Monday, November 09, 2009

in complex times people grasp for simple answers, followed by drift, leading to a business idea

I include myself in this, having long since turned my back on television, as the increasing number of channels diluted its value as a commons, and more recently having all but given up on trying to keep up with "the news" at all. I have projects instead, this blog being one, another involving programming, and another as an advocate for a vision - at once the most important thing I could be doing and the least achievable. In the latter two cases, the blog is not the project, but only a way of keeping myself involved and moving forward, even if only at a snail's pace. I also have an obsession, with Apple, Inc., with its products, and in particular with the process by which it develops them and decides which to take to market.

These, and a few others in the same vein, are my simple answers, what I cling to when events threaten to shake my sanity. To a significant extent they define who I am, and to a much larger extent they define what I need to be paying attention to, and therefore the context within which procrastination happens.

For me, the main force driving procrastination (other than my obsession with Apple) is my need to be around other people. While I like working individually, I really don't care for spending a lot of time alone, so my ideal situation is having others nearby without really being involved in what they're doing or them being involved in what I'm doing. A coffee shop with decent wireless internet connectivity is just about ideal, except that it's harder to concentrate on getting something done in such an environment and easier to just browse haphazardly. Even that's not a total loss, as it can substitute for channel switching a television to find out what's going on out there in the world. Digg is a particularly good starting point for this sort of browsing.

A coffee shop with curtained nooks might work. One with leasable nooks with lockable doors, in which you could safely leave all your stuff when not in use, might work even better. The main difference between this and a rental office in a building with many such is the vibe. Coffee shops have activity cycles, but the content of conversations varies widely, whereas what happens in and around offices tends to be more tightly constrained to the business at hand; it's filtered.

A few details follow: even with doors, curtains are a good idea, for a little privacy and a little sound dampening; the doors, when open, should lie flat against the wall or slide out of sight; the cool factor of double doors is more than worth the extra trouble; rentals should probably be either hourly (with something like a 4 hour minimum) or weekly; set your rental fees such that you don't feel compelled to push food and drinks to renters; rental work-nooks by the hour or week would work well with longterm colocation services, where people pay to have their computer installed on a rack with secure power and continuous internet connectivity.

This idea isn't terribly scalable. You could stretch it to two floors, but probably not three. Make the coffee shop space in the middle too large and it will lose the intimacy that loosens tongues and creates the vibe. On the other hand, make it too small and it'll end up inducing claustrophobia. Also, pack nooks together such that there's no room along the wall for anything else (art, booths, ...) and it'll look like a storage facility. A high ceiling is okay if you circulate air vertically so that you don't end up heating the ceiling while the floor freezes, and dampen echoes somewhat.

Let me know if you decide to go out and start your own coffee shop with rental nooks; I'd love to check it out!

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