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

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Sun Sep 2 11:44:08 PDT 2012

On 9/2/12 11:15 AM, J. Andrew Rogers wrote:
> On Sep 2, 2012, at 12:57 AM, "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
>> 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.
> The choice is not co-working versus corporate office. It is co-working versus home office. This has been evaluated by many companies. Availability of office space is usually irrelevant.
> Having people work at home beats co-working every time using your model. That is why co-working has never taken off in the places you mention. Under different parameters though, co-working can work well and has in practice.
> To extend your argument, who wants to waste time commuting to a co-working space when they can "commute" to their home office? Just because people at your company live nearby does not mean they are people you would  ever need or want to interact with. In a sprawling suburb there is a low probability that people who would benefit from co-working together are going to be anywhere near each other. It does not fix the commute problem, it just rearranges it. You have to solve this problem or co-working becomes a euphemism for "satellite office".

To have environment, support, and / or equipment not convenient or possible at home.  Chief among these should be really 
excellent video conferencing meeting rooms, preferably using 360 degree cameras and HD.

To have a meeting place for the local group.

To have a verifiably secure corporate space, etc.

People generally don't mind commuting a few minutes a day, it is 1-3 hours per day that is a grind and significant waste.
>> 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.
> I don't buy that Silicon Valley is so backward thinking that this is why it has not taken off. Co-working works well in other cities. Co-working spaces with all the features you mention have been available in Silicon Valley for as long as I lived there; I used a few. They sucked for reasons having nothing to do with the issues you raise.

I am aware of multiple large companies, especially including one Japanese-centric one that I left not long ago, that have many 
workers who want to avoid commuting but cannot.  Many companies, especially large ones, cannot reach a level of comfortableness 
to even seriously consider the prospect of work at home or co-work. The fact that there are several million people in the 
SF/SJ/Oakland/Berkeley metro area but only a few hundred, perhaps, working in co-work spaces seems indicative that this is an 
entrenched problem.

My point was that a properly designed service might get significant numbers over the threshold of at least considering the 
prospect of co-working.

You seem to be saying there is no need for that because...?  It already exists as much as it needs to?  Actually architecting a 
solution based on what corporations are looking for could never succeed compared to bottom up emergent organic spaces that 
spring into existence?  What are you railing against exactly?

What was it about the existing co-working spaces that sucked?  Did you detail that already?
>> 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.
> Co-working spaces are quite popular for tiny startups where I live. Again, you are missing what is attractive about them -- they are not about office space. I know plenty of people with tiny startups that walk from their home office to a co-working space. Co-working is more about the "co" than the "working". It is a different way of organizing the tech social networks.

Yes, for startup dating and cross-support and community, you benefit a lot from something like a co-work hacker space.  There 
have been art spaces, chopped up into little mini-studios for a long time.  I visited one in Boston many years ago.  The Torpedo 
Factory Art Center in Alexandria Virginia is a good example of a co-work, club, educational facility, gallery, museum, 
commercial and tourist space.

We need spaces that cater to individuals and small groups trying to get startups together and off the ground.  That doesn't mean 
that other formulations or branches are not needed for workers in other circumstances, i.e. those working for larger startups or 
other corporations or government agencies.  I can think of a dozen features that haven't been tried to make those entities much 
more interested in a solution that solves the commuting problem.

You seem to be insisting on a particular small startup friendly flavor of co-work space when the concept is much more broad and 
mostly unapplied to date.


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