On Ottawa beduins – or – We want Starbucks with whiteboards !!

We will be moving into new office space soon. It is exciting time, stepping from working (mostly) at customer’s locations to own project office. Location is of course Kanata Business Park North, with nice view to a golf course. This location brings several changes against the office in downtown – some of them are great – such as 1) we have lot’s of space and 2) parking is not an issue – arrive any time, park as long as you wish. Some of them are not so great – selection of possible choices for lunch shrunk considerably (with very few in walking distance) and to get to closest Tim Hortons you have to drive (unless you are ready for 25 minute walk one way). In case you are wondering – we are keeping the office at Albert Street – it is managed by same company as the new place, so we are just scaling up.

Now what relation has all this with the title – and who are the beduins ? Moving into own office may look these days like swimming against the stream. More and more people seems to be going the other way – out of office, towards working in public places – typically coffee shops (preferably with wireless access). It is quite a movement, judging by the topics of the blogs like Coffee Places Are My Office Space, Public Space As Office Space, The Coffee House Office of the Future or Why pay for rent and coffee?.

Some consider this to be a sign of new wave of start-ups: The rise of the cafe start up, Coffee Shops are the New Garages, Forget garages coffee shops are where businesses get started or Web-based Apps plus Coffee Shop equals Start-up Company. The site Web Worker Daily is a virtual exchange board of tips and hints for the modern Bedouins – “geographically uprooted from office-space, always-connected through wifi- and mobile broadband connections, laptop-hauling, latte-sipping cyber-beduins”. You can see them anywhere where they find WiFi connection or at least a power outlet. Our move from working mostly out at various customer’s locations represents a sort of “de-beduinization” if you wish, settling down, putting down the roots πŸ™‚

This coffee-office culture is very visible in California (judging by the bedu-bloggers geography), but I’ve already notice signs of the new wave happening in Ottawa – even before I found the blogs above. Just look around in Starbucks at Chapters and you will find several people having meetings and at least 2-3 notebook workers every time. And btw – did you notice how many of these notebooks are actually Macs ?

I like working in coffee shops and use them as “creative retreat” as often as possible. What is great is the smell of fresh coffee and proximity of large quantity of books. All together it creates very stimulating environment for creative thinking. But I am quite sceptical on idea of having Starbucks or other public place as primary working place – as many of the cyber-beduins attempt to accomplish. My two main objections are that you cannot really have quality business discusion or phone call in environment like that (because of noise and privacy issues) and complete lack of whiteboards in each of the mentioned coffee shops. As you know, one cannot do design of pretty much anything without proper square footage of whiteboard space – (sorry, all you UML design tools makers out there). Which is exactly why we are moving in rather than moving out.

I am aware of the issues that such project office brings (or at least I think I am) – as Greg Olsen puts it:

“… dealing with real estate leases, leased-lines, routers, VPNs, servers, workstations, firewalls, DMZs, UPSs, telephone systems, voicemail systems, email systems, web servers & website management software, accounting software, sales & marketing software, software development software, groupware, IT support staff, attorneys, and many other things – none of which were directly related to our core business …”

but I can hardly wait until it happens. See you soon at the 349 Terry Fox πŸ˜‰

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