Sunday, March 01, 2009

Coffee and Code - Watercoolers and Social

How do we keep connected with our Peer groups. It's a challenge (consultants never have problems - only challenges) for sole practitioners to people in multinationals. The thing is, we need to communicate across all the boundaries, corporate stovepipes, etc. We also need to keep productive.

The effect of putting aside time to communicate and socialise is counter intuitive. Many years ago, when programmers punched cards, Managers noticed that the programmers would gather around the water cooler at the back of the punch room and chat. There is a quick solution to that sort of wasteful behaviour - the water coolers were removed. The outcome, however, was that productivity dropped. The coolers were put back and productivity went up. So what was happening? The exchange of problem solving, competition, energising and other aspects of social exchange were helping workers achieve breakthroughs, or take diffeent approaches to existing problems. Today, for the solo practitioner or an expert isolated from like-minded individuals, meeting with peers in real life is a challenge.

One approach is Coworking. Coworking is cafe-like community/collaboration space for developers, writers and independents. Basically, start with a shared office and add cafe culture. This ensures there is desk space, backup and so on. (Thanks to @NathanaelB). The Concern I have now is that there are usually fixed costs - like a monthly access fee - that none of us want to take on during a serious downturn. That brings us to the next best thing. Some places have a "Freelancers Friday". The coffee and code is more like an open invitation to drop in. Of course, we'll have to watch just how much coffee we consume.

The Coffee and Code post by Joey deVilla was sent by @timoreilly.

Coffee and Code #1

Yesterday, I held the first Coffee and Code day at Toronto’s Urbana Coffee, at the corner of Bay and St. Joseph Streets. The Coffee and Code plan is a simple one: about one day a week, instead of working at the home office or Microsoft’s Toronto or Mississauga offices, I set myself up in a wifi-equipped cafe somewhere in Toronto. As a result, instead of being tucked away, I’m easy to reach, where you can walk up, join me for a coffee and talk about Microsoft, programming, the industry or just about anything else.

Urbana’s Bay/St. Joseph branch used to be a hair salon, which means that its south half, where the stylists used to work, has plenty of power outlets. Although their wifi requires a password, it’s clearly written on the chalkboard behind the counter. As long as you buy something, they don’t seem to mind people hanging out all day – I was there at 11 a.m. and stayed for a full seven hours.

I love it and I'm now looking for suitable cafes with free wifi.

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