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The Social Workspace: Coworking

The Social Workspace: Coworking

The Social Workspace: Coworking

    Since I’ve been thinking about the spaces we work in a lot lately, I thought I’d talk a bit about the new approach to work that’s taking hold among many self-employed and telecommuting workers these days: coworking. There are several different approaches to coworking, but the basic idea is simple: create a space where a bunch of people can work comfortably.

    Most coworking facilities move beyond the idea of just providing a simple working space for a small fee to creating a social environment in which a community of similar-minded folks can get work done but also feel some of the camaraderie of a traditional office space. For instance, Launchpad Coworking in Austin offers “camaraderie, low workspace overhead, a chance for collaboration, and darn good coffee”; New Work City in NYC describes itself as “the gathering spot for a community of like-minded individuals who need somewhere to work that’s both creative and social, and professional and conducive to working.”

    How it works

    Most coworking facilities are more akin to a cool coffee house than an office suite. Some offer 24/7 access and a personal desk or workstation for a few hundred dollars a month; others offer a shared common room with tables or desks on a first-come, first-served basis. In most cases, you pay a membership fee based on your needs – you might pay $25 for a day pass or $500 for a reserved desk and your own set of keys.

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    For your money, you get not only a place to sit, but a range of business services and equipment at your disposal, including fax machines, photocopiers, printers, and wi-fi Internet access. Many coworking facilities also offer free coffee and snacks, lectures and workshops, and group activities. Some have conference rooms available, phone and receptionist service, mail delivery, and other amenities more typical of an office suite.

    Who coworks?

    The most important “resource” coworking facilities offer, though, is other people working alongside you. Freelancers and other self-employed people tend to be a) incredibly creative, b) very entrepreneurial, and c) very generous. Bring them together and you start laying the groundwork for a network of smart, creative, driven, and knowledgeable people who offer each other advice, collaboration, camaraderie, and “creative juice”.

    This philosophy is reflected in the fact that most coworking centers don’t “rent office space”, they offer “membership”. And those members might include commercial writers, graphic designers, journalists, novelists, web programmers, working musicians and actors, and solopreneurs.

    Why cowork?

    Besides the neat facilities, there are lots of reasons that people choose to cowork. Some just get a charge out of the creative energy of this kind of workspace. Others need a comfortable place they can meet with clients or partners.

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    For most coworkers, though, I think the biggest factor is the loneliness of working at home. Until you’ve left an office job behind, it’s hard to understand how enervating working at home can be. Some thrive at home, of course, but many struggle. I know I do – when I  don’t have classes to teach or another reason to leave the house, I can sometimes go for days without having a conversation with another person!

    Coworking facilities help ease this sense of isolation – even for people who never utter a word to their fellow members. Just the simple fact of being out and about can be a powerful motivator for many work-at-home types.

    Where can you cowork?

    Coworking is a new enough concept that it can be hard to find coworking facilities, even in major cities. (My own hometown of Las Vegas doesn’t have one, for example, although I’m strongly considering that as a call to action!)

    The Coworking Wiki lists coworking spaces and plans, along with tons of other information about coworking.

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    Another resource is the Coworking Community Blog, which has a Google Map showing the location of coworking spots around the world.

    You can also Google “coworking + [your city]” and see what comes up.

    If you’re travelling, check to see if your coworking space is part of the Coworking Visa group. If it is, you can use coworking spaces in cities all around the US for up to three days for no extra charge.

    If you can’t find a coworking space near you, don’t despair. There are a couple of coworking options that you might still consider.

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    The first is a Jelly, an informal coworking event held regularly in over 100 cities worldwide. Jellies don’t usually take place in dedicated workspaces; rather, it is a gathering of several people at a coffee shop, restaurant, or other place of business (and sometimes even in people’s homes!) that offers wi-fi and is amenable to hosting a bunch of creative workers. You can find a list of Jellies on the Jelly wiki. No membership is required, and they’re typically free. (You should probably buy something from the hosting establishment, though!) If there isn’t one near you, it’s relatively easy to start your own Jelly, too.

    Many cities also host coworking meetups, open to anyone interested in joining or starting a coworking space in their town. You can find a list on Meetup.com; meetups are sometimes free, but often the organizers ask for a small payment of a dollar or two to help defray the charge Meetup.com charges for hosting their group.

    Finally, you can start your own. The authors of I’m Outta Here, a book about coworking, have a one-page guide to starting a coworking group that will help get you started. The Coworking Google Group can connect you with interested people from all over for advice and encouragement, too. The key thing is to start building a community of people who want to be involved and to work out what kind of coworking situation will work best given that community’s needs and desires. From there, you can determine how to proceed – a full-fledge coworking location is a real business, and there is simply no one-size-fits-all plan for creating one.

    Is coworking for you?

    If you would benefit from being around other creative people, if your work keeps you on the move and you’d like to see a friendly face now and again, if working at home isn’t quite coming together, drop in to a coworking space or a Jelly near you and see if you like it. Since most of them offer one-day visits, you can check it out without making any long-term commitment. Maybe coworking is something that would be useful once or twice a month, just for a change of pace? Or maybe you’ll be hooked!

    If you’re already using a coworking facility in your town, let us know in the comments how you like it. If you run one, feel free to let us know all about it! And, if you live in Las Vegas and think we could use a coworking space, let me know – I might want to get in touch with you!

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    Last Updated on May 14, 2019

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

    1. Zoho Notebook
      If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
    2. Evernote
      The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
    3. Net Notes
      If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
    4. i-Lighter
      You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
    5. Clipmarks
      For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
    6. UberNote
      If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
    7. iLeonardo
      iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
    8. Zotero
      Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

    I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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    In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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