past three years, sometimes the one exception to the prevalence of this toxic behavior for me. I know for a fact that it is the one exception for *many* technologists such as myself, because I have had many conversations with RC’ers who told me as such. While I never spoke in exclusively positive terms about the Recurse Center, I also largely kept to myself about its faults unless I was asked directly and, even then, I saw fit to temper my dislike with caveats like “your mileage may vary.” It was, and probably still is, “the best of the tech communities.” Unfortunately, at their absolute best and as RC demonstrates elegantly, “tech communities” are essentially abusive neoliberal cesspools that are pathologically unwilling to critically self-reflect deeply enough for long enough to meaningfully alter themselves for the better.

During my batch at RC, I was homeless and hungry. This is not an exaggeration. (I wrote the Penniless Recurser’s Survival Guide on the RC Wiki wiki [ed. also now extracted and republished in original Markdown format my blog, here] partly to document what the experience.) I found shelter on couches (endless thanks to few RC’ers who let me crash with them!) and in parks. For a community like RC to have little to no apparent problem with an actual Google employee demanding that a genderqueer poor person justify their request for literal electronic garbage, and then express more consternation over that poor person’s vocal objection to be treated in such a manner, is an extremely violent position to hold. I would respectfully submit that y’all should investigate that shit.

Over the past two years, I have had a very difficult time biting my tongue when things similar to the response I got to my request for unused hardware have happened. I recall the evening I sat in the RC library when the news of Trump’s election shocked (SHOCKED! I say!) the majority of the (white, male) RC community. I bit my tongue harder, tempered my words when I spoke, but largely simply decided not to spend that much time at RC or checking Zulip anymore. The message has always been clear: “This isn’t a space for politics.”

I see little wrong with RC’s choice to be more-or-less actively apolitical—and that is how I see it; I know a lot of RC’ers believe RC is actually quite actively progressive, to which I can only scoff to myself at the meekness of those expressed politics—nor do I see it as my place to attempt to change the RC community writ large. Again, that’s why you haven’t really seen me participate in RC since I left my 2016 batch.

Inevitably, though, my presence and actions causes some sort of existential angst. Even when what I initiate at RC is as innocuous as a request for donated electronics, the result is an uncomfortable confrontation. So uncomfortable that someone completely uninvolved, someone at whom no statement from either party was directed, felt the need to jump in. So uncomfortable that, a day later, RC’s staff sends me the following email, reprinted here in full:

Hi may may,

I have some feedback on your recent posts on Community.

First, I really appreciated your initial post requesting donations. It was thoughtful and detailed. Thank you for sending it.

Your subsequent posts were mean-spirited, unnecessarily personal, and inappropriate for RC. Specifically, saying things like “I’d probably expel you from a session I was running,” and “that’s your therapy session topic,” are unacceptable things to say in the RC community. They’re mean, you could have easily made your point without them, and are against the spirit of our code of conduct – specifically the part that reads “Be kind to others. Do not insult or put down other Recursers.” It’s also inappropriate to argue in bad faith.

It is important to us that you commit to not doing these things in the future in RC community spaces. Is this something you can commit to?


P.S. I have also emailed Sidney with feedback on his posts and to tell him that he should have done more to assume good intentions on your part.

Now let me take the opportunity to say directly to Dave: thank you for your feedback on my recent posts on Community. I am pleased to hear that you appreciated my initial post. :)

I disagree with you that my subsequent posts were unnecessarily personal. I was and am angry, and I believe I have every right and reason both to be angry and to express that anger in exactly the way that I did. I further believe that if these specific expressions are “unacceptable things to say in the RC community” then the RC community is either not the place it claims to be, or my understanding of RC as a place where people are treated like the complex adults that they are has always been inaccurate. In either case, RC is clearly not the place for me, because the only “bad faith” involved in this most recent interaction was Sidney’s behavior demanding that a member of the community with equal standing as he has justify a request for receipt of literal trash.

To be clear, David, I will absolutely not commit to not being “mean” by your standards when I am put down in this way. Furthermore, I find it offensive and extremely infantilizing that you would speak to me in the manner that you did. You are not my employer, nor am I in your kindergarten class.

My time at RC over the past years has continued to dwindle, and the benefits for me in my involvement now amount to occasionally asking if anyone has unused hardware they’re willing to give away. I now have a number of relationships with others—some who are and many who are not involved with RC themselves—in which to grow as a programmer, explore my interest in computer systems, and experiment with new and exciting tools and techniques in new and exciting ways. This is in part due to the massive amount of work I and some close friends have done over the last couple of years to create and protect a space that is in some ways similar to RC, but without what we see as its worse elements.

I have no doubt that for many people, RC is still the only outlet they have for this kind of comfortable exploration. If I did not have the access I do to these other spaces where, for example, simply being angry is not treated like a personal failing, I would probably feel much more trepidatious about sending this very message to the RC community. Thankfully, RC is no longer “the best of tech communities” that I can personally participate in. There are a couple of much, much better ones where I vastly prefer to spend my time, energy, and attention.

For all of the above reasons, it is with quite a bit of heartbreak but zero regret that I am publicly disassociating myself from the Recurse Center.

To anyone who feels as I do, please feel free to reach out to me via Signal Private Messenger message at (323) 963-4827, via email, or (for as long as my Zulip account remains active) via private message on Zulip. I’d be happy to discuss further details of any of this with those of you who feel that better communities can and should be more common and more accessible.

With respect,
-may may

Following is a full republication of the Community threads referenced in the above posting.

From 2019:

may may – F2’16, posted on Feb 03, 2019:

Hi all,

In 2017, I asked for spare hardware to help start a small community-run computer lab and many of you donated Raspberry Pi SBCs, old Wi-Fi routers, and other equipment. I am pleased to say that we were able to use these donations to build a small network that now powers occasional free computer classes, hosts a small resource library of DRM-free e-books, and provides a few other networked services. We’ve seen such incredible interest in the project that now we are looking for more hardware to expand the lab.

In particular, we are looking for 1 or 2 TB hard disk drives in order to provide a NAS (or NAS-like) video storage server for the computer lab. (A lot of people are interested in learning about video editing, unsurprisingly.) So once again I am asking if the RC community has spare or aging hardware that you would be willing to donate for a non-profit community project such as this one.

Myself or one of our project partners can come to you to pick up the hardware, or we can meet at a place and time that is convenient for you. We are hoping to acquire:

  • Hard drives (1 TB or 2 TB SATA HDDs of any quality, we can wipe them for you using DBAN or nwipe).
  • Single board computers of any make and model, Raspberry Pi 3 Mobel B+ especially desired
  • Cell phone chargers (5 volt 2.5 amp output with microUSB port is ideal)
  • Old routers/switches/hubs, and/or network cables
  • Internal computer parts; SATA cables especially (I am helping them build a RAID or ZFS RAIDZ array for their video library server), PCI video cards, etc.
  • Video cabling (VGA/DVI/HDMI), adapters, etc.
  • Old laptops and tower PC grayboxes of any make and model

Basically, if you have any hardware you want to get rid of and would rather see put to a good use over becoming a growing pile of garbage, please let me know. :) We are especially seeking hard drives to expand the storage capacity for student materials but will also gratefully accept other electronics, storage media (SD cards from old camers, etc), padlocks (with or without keys), and whatever else you have that we can make use of.

Please message me off-list (you can PM me on Zulip but I far prefer Signal messages to 323-963-4827, get Signal at Signal.org :) if you have something you’d like to donate.

Thanks in advance,

Sidney San Martín – W’ 12, posted on Feb 03, 2019:

Could you share information about the community center/lab?

(I’m okay with you rejecting 501(c) as an indicator of trustworthiness, as mentioned in your linked post, if you can offer another trust indicator.)

may may – F2’16, posted on Feb 03, 2019:

Could you share information about the community center/lab?

What information are you seeking? There is no website. It is just a room in a neighborhood with a bunch of computers where locals sometimes gather and where I and others sometimes hang out and help folks learn things.

(I’m okay with you rejecting 501(c) as an indicator of trustworthiness, as mentioned in your linked post, if you can offer another trust indicator.)

Hmm. What would you consider an “indicator of trustworthiness” that meets the minimum bar for you to want to give me your unused electronic garbage? :)

[REDACTED] posted on Feb 03:

Considering the community-oriented projects may may was doing during batch and after, I am absolutely convinced that anything donated will be used as described. <3 When I am ready to let my Macbook Air go, it’ll go to you and your crew, may may :D

may may – F2’16, posted on Feb 03, 2019:

:) Thanks, @[REDACTED].

TBQH, I am still curious—for future reference—what kind of trust indicators are needed to receive donations of unused electronics, since I often ask for hand me down hardware from a variety of sources. That said, I would also understand if minimum trust requirements for this sort of activity are hard to quantify. :)

Sidney San Martín – W’ 12, posted on Feb 03, 2019:

@may may Hmm. Definitely hard to quantify, and I left it vague in case you had any ideas, but I’ll fill in what I can from my own thoughts.

Details felt conspicuously absent. I lack information about the location or intended audience, or why you would prefer to not share those things. Examples of statements that might have increased my trust:

  • “We’re located in [neighborhood] and most of the people involved so far are [group name/attributes] trying to [goal]. If you know anyone who might enjoy spending time there, taking a class, hosting a network service, or exploring our DRM-free library, message me off-list.”
  • “I am using this space to study alternative social structures, with a side interest in the up-to-date security practices of banks, the State, and large corporations.”
  • “My friends and I experiment here. There’s no intended benefit to any larger community, but if that’s okay with you, we’d love to take your electronic garbage :).”

Each of these statements gives me the chance to be turned off from contributing, which shows some trust in me as the reader, versus feeling like you don’t trust me to make a judgement call. Mentioning past, present, or planned projects, classes, network services, favorite e-books in the library, etc. might help. Statements of support from other RCers, like Veronica’s, do help.

Essentially the question I’m trying to answer is: “Is donating to @may may‘s project consistent with my own values, and, if I commit to taking the time to dig up my electronic garbage, do I know anyone else who might do more good with it?”

may may – F2’16, posted on Feb 04, 2019:

I see. Essentially, what I am hearing is that you want a chance to ensure that the electronics you (still theoretically, I might add—do you actually have hardware you’d like to not-have in the near future or is this just a hypothetical inquiry into my “indicators of trustworthiness” for you?) supposedly want to get rid of are going to be used in a manner of your choosing or by people you deem worthy of access to the equipment. This smacks of the patronizing way certain people talk about wanting to ensure the dollar bill they oh-so-painstakingly spent their oh-so-precious time digging out of their wallet to give a homeless person “won’t be spent on booze and drugs.”

Sorry, but I can give you no such guarantee, nor would I even if I could. For one thing, beyond the details I gave in my original post, I do not actually know what will happen. For another, I do not think it should matter. Are we going to use donated hardware to build a terrorist datacenter? Will your discarded HDD be filled with porn and torrents? Maybe! :D Or maybe not! Let’s find out.

Of course, this is ultimately what is meant by seeking donations of hardware. You are being asked if you would like to give something away. You are not being invited to monitor its use or audit its recipients.

If one wants to retain some control or oversight regarding how a thing one has is used, or wishes to investigate the worthiness of its recipients, that’s your therapy session topic, but I think it’s self-evident that such a person is clearly not motivated by the desire to rid themselves of the object in question in the first place. The giving of the item is at best a side effect; the true purpose of such an act is clearly something less simple, less noble, or both. It might even be interesting to examine how retaining some control over how a resource one has gets used is the kind of behavior that is more akin to a sponsorship than a donation, something companies like Google might do. 🤔 But I digress.

All that being said, here are some things I can tell you about me and what I’m up to that may be sufficient “indicators of trustworthiness” (or untrustworthiness) for you:

  • My friends and I who are involved in this little computer lab project share an ethos that is radically anti-capitalist and (speaking for myself only) explicitly Anarchist, which is probably not surprising if you read my linked post from 2017 or glanced at my RC People Directory profile.
  • We are building this little network for a grand total of $0, partly out of principle and partly simply because we can. The principle of the thing is partly spurred on because doing it “for free” gives a lot of poor and less affluent people quite a bit of hope when we show them something they find cool and tell them it can be built for “zero of their own dollars” simply by sifting through richer people’s trash and knowing what you’re doing with the parts you find. Most folks don’t realize how powerful off the shelf components are these days, so it’s a real “aha moment” for people who genuinely don’t have $200 to spare for an used laptop. It’s also a big hit with the Right-To-Repair crowd, with which we have some crossover, philosophically speaking.
  • We have and continue to generally expel most techies (so far all have been men) from our workshops, since in our experiences they tend to behave in condescending and entitled ways that many of us feel contributes to an atmosphere that makes it difficult to grow our technical skills and have fun exploring computer systems. They also talk a lot (usually by interrupting someone else or posing endless “what-ifs” and “what-abouts” hypotheticals) but basically never have something relevant to contribute. They also have all been really bad at sharing (teaching) what they do know, which is kind of the whole point of the community computer lab in the first place.
  • Sometimes we just give hardware away, too. For example, a few weeks ago, we prepared a Raspbian NOOBS SD card and gifted it along with a spare RPi, half-broken VGA video monitor, and mismatched USB keyboard and mouse set to a friend who works in food service and thus could almost never participate in our more regular gatherings. This was easy for us because, as you might have expected by now, we got all that hardware via donations (or the literal trash, in the case of the monitor) in the first place. Apart from an aging phone, this refurbished RPi is the only CPU that this person has, so being able to access the Internet from something other than a mobile device is a pretty big deal for them. I hope they pick up some of the more educational software on the Raspbian Desktop build but that is bluntly up to them because we are not policing their activity or auditing their worthiness. We are not cops. :)
  • Personally, I encourage folks I mentor to stay far from coding bootcamps, tech meetups, and other mainstream and even well-intentioned tech industry spaces, because I think their chances of learning things, not to mention just having quality, healthy educational experiences relating to computer systems or programming generally, is far lower in such spaces than it is in the kind of space we have managed to build over the past two years. I think they are a waste of time and sometimes money for most people most of the time. This is not a unanimous belief in this particular circle but my adamance has proven to be both influential and I dare say remarkably fruitful. Ironically, one person I mentored closely who had no tech experience to speak of actually did get a tech job (an entry level SRE position) after only about 10 months of regular attendance—meanwhile, other folks we know who took the code bootcamp route are still job hunting—and I have mixed feelings about all that. At least the company they were hired by is a registered non-profit and they like their new job way more than their old one, so that’s good. Anyways, all that is another story entirely.

So I guess, I would say that you are unlikely to benefit from any of this directly (for many reasons; only one of them is that I’d probably expel you from a session I was running, TBH), but many others, particularly those who are gender non-conforming, femme, very very very far Left-leaning politically, and/or feel themselves to be “outsiders” from “the tech world” have already benefited, including a handful of RC’s friends-of-friends. Finding a technically competent space where we are comfortable learning and exploring together is sadly rare and worth protecting, which often means not inviting the people who we feel would diminish the benefits of the space for us. To be blunt, yes, this does mean not opening our space to many Recursers.

For some of us, ours is the only comfortable space that is accessible, and so I am thrilled to see it thirst for additional hardware resources as it continues to grow and as the people involved flex their skills and gain confidence to try doing things they did not think they would ever do or even knew was a thing that could be done before. Like, say, build a RAID array with donated disk drives.

Given the consistently and predictably disappointing behavior of the overwhelming majority of veteran techies, I am also very confident that spaces like this will continue to feel very important to those of us involved in them. :)

So, yeah. Right now, 1 TB or 2 TB hard drives are the thing we want most, but as mentioned in my original post, old Wi-Fi routers and spare computer parts, SBCs of any sort, etc. are all great. Anything you don’t want (and are actually motivated by a desire to relinquish) that we can use, we will gladly accept.

Hopefully that clears things up. :) If not, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ that’s all I got for you.

Sumana Harihareswara – F’13, posted on Feb 04:

On 2/4/19 5:36 AM, may may wrote:

I’d probably expel you from a session I was running, TBH

may may, I’m quoting perhaps the most adversarial thing you say in your reply, but overall, I think you are arguing where you could engage (I infer that’s a deliberate choice, but I’m noting it in case it’s not), and you miss legitimate reasons that folks exercise a modicum of judgment regarding where we choose to put our voluntary labor and give away stuff.

I totally understand your thinking that, once I give someone a gift, that gift is theirs to do with as they like. I am on board with that. And I further am on board with the reasoning that some people have a bunch of excess electronic stuff and have literally ZERO interest in where it goes so long as it gets out of their homes, so for those people, once you’ve said “gimme” they don’t need any more info.

But — at least in NYC — I have an option for where I put excess electronics that are in my home that I just do not want to bother with at all. I get paper mail from the Department of Sanitation about their disposal events a few times a year. I can box up my stuff and give it to them. When I choose NOT to do that and to try to give it to someone else, I’m usually doing that because I’m attempting to increase the likelihood that the stuff will be used for some at least nebulously world-improving thing, and — this is key! — that it is less likely to be literally thrown into a landfill, leach chemicals into soil, etc. etc. I recognize that this kind of judgment reads as condescending to you. To me this is part of being responsible with power.

Sorry, but I can give you no such guarantee, nor would I even if I could. For one thing, beyond the details I gave in my original post, I do not actually know what will happen. For another, I do not think it should matter. Are we going to use donated hardware to build a terrorist datacenter? Will your discarded HDD be filled with porn and torrents? Maybe! :D Or maybe not! Let’s find out.

No one is asking anyone else to predict the future here; we are asking what future you are attempting to make. Which you answer elsewhere in the email! So thank you for that.

I think by this point you’ve made your point of view clear so that people who want to know “what’s a non-Department of Sanitation option for disposing of my excess electronics?” can assess the option you’ve offered.

Sidney San Martín – W’ 12, posted on Feb 04, 2019:

+1 to every detail of @Sumana Harihareswara‘s comment!

For one thing, beyond the details I gave in my original post, I do not actually know what will happen. For another, I do not think it should matter.

Disappointing fates for my hardware (immediately after donation — down the road is none of my business) include:

  • You sell the donated hardware and keep the proceeds, but told me I was donating to a community center.
  • Your space is actually a monetized YouTube channel about destroying donated hardware in creative ways, and the proceeds fund a startup that uses ML to customize marketing email.
  • You encourage people to practice digital forensics skills on un-wiped devices instead of erasing them as promised.

Trustworthiness has to do with whether I think you’re empowering me to decide versus saying what I want to hear. (EDIT: I think it’s reasonable for me to want to audit your immediate intentions, but not the long-term fate of the hardware.)

The lack of detail bothered me because the unstated message to the community is (slightly exaggerated), “If I say too much, you might come and ruin my space, and if I say that, you might not want to donate, therefore I’ll say neither.”

do you actually have hardware you’d like to not-have in the near future or is this just a hypothetical inquiry into my “indicators of trustworthiness” for you?

Yes, I have a bunch.

I have to run off to a job where I ask similar questions about the fate of my work but, for the moment, thanks for sharing the extra context.

may may – F2’16, posted on Feb 04, 2019:

I think you are arguing where you could engage (I infer that’s a deliberate choice, but I’m noting it in case it’s not),

No, it is. To be quite blunt, this thread is a perfect illustration of why I stopped showing up to my RC batch half-way through and why you only see me pop up once about every two years to ask if any of you fine, skilled folks have any electronic garbage you’d like to give me for my various nebulous world-improving projects.

I recognize that this kind of judgment reads as condescending to you.

There are quite a lot of things that read as condescending to me coming from one Recurser to another, things that I suppose seem quite acceptable and normal to you, but taking a look around at exactly where I am and remembering I’d rather live a life free of most of the behaviors displayed in this thread, I’ll just leave it at that, return to my little community lab with its very different culture, and trust my position is now clear enough that you know where I stand on such things. :)

Perhaps I will post again in another two years to see if any of you have any spare mobile phones you’re trying to get rid of. Until then, I am sure you will remain comfortable and employed and in possession of more hardware than you use.

Also, Sidney, yes, I am totally running a get rich quick scheme from surplus RC donations and I am making bank. It’s astonishing no one has noticed until now.

Sidney San Martín – W’ 12, posted on Feb 04, 2019:

Hmm. There’s some miscommunication of intent in this thread. I don’t think you’re running a “get rich quick” scheme. I used that example alongside running a monetized YouTube channel because both seem unlikely for you. You said that the fate of donated electronics shouldn’t matter, and I was trying to communicate how the way they arrive at that fate matters to me (i.e. if I’m being lied to), not cast specific doubts/judgement on you. I feel like you’ve judged my motives based on wrong assumptions about me.

Based on your previous message, I support how you want to use donations. I was still into donating. Hell, I might still be into donating, I have thick skin in this area.

What you read as condescension, I understood as someone trying to non-judgmentally introduce the possibility that other humans might have their own ways of making decisions, and that if they don’t default to agreeing with you, it’s a chance for communication; it doesn’t mean that you’re ideological foes.

My own first message essentially said, “If you’re going to tell people why their established sinks for unwanted electronics ‘just won’t do’ because they’re inconsistent with your ideals, please be open to talking about why your sink for unwanted electronics might ‘do’ for their/my ideals.” I’d appreciate it if you could re-read the messages above with the assumption that we’re all on the same side.

may may – F2’16, posted on Feb 04, 2019:

Hell, I might still be into donating

When you figure that out, feel free to let me know.

David Albert – Faculty posted on Feb 05:

Hi everyone,

This thread has become unnecessarily mean-spirited and personal. Please
don’t post in it any more. If you have equipment that you’d like to donate
to may may’s lab, you can get in touch with them off-list.

The RC community only works when we trust each other. As the community
continues to grow, trust becomes more important and takes more effort to
build. Please act with good intention, assume good intentions on the part
of others, and don’t engage in personal attacks. Please also consider your
audience: there are a lot of people on this list.

[REDACTED] posted on Feb 05:

I didn’t read this exchange as mean-spirited and personal, but anyway I
hope this is nice-spirited and impersonal enough that you’ll all forgive me
for posting after being asked not to.

From 2017:

may may – F2’16, posted on Aug 07 2017:

Hi all,

I’m in touch with a small, new community/social center in the city that’s trying to assemble their first computer lab. They currently have some space for this effort, but no funds, and so asked me if I knew of any places where they can acquire donated hardware. Sadly, in NYC, I don’t. (Do you? Enlighten me!)

The hardware itself need not be in mint condition. It just has to work well-enough that a few moderately experienced tinkerers can use it for something—and not necessarily something “powerful.” All kinds of hardware was requested: old drives, cabling, adapters, modems, routers, power supplies, peripherals, repair tools, even things like locks (they specifically said locks don’t have to have a key to be useful). Basically, anything you have but don’t want that you hope resourceful people could put to good use. :)

So, for instance, if your workplace (or if the workplace of a friend of yours) throws away old computing equipment when they upgrade, I can probably find a good home for those items. Hit me up!


[REDACTED] – posted on Aug 08 2017:

I donate all of my old electronics to https://www.lesecologycenter.org/. I know they refurbish and resell some electronics, and others they donate, but I don’t know how you become a recipient of the goods. Might be worth reaching out to them.

may may – F2’16, posted on Aug 07 2017:

Thanks for the suggestion, @[REDACTED]. I reached out to them, but unfortunately the LES Ecology Center and its Gowanus E-Waste Warehouse require a signed W-9 form and an IRS letter before they will give away anything they hold. This is not the kind of “donation” I was hoping to find. That approach simply requires too much capital investment, i.e., it is too high a bar to jump (not to mention far too much cooperation with capitalist structures and thus completely unworkable for all kinds of reasons far beyond mere money) to be a useful avenue for us to pursue.

What I am hoping to find is someone or several someones who no longer need electronics and want to get rid of them (as often happens at office workplaces). I know this is a common occurrence in a community as affluent as RC. After such equipment is donated to LES Ecology Center or an equivalent organization, it becomes subsumed by capitalist gears and is thus inaccessible for all the reasons stated above. That simply won’t do.

So, if you or anyone you know is getting rid of electronics, please consider letting your human friends (or me) know about that, before you donate to an institution that cooperates with the State.


The day after I posted my farewell email, I received this email from the RC faculty.

Hi may may,

In your Community post last night, you said that you would not commit to changing your behavior and abiding by the RC code of conduct. Because of this, we’ve removed you from the RC community.

This means your Zulip, Community, and recurse.com accounts are now deactivated and you’ll no longer have access to the RC GitHub organization. You also won’t be welcome in the RC space or at future RC events.


As is typical for these sorts of situations with these sorts of people, questions like “What is upsetting you?” were never asked of anyone involved. I think that’s disappointing and fundamentally inhumane.

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