This was my first net-negative experience at a burn or con. The things I learned will have positive value in the future, so eventually I can look back and say this weekend was worth it, but I don't know how long that will take. I've finished burning a lot of bridges and made some new friends. Firefly is still the best regional burn I've been to, despite its flaws, and I'll probably return if they let me.
I got to spend some part of a couple of days camping with some of the people whose company I enjoy most. This is a welcome reprieve from what has been mostly solitude on the west coast. There were friendly conversations as well as good hugs and cuddles. Due to some things mentioned in sections below, there's a good chance I'll get to spend more time with those people fwen I return to Firefly.
My implementation of a 4-6x scale version of the mad chemist themed tabletop game Dr Eureka was a big hit. The game involves players racing to rearrange colored balls in mock test tubes by pouring them back and forth between the tubes, a sort of fast thinking dexterity puzzle game. I had to assemble some of the components at the last minute, and I didn't have the infrastructure to present it well, but it still drew perhaps a hundred players over the course of a couple of days, with and without my barking invitations to passers by. I'm giving it to the local acquaintance who introduced me to the game and I have plans to reproduce the project at similar or larger scale back home. I also took photos to send to the designer of the game. Maybe he or his publisher will want a large scale set for convention demos?
A lot of the paragraphs below, in this section and others, will turn into their own long form writings in the near future. There's probably a hundred thousand words worth of material there. Having so many prompts is a good thing, as will be the information gathering and dissemnation from those efforts.
I found out from some people that my efforts to repair our acquaintanceship over the past couple of years have been successful. Selectively filtering who/how I engage in conversations on sensitive or emotional topics has finally proven successful in some cases.
I volunteered for the transport crew as part of the duo organizing one of the buses from Camberville to Firefly and handling truck loading and passenger unloading on one of the return trips. This included getting to work with a few people who I get along with. This was fun and fit my organizational and other skills reasonably well. If I do this again, I'll be better at it.
I met some burners from the west coast, and re-met some that I'd met before. Hopefully we can stay in touch about burn travel plans in the future.
I hung a suspension ring between three trees in a triangle for the first time. I believe that I did not repeat the mistake made by Cirque du Soleil with regards to improper off-axis hardware loading.
I learned a lot of important things, some long overdue. I have a better grasp of my reputation in Boston, and it's significantly better than I thought. I was pleased to discover that I would be welcome to camp with a number of different theme camps. Time may have healed some old interpersonal wounds; TBD. With a pointed yes/no question about a real situation affecting me I got more information about my peers' views on a specific aspect of consent and violations than I did in months of theoretical/impersonal debates. I learned about some unwritten Firefly policies, which I hope to inspire someone to make not-unwritten eventually.
My tolerance for long travel for short events continues to dwindle. 2.5 days on site may have been enough with no major distractions, but it ended up being far too short in the end. The trip is only half over, and I'll probably have enough time in Camberville to make it overall worthwhile, but if I'd flown in just for Firefly it wouldn't have been enough. I don't think I'll make cross-country trips for less than a few days of expected enjoyment in the future, with notable exceptions for specific people.
Most of the explicit plans I made with people before and during the event fell through due to unwelcome distractions and interruptions. It is possible that this made some irrecoverably bad first impressions.
Some people at my Firefly / NECTR / Burning Man camp of 4 years (The Universe) expressed shortly before and during the event that they want me to leave the group, and to not camp near them at events or spend time in our camp common or private spaces. They and some other people are made uncomfortable by my presence, and give as their reason that they are upset by my choice of conversational topics and the argumentative / aggressive nature of my communication style, even when they are not involved in the conversations. They are not satisfied with using the processes we decided on as a group to resolve this situation. I cannot know at what level in the game of anonymity-protecting telephone it occurred, but some significant lies were told by someone(s) along the way, and repeated to the group with some authority. My ongoing efforts to set straight as many of the lies as possible will do irreparable further damage to my relationships and reputation, but at least that damage will be founded on things I'm actually doing. This all led to an organized shunning campaign at the event, and eventually to escalation of the matter to the board of directors for the event, who offered me the options of moving my tent and myself out of our camp or being expelled from the event. This included loss of access to camp infrastructure that I had planned on using, including some contributed by myself in the past. At one point a representative of the event offered me the possibility of attempting to intentionally fulfill our camp policies to resolve the issue, which would have involved calling for a Listener election, choosing one or more, and allowing them to engage in the process and reach a decision. My choice to not subject my campmates to this ordeal was then categorized as my rejection of an option, rather than my reasonable concession to the comfort of the camp.
The comical highlight of that process was the conclusion of a two hour discussion in which an event representative was trying to convince me of the validity of those people's request for me to leave our camp. In all seriousness, and in what seemed like a friendly, if not well thought out, gesture, he invited me to come engage him in philosophical debate at Ranger HQ. Ranger HQ being a location where it is certain that members of my camp (including rangers) would overhear the debate and become further upset, precisely the reasoning being used as the ostensible justification for my punishment in the first place. My observation of the humor of this situation was lost on him. My observation that his invitation illustrated his lack of comprehension of the situation did not sit well with him.
Shortly prior to the event, shortly after I was asked not to camp with The Universe (plausibly a coincidence, at that point), I learned through a series of revelations that there exists a rumor that at some point in the past someone in Boston accused me of violating their sexual consent, and that that rumor had traveled to Chicago last year and San Francisco more recently. I spent a significant chunk of my time at Firefly this year surveying about 50 people with subtle variations of the questions "Can I ask you a serious important question?" followed by "Other than from me, have you ever heard, even third-hand, that I have been accused of a sexual consent violation?". I did offer and intend just the single question, but almost everyone I asked invited or instigated further discussion of the question and situation, and I politely sought further information from the people who said "yes" while backing off at the first refusal or hesitation. The high points of that survey appear in the top section of this post. Among a sea of denials, the only uneqivocal "yes" answers came from people in my own camp, as did most of the responses of silence, even with my campmates being significantly under-represented in the survey due to the shunning mentioned above. This includes a campmate who heard the accusation/rumor a year ago, and did not tell me then, nor are they willing to share additional information with me now. Those results convinced me of the implausibility of the coincidence of the two matters in this section.
Mistakes That I Made
I misread one word of an email, which altered my plans for the weekend significantly. Fortunately that word was either a mistake or a lie, which combined with other factors to make the net effect significantly less than it might have otherwise been. The outcome would have been similar, just changing some of the steps along the way.
I disengaged from some 1-on-1(ish) conversations either too soon or too late. I know that this is a failing of mine, so I try to let other people decide when a conversation is over, but also try to watch for signs that they feel trapped. At one point when I was told that by using someone's time I was endangering other attendees (via his lack of response to emergencies) I disengaged as he protested my disengagement. That was certainly the wrong time, but I don't know whether I should have disengaged sooner or later.
Attempting to participate in a camp meeting without disagreeing with people was a mistake. I do not think there was a positive outcome to be achieved in another way, which is to say there are many different mistakes I could have made there, but given enough time to plan and think I could probably have done something less-negative. I have not yet figured out when I am supposed to ignore someone's requests that I not argue with them.
Attempting to honor the attempts of individuals to shun me was a mistake. Presenting my poll and collecting additional yes/no/silence answers from people, despite their discomfort, would have been net positive. Slightly so if the rumors and/or one of my suspicions about lies within the camp are unfounded. Very much so if the rumors are true and there is something about my behavior I need to change to avoid violating someone's consent again.
Not participating in the camp committee that drafted the Listener policy was a mistake. Mistakenly assuming the intent of the policy included feedback given by members prior to the formation of the committee was a mistake. Not objecting to the policy when it was announced was a mistake. I have not yet figured out whether I made a mistake in allowing someone whose competence and impartialness was unclear to me at the time to become a Listener for the camp.
Important Things I Learned That Are Worth Sharing
The Firefly event has a position titled "Officer of the Day" ("Ood"), who is empowered to act with the authority of the board during the course of the event.
In an intra-camp conflict, the Firefly board places overriding authority in the hands of the person whose name appears on the camp placement application. What would appear to be a purely bureaucratic matter is apparently actually very important on a decision making level.
Most of my friends and acquaintances seem sincere in their statement that they would tell me if an accusation of consent violation were leveled against me, which I previously had taken for granted as obvious. I now know that I cannot take this concept for granted.
Some people I considered friends have kept their knowledge of those accusations secret from myself and my romantic and sexual partners, with whom they are also acquainted. I will follow up with them; it is likely I will later call them out by name, as I consider this extreme social misbehavior.
Jon Evans, Nora Berson, Jesse Raymond, and Nathaniel Barwell, as well as a few anonymous members of our camp, have little respect for the wishes of their campmates as a group. Rather than accepting the processes and decisions made by the group as a whole, they choose to exercise authority not granted to them, or explicitly denied them by the group (or themselves, even), and appeal to higher authority or abuse of technical access or bullying when the wishes of the camp differ from their own.