[FoRK] Co-working spaces (was Re: LA Traffic - solution?)

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun Sep 2 00:57:43 PDT 2012

On 9/1/12 11:47 PM, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:
> On Sep 1, 2012, at 11:00 PM, "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
>> On 9/1/12 10:41 PM, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:
>>> This produces a co-working space that is mediocre for everyone. Much better to have a completely decentralized network of specialized co-working spaces that cater to the needs of their respective clientele.
>> Sure, but what we have now is no coworking spaces at all in the vast majority of the country and world.
>> I wasn't suggesting that there would be no specialization.  I was suggesting taking the best of a number of different strategies to address a certain broad range, then replicate that widely.
> What I was taking issue with is that the strategy being proffered was largely ignoring the reason we don't already have co-working spaces in those areas: suburban sprawl, prohibitive zoning, and wide-spread city planning that makes efficient and effective co-working non-viable. It *has* spontaneously started to show up in some places that are naturally amenable to it in that the above issues are minimized so there is probably some economy to the idea.

I've never lived in a part of the US that fits your "suburban sprawl, prohibitive zoning, and ... city planning ... makes efficient 
and effective co-working non-viable".  Ohio, Northern Virginia, Mountain View, downtown San Jose, even semi-living in Honolulu: all 
had office and plentiful warehouse space in or near major population centers yet many commuted large distances.  There are 10's of 
thousands of square feet of available office space, much of it available, within 1 mile or so of the center of SJ, which is where I 
live.  Real estate costs are probably still a bit high, but nothing like SF or Palo Alto or NYC.  I'm sure there are deals to be had.

We differ about what is holding cowork growth back: I think the main things holding back widespread cowork are: Willingness and 
comfortableness of companies to use it, ready facilities that have a critical mass of low cost, ease of reservation, security of 
various kinds, complete enough and trustable facilities that can be integrated into the mother space, and parking or other 
effective, fast transportation solution.

Additionally, many of those that might create cowork space for tiny startups or otherwise be an emergent cowork force simply work 
from home.  That is already a sunk cost generally and therefore the most economical solution.  These could be lured into fractional 
use with the right kind of facility and pricing, leading to a lot of use during growth phases.

> Overlaying a co-working initiative on top of that toxic foundation has "boondoggle" written all over it. Kind of like all of those cities that tried to turn themselves into Silicon Valley -- cargo cult policy. And that is why it will never work for the vast majority of suburbs; it is politically implausible for the necessary changes to be made on the scale required. Without those changes, co-working initiatives will be like carpool lanes -- feel-good initiatives that produce little net value.

A startup that tried to create an optimized string of cowork spaces would constitute a boondoggle?  I don't follow.

>> There's no reason that every instance would have special facilities to support every possible specialization.
> The nice thing about decentralized markets is that you do not have to centrally plan the specialized services everyone will provide. They will (hopefully) adapt to the market demand. Effective co-working does not require central planning to emerge, that much is evident in real-world cases.

I never proposed a centralized plan.
>> IT basics among different specialties have a lot of overlap, although Wacom pen monitors, 3D mice, large dual monitors, etc. are only intrinsic to certain groups.
> Co-working is a social change masquerading as a logistical change. It becomes successful when it is allowed to reorganize the networks of people involved in a business. Co-working is not about office space, IT, or some other commodity you can buy.

How is placement and structure of corporate office facilities, related services, and agreements not logistical?
The perception of human nature and distance, lack of face time (if you only assume traditional bad conference calls), and the like 
are both logistical and predictions of effects of human nature.

> Co-working as logistics is a well-trod path with a mediocre history.  Co-working as a reorganization of the people network is a new phenomenon and showing much more potential. There is no reason to be sanguine when treating it like the former.

People don't want to waste big portions of their lives and money commuting.  Companies would like happier employees, more productive 
work time, and lower turnover and broader hiring base.  I'm not sure what you're alluding to, but the main goals are pretty simple 
and obvious.  Companies often don't trust people working at home, or that their proprietary information won't leak.  They don't want 
to have to set anything up, negotiate a lot of contracts, pay many extra bills, etc.  These are all problems that haven't really be 
solved from the point of view of most corporations, government agencies, etc.


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