April 2008

Written by Lori Thiessen

Blame Adam, he started this whole naming craze. With the creation of the Internet and its plethora of new words, the latest designation dilemma seems settling on an edgy, hip, fab sounding, tribal title for the fine folks who choose to work out of their local coffee shop.

Here’s a partial offering of caffeinated cognomens:

· Entrepreneur

· Freelancer/contract worker

· Teleworker (replacing the now outdated Telecommutor due to laptops and wi-fi)

· Mobile worker

· Independent worker

· Portfolio careerist

· Web worker

· Road warrior

· Bedouin

· Neo-Nomad

I’m not against naming really. It helps to put labels, however temporary and general, on things like trends. Labels help conversations about well, stuff, to move along. The wide variety of names being bandied about for people who work out of coffee shops means that there are enough people doing it that it needs naming. Personally, I’m not that keen about any of the monikers I’ve spotted so far. The first seven are just dull. The last three are just a little too hip for me. When I see the words road warrior, bedouin and neo-nomad, I get a vision of Mad Maxx wearing a stud-bedecked leather ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ outfit, brandishing a spike-encrusted laptop and screaming: “Gimme your bandwidth!” The uber-geeks among us might relish this image of themselves. Good for you, my friends.

However, there’s got to be another appellation floating around in the ether that fits us more moderate types. Not drab, not flashy just appropriately ‘now’.

Q: What names have you seen or thought of to describe this new kind of worker?

Thanks for dropping by and join me soon for another virtual cup of coffee and conversation!


Written by Lori Thiessen

Remember the television and screen writers’ strike a few weeks ago? We were stuck with endless reruns on the box, but did you also notice that your local coffee hang out might have been a little more empty then. Look around you. Finding your coffee shop a little more crowded these days? It may not just be spring causing coffee drinkers to pop out of the woodwork.

A friend of mine walked into her local East Vancouver java joint and she was miffed to see a sea of laptops awash over the whole place. She pointed this out to the barista. “The strike is over and so I think the writers are back”, the barista replied. If you are experiencing a similar lack of sitting space at your favorite caffeine connection, then you might be rubbing elbows with the “longing-to-be-rich-and-famous” writers of both screens.

Now you might expect to find a writer or two in Hollywood. There are some famous and favoured places to hang out and write the next big thing in movies, like Insomnia Cafe, Stir Crazy, Bourgeois Pig and Espresso Mi Cultura. Vancouver aka Hollywood North (at least until the US dollar took a dive) hosts a fair-sized clan of writers, would-be or otherwise. Just as each coffeehouse in 18th century London, England served a different community or industry (e.g. Lloyd’s Coffeehouse provided coffee and shipping information to local marine insurers), it seems reasonable that certain coffee shops in Vancouver are serving the needs of specific groups of folks.

If you are a local Vancouverite, you will immediately tag Commercial Drive as a place to find writers of all sorts not just tv and screen writers. As the epi-centre for all things alternative, Commercial Drive is the perfect place for the coffee to come with a hefty dash of creative inspiration. Kits (especially along 4th) would be a great place to bash out a script for something like “jPod” or other hip, edgy, ironic slice of sleek modern life. All it takes is a laptop, plenty of good coffee, time, a gift for storytelling as well as an insightful and incisive wit. Oh yeah, and a paying contract doesn’t hurt. Java don’t come cheap!

Q: Which local Vancouver places do you know or imagine to be good places for writers and why?

Thanks for dropping by and come again soon for another virtual cup and conversation!

Written by Lori Thiessen

To be honest, I’m a little tired about all the buzz about networking. It does make a difference to your work life and social life but there is something … something inorganic and unnatural about it all.

The coffee shop makes networking somewhat more natural. It seems reasonable to strike up a conversation with someone over a cup of coffee. Samuel Pepys, the famous 17th century diarist, haunted the coffeehouses of his day for various reasons. He went for ‘sodality’ , to hang out with the guys. He went to hear debates on different topics. Mostly, Pepys went to coffeehouses to network for business reasons. He wasn’t content being just a junior clerk in a government department. Like an ambitious young (or not so young) careerist, he decided what he needed to know and he made friends with the merchants who had that knowledge. After a while, Pepys was able to use that knowledge to change his job from menial to meaningful. The friends he made at the coffeehouse helped him move up the power and money ladder.

Fast forward to San Francisco 2007. Employers are banging their heads over the lack of skilled workers. How do you connect with the people you need? Brett Levine of Dovetail Television, a web video company, decided to stand up at his local coffee shop and ask for what he needed: a talented ActionScript programmer (Fost, “Where Neo-Nomads’ Ideas Percolate” SFGate.com, 03/11/07). A few hands rose up. Interviews happened. Levine didn’t find the person he was looking for, but this is guerilla networking. Blunt and honest. Maybe a tad too blunt, but where else can you do this but at a coffee shop?

Q: Tell us about a networking experience you or a friend of yours has had in a coffee shop.

Thanks for dropping by and come again soon for another virtual cup and conversation!

Written by Lori Thiessen

I’ve just read this great blog written by JaZilla (http://www.squidoo.com/coffeeshopoffice) with tips on finding a good coffee shop to work out of and some basic etiquette to observe while you work there.

According to JaZilla, it’s important to figure out what you want from your coffee shop office. Do you need it to be close by to your house? Is ambiance (up scale or more bare bones) a factor for you? If networking is critical to your business maybe you need to choose a coffee shop where potential clients or work partners hang out? Perhaps you need a few different coffee shops to serve different purposes (e.g. one for meeting clients in, one for burning the midnight oil, etc.)

JaZilla recommends trying out a few different places at different times to see where and when works best for you. Also, try to find an independent coffee shop. They may be more welcoming to you being there for hours at a time and hey, they are a small business just like you – we need to support each other!

Coffee shop manners are important not just for the other customers but for making a good impression on people. To make the barista love you, tip and don’t bug him/her all the time. Remember this isn’t your home so don’t spread yourself all over the place. If the place gets busy, shove over and make room. Always use headphones and never, ever watch porn on your laptop in the coffee shop. And most of all, the barista isn’t your mom so clear up after yourself.

Q: What is the worst behaviour you’ve ever witnessed in a coffee shop from a mobile worker?

Thanks for dropping by and come again soon for another virtual cup and conversation!

It comes as no surprise to a lot of people that new wireless technology has had a dramatic effect on how people work. What isn’t so clear is how wireless technology will impact coffee sales, coffee shops and the emergence of more alternative work spaces.

As more and more of us go wireless and are mobile, the demand for places either outside of our home offices or traditional offices has increased. What is now a value-added feature of many coffee shops, wi-fi will become commonplace in large urban cities as it already has done in London, England. In 2003, Estates Gazette reported that there were over 100 wi-fi hotspots all over the city.

As more and more people flock to coffee shops to either seek out a place to get some serious work done, or to collaborate, or to escape the loneliness of the home office, savvy coffee shop owners will want to keep up with their competition by making wi-fi available. But coffee shops may have considerable competition in drawing the java commuter dollar because of places like WorkSpace in Vancouver (Gastown) where you can rent office space by the hour, day or month and they offer not only coffee but a more formal space to conduct your business and meet with other like-minded mobile workers. Other places are starting to get in on the act too. Hotels, pubs, and malls in London England are wiring up by installing wireless capabilities (Estates Gazette 2003).

Because java commuting is on the rise, there is potential to see that $5 latte become less expensive. But save your breathe . . . to cool your coffee.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest benefit about working from a coffee shop or café?

Thanks for dropping by and come again soon for another virtual cup and conversation!

Lori Thiessen

Since 1991, the number of people working from coffee shops has increased seven-fold (Economist 6/4/2003). Today’s workforce is becoming more mobile or at least more people are opting to work part of the time from their local coffee shop. Sounds like a hip new trend, right?

Well, not quite. Coffeehouses were a fixture of 18th century England, and within those badly built establishments people were doing all kinds of things: discussing scientific concepts, founding new businesses, starting what would later be known as the Fifth Estate or journalism, selling books and art, discussing politics, and even holding musical recitals. The activities within these establishments were as numerous as the number of coffeehouses operating in London in 1734 which was 551 legally licensed ones, in case you were wondering. Each coffeehouse played host to a particular niche or industry. If you wanted to find out about insuring cargo on a ship bound from India or China, you popped over to Edward Lloyd’s Coffeehouse down by the docks and talked to the men drinking coffee there. Edwards Lloyd’s Coffeehouse eventually became Lloyd’s of London, one of the biggest insurance companies in the world.

Closer to our time, coffee houses were the breeding ground for many Silicon Valley start-ups.

The coffee shop as office alternative is not really a new idea but an old idea that has been recycled for the new millennium.

Q: Which businesses do you think are best suited for using coffee houses as alternative offices and why?

Thanks for dropping by and come again soon for another virtual cup and conversation!

Lori Thiessen

Welcome to Coffee Shop Office, your local webspace coffeehouse! Pull up a chair, sit down and have a cup of virtual coffee. Let’s talk about working on the rim – the rim of a coffee mug that is.

So hands up how many of you are reading this on your laptop while you are sitting in a coffee shop or café? Okay. Put your hands down because you look silly and the barista will think you want a refill.

Did you have a chance to look around and see others working away on their laptops too, or reading/writing or having a business meeting or drawing something? Yeah, Gregg Taylor did too. At his local coffee shop over a large mug of java, he thought there is a trend happening here.

So Gregg enlisted the help of Lori Thiessen  and Aaron Cruikshank to help him to uncover why people like you and us high tail it to a coffee house to get our work done.

There is a website in process and we will let you know when we are up and running.

We want to hear about your experience working out of a coffee shop in your own words too so feel free to send us a short anecdote at coffeeshopoffice@gmail.com.

Thanks so much for dropping by and I’ll save your seat for you!

Lori Thiessen