My book, Designing Data-Intensive Applications, was published by O’Reilly in March 2017.
Published by Martin Kleppmann on 03 Nov 2008.
Coworking is a concept I’ve only recently come across, but it is an excellent idea.
What’s it all about? If you don’t usually have an office to go to (because you’re a freelancer, or because your company is virtual, or because you’re on the road a lot etc.) you have probably experienced that slight madness which sets in after a while when you’ve been in the same room for too long, had too little contact to other human beings, lost the excitement and motivation, feel you’re getting stuck in a rut of just working and not really developing any further…
Watch this video (from Podtech).
“How can I have the kind of community and the kind of cool people around me that I’d have at a place like Google, without having to join Google? Without having to join a big company?”
Community is incredibly important; we are social beings. There seem to be two schools of thought on how independent workers can form communities: Some think that it’s best to meet at specific times/dates for socials; monthly pub meets, networking events and things like OpenCoffee and Likemind fall into this category. The coworking philosophy is a bit different, it’s more about having a space where you can both get work done and also socialise, all day every day. (No reason you can’t have both types of community obviously.)
I think this is a thoroughly brilliant idea. It addresses a number of problems and provides new opportunities:
Two weeks ago I visited The Werks in Brighton, founded by James McCarthy and Ian Elwick. I really liked the atmosphere there, and I fully agree with their philosophy of openness. There are many more examples are listed on the Coworking Wiki, such as The Hub with several branches in London and elsewhere.
My company has an office in St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge. We moved there in the hope of finding a vibrant, buzzy environment full of young people and start-ups, but I’m sad to say that so far this hasn’t been my experience. The companies are hidden away behind their individual unit doors. There are a few people who are good to talk to, but mostly I feel like the people there are more or less like the people in a corporate environment, bored with their jobs, not really excited about anything, waiting for the end of the day so that they can go home. I may be grossly misunderstanding them, but that has been my impression.
What I really would like is something like a coworking environment. I envisage something very transparent and strongly community-driven, functioning a bit like an Open Source software project – anybody who can contribute in some way does contribute. Of course it will have to pay the bills, but it might work best if the owner of the space actually had no commercial interests, was a registered charity or community interest company, and the accounts were open for to all to see; that way it would be easy for everybody to see how they are part of the financing of the space. Of course, in order to work as a charity, a lot of work will have to be done by volunteers, so it will depend very strongly on fairness and mutual respect.
I would like to have a discussion with people working independently in and around Cambridge, to gauge the level of interest. Apparently there was a recent thread on the Refresh Cambridge mailing list, which is an encouraging starting point. Please use the comment facility below or send me an email, and please spread the word. If we can get a critical mass together, I think we should seriously consider setting up something like this in Cambridge.
EDIT: There is currently a lively discussion on the Refresh Cambridge mailing list (as a member you can read it in the archive), and a public Cambridge Coworking Wiki has been set up by Dave Briggs. Please join the discussion there.