Exploring the global coworking movement!

Testers Wanted For New Coworking iPhone App!

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If you live in the San Francisco area, you and your iPhone are needed…STAT!

Ok, it’s not all that urgent, but it could be a cool opportunity. Some background:

http://www.coffeeandpower.com is an online marketplace that allows mobile or freelance professionals (but it’s not limited) to buy and sell small jobs from one another. (It’s like Fiverr, but with a slightly higher budget and better quality). Lots of people make a decent income finding work on C&P. So the site’s creators decided they’d help out by  making it easier for those mobile professionals to find each other and work together in person.

Coffee & Power has a newly minted iPhone coworking app which enables professionals who routinely cowork to rapidly find one another and work  together. (You may have previewed this at GCUC where C&P co-founder Fred was demoing it.) It’s available on the iPhone store now at http://bit.ly/candpapp.

And here’s the part where you come in:

“We are looking for 10 to 20 people from the San Francisco tech community to help us roll out the next version of Coffee & Power.  We’re developing an iPhone app which enables C&P tech professionals who routinely work in public locations like coffee shops and coworking facilities to rapidly find one another and work together.

“We need help testing and using the early versions of the app as well as greeting and helping newly arriving members as we scale up, and will potentially pay a small weekly stipend if you match these requirements:

You are in tech (design, development, marketing, management)
You cowork at a public location in SF (coffee shop, open co-working facility, etc) 3+ days/week
You have an iPhone (with iOS version 5 or greater)
You are friendly and approachable

“If you meet these requirements and could spare a little time every day to help us, email us at ambassadors -at- coffeeandpower.com with: your favorite places in SF to cowork, a link to your bio/resume/FB, and a quick description of the kind of things you do while coworking.”

Voila! Now go forth, and collaborate!

Image via Flickr/scobleizer

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LEXC Reveals Criteria For “Excellence” In A Coworking Space

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LEXC LogoLast week, I wrote a quick report about a new coworking space network for Shareable.net. The network, with the slightly cheesy name of “The League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces,” or LEXC for short, was designed to provide a seamless coworking experience for mobile professionals on the go in the United States.

Here’s a little excerpt of the Shareable article:

.”..Traveling, a common requirement for remote and freelance professionals, presents a unique problem for coworking regulars. Not only can it be arduous to locate a coworking space in a new city, but drop-in fees can be an unwelcome expense.

For years coworkers have longed for a streamlined way to access coworking spaces around the world without worrying about membership cards and extra costs. And now it seems that something has arrived.

LEXC is a unique network of coworking spaces with a common standard of excellence. LEXC venues have come together to provide, for the first time, a seamless coworking experience in cities around the US. At long last, members of any LEXC venue now enjoy trusted access and full privileges at any other venue in the network. If you’re a member of one LEXC venue, you’re now a member of all LEXC venues.”

As I shared the piece with my coworking colleagues via social media, I was slightly surprised to see a less than enthusiastic response to this news.

“Oh, I didn’t realize that there were 6 spaces better than the rest,” stated one friend.

“Feels exclusive to me. Concerned about one group determining what spaces are ‘qualified,’” tweeted another.

While I tend to automatically embrace anything that makes it easier for individuals to access the global coworking community, I realized that these cynics had a point: no where on the LEXC.org site did it state what made a coworking space “excellent” or how they had decided which six spaces to include at launch.

Coming from a global community that embraces coworking in many different shapes and sizes, and that in general rejects hierarchy or exclusivity, these were valid concerns. In the interest of clarification, I decided to ask LEXC to provide some insight into the criteria by which they’ll be judging applicants, and what they’re doing to ensure that LEXC is truly about enhanced access for traveling coworkers and not just about a “club” for coworking spaces that have the best funding/amenities.

According to Bill Jacobson of WorkBar in Boston, a few of the things that define LEXC locations include:

  • all are in the prime business of running a coworking space — this isn’t a side project of another main tenant of the space.
  • all provide a mix of hotdesk and dedicated workspaces.
  • all are professionally managed by full-time, dedicated personnel.
  • all thrive on being a diverse community of professionals interested in joining a coworking space to hone and share their skills as much as a place to grow their business.
  • all are committed to providing a combination of workspace, events and education to support members and the surrounding community.

“Hopefully that explains what we mean when we say ‘excellent,’” said Jacobson. “By it, we express that a venue is a truly excellent example of a coworking space. Any qualitative criteria are ultimately subjective, but it’s quite reasonable to say that not all coworking spaces fit these criteria. It’s also reasonable to say that these criteria can make any coworking space better. These are finally, characteristics that we want LEXC members to uniformly expect no matter where they choose to work.”

So it would seem that LEXC’s position is not so much about exclusivity or hierarchy but rather, about offering the user community a dependable experience from the user’s point of view. It’s user-centric versus provider-centric. That’s an important distinction, with emphasis on trust and dependability for the coworkers themselves.

“LEXC is not as much about hierarchy as it is about aspirations and standards,” added Jerome Chang of BLANKSPACES. “Our aim is simply to provide a great experience.  With a fast-growing and increasingly mobile user community and so many different coworking spaces out there, the founding spaces felt we all believed in achieving the same ideals in similar ways. We offer the coworking community a dependable and rewarding experience wherever they find us. This includes everything from ease in locating and booking workspace, to maintaining a clean, friendly, professional environment with commercial grade furnishings and furnishings and infrastructure. We look forward to having others join us who share the same collection of ideals, from service and culture to operations and environment.”

In light of these clarifications, I’d like to re-pose my original question: What do you guys think about LEXC? Does it make coworking spaces more accessible or exclusive? Share your thoughts in a comment or message me on Twitter.

Special thanks to Josh Jones-Dilworth for helping to gather these responses.

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Freelancer Must-Read: Shareable’s Crowdfunding Nation eBook

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Shareable - Crowdfunding Nation eBook

Crowdfunding Nation, Shareable’s week-long series about the rise, evolution, uses, and future of crowdfunding, is now available as a Kindle eBookCrowdfunding Nation: The Rise and Evolution of Collaborative Funding provides an in-depth look at this transformative tool and its many implications for creators, makers, entrepreneurs, and social movements.

Crowdfunding Nation: The Rise and Evolution of Collaborative Funding includes articles on crowdfunding’s history, future, and its usefulness for social movements, how-to guides exploring the best practices for launching a campaign, the legal considerations of crowdfunding and, case studies of innovative and inspiring crowdfunding projects, and an interview with Kickstarter’s Daniella Jaeger.

Included in the Crowdfunding Nation: The Rise and Evolution of Collaborative Funding eBook:

Crowdfunding: Its Evolution and Its Future

• Crowdfunding Nation: The Rise and Evolution of Collaborative Funding
• Crowdfunding Social Change
• Of The Crowd: An Interview With Daniella Jaeger of Kickstarter

Crowdfunding How-To Guides

• What You’ll Need to Run a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
• How To Run a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
• Crowdfunding and the Law

Perspectives on Crowdfunding

• Why Crowdfunding Isn’t Really About Money
• The Enabling City: Crowdfunding Urban Livability
• Loudsauce Crowdfunds Advertising That Matters
• The Motorhome Diaries: The Dance of Crowdfunding
• The Top Shareable Crowdfunded Projects

Buy Crowdfunding Nation: The Rise and Evolution of Collaborative Funding for $2.99 in the Kindle store.

Buy the no-DRM ePub: (ePub version can be used on the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android eBook reader apps, Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, and most other non-Kindle eBook readers.)

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Why Coworking And The Mobile Workforce Can Save The World

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Most people think freelancing is radical (not radical cool, but radical weird).

Many people can’t even imagine what it would be like to work someplace other than a corporate office with 3 – 5 “managers” watching you like a hawk.

Even some freelancers find it hard to believe they can earn a living wage without working 60 hours a week.

In the Ignite Fort Collins video below, my friend and fellow independent professional Nick Armstrong talks about why it’s bullshit to think this way.

To Nick’s fabulous points I would add that it is the responsibility of the very special mobile workers who make up the global coworking community to share this wisdom with the world.

Deskmag recently published an article about results of the 2011 Freelance Industry Report which found that while around one-third of the U.S. workforce is unemployed (those are 2005 stats btw), only about three percent use coworking spaces or shared offices.

Not surprisingly, the report also found that most freelancers list managing time, staying productive, and maintaining motivation throughout the work week as their biggest challenges.

Remember, you don’t have to become a 24/7 coworking evangelist to help share its solutions with your peers. Don’t inundate your fellow freelancers with articles and tweets. Instead, just let them see how happy you are. Talk about how coworking makes your more productive/connected/profitable. Talk about life before coworking, and the different path down which your business would have traveled if you didn’t find it.

Talk about benefits of coworking that have nothing to do with business or money: like how it gave you back your soul and got you showering again.

The coworking movement is growing rapidly, but there are still millions of professionals trapped in the belief that the 8-hour work day is the only way to work.

Let’s be a good community by setting the record straight. Together, we can save the world from 40 hours in a cube.

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International Coworking Day 2011 – Celebrate Location-Independent Work

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Tomorrow, August 9th, is International Coworking Day 2011!

Because it’s an unofficial holiday and because coworkers like to party, the way that you celebrate is open to interpretation. We’d love to hear about how you and your space will be spreading the word about collaboration, community and coworking on this day!

Send pictures, links, podcasts and other delightful info about your celebration to gonecoworking @ gmail.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming Shareable article!

(Note: the article will only happen if I get enough submissions. And so far I’ve only got three. So get clicking!)

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On Social Media, Timing Is Everything (Infographic)

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No matter what you do as a freelancer, chances are some aspect of it depends on (or at least utilizes) social media to be successful.

Maybe you promote your blog posts via a Facebook page, or maybe you network with potential clients via LinkedIn. Point being that unless you’re trying really hard to avoid it, social media is part of your everyday life.

But just because we’re doing something everyday, doesn’t mean we’re doing it right.

Take me, for instance. I own or manage five different Twitter accounts. If you asked me, the best time of day to get retweeted is around 9 in the morning.

Survey says? 5 pm. Surprised? Scroll on.

via DigitalBuzz

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Must-Have Gadgetry For Traveling Freelancers

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Whether you’re on the road for 3 days or 3 months, these are the gadgets that will keep you sane and working.

Although we’re not living on the road anymore, being a freelancer is still a mobile life. We recently traveled to visit family in Tennessee, and although it was supposed to be vacation, like any good workaholic, my laptop and workload came along for the ride.

Working while far away from home and your favorite coworking space can be frustrating and difficult if you don’t have the right technology packed into your bag. Here are some gadgets that no traveling freelancer should ever be without.

1. A Personal Hot Spot

As part of the mobile workforce, I’m pretty good at poaching free internet anywhere I can find it. Fast-food restaurants, libraries, and once while on the road, a truck-stop parking lot. The only thing about Wifi is that it’s not always free, secure, or fast-enough. If you’re tired of being at the mercy of unpredictable Wifi connections, the answer is a personal hot spot.

During the RV trip, I used a Verizon MiFi like the one pictured above. IT WAS AND IS A LIFE-SAVER. It’s secure and works wirelessly or via a USB cable. It works seamlessly while driving down the highway and can support up to five wireless devices at once. The only drawback is that if Verizon coverage is spotty in a certain area, your internet will be spotty too. I’d say this happens about 5% of the time.

2. A Lap Desk

This is something I never had while on the road, but wished I did. You never know when you’ll need to bust out your laptop to answer an email or toss up a blog post. I can tell you from experience that balancing a laptop on your knees while bouncing down the interstate is a real work inhibitor. There are all kinds of fancy lap desks available these days, including some styles with pouches for pens, drawers for note paper, cooling fans, and yes, even cup holders.

3. Trackstick II

Gadling reports the Trackstick II is “designed specifically for integration with Google Earth, Trackstick II is a GPS device that lets you “keep a satellite scrapbook of all your travels and record your explorations.” It’s like having a trail of live map pushpins follow you wherever you go! I didn’t have one of these either, but I can tell you that it would have alleviated a lot of “I’m not blogging about this and I should be” stress.

4. Car Power Adapter

Another life-saver on the road. There are many different iterations of this gadget, some with multiple attachments for different devices. Finding one with a three prong outlet was amazing for me because it meant that I could charge my laptop while driving down the road. Talk about a mobile office!

What other devices are essential for freelancers working far from home? Share them in a comment!

Image Credits: Flickr – techbirmingham | whatleydude |

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Coworking In The Emerald City: A Visit To Office Nomads

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Member Wall at Office Nomads

Note: Today’s “nomadic” post comes to us from Ashok Amaran of Cohere!

A benefit of being a digital nomad, freelancer, independent/remote worker, virtual CEO, whatever you want to call it, is that you don’t have to be tied down to a specific location if you feel like getting up and going on vacation somewhere. Lately I’ve been feeling less motivated and needing a change in scenery so I decided to hop on a plane and stay with a cousin in a different city for a week.

It also helped that I had some free flights from last year that I needed to use up before they expired.

Not being too busy this month, I decided to head out to Seattle for a week and then from there down to San Diego and stay with cousins who are working in both cities. It seemed like a great chance for me to shake up my surroundings, hang out with cousins, and not even miss a beat with work. Upon hearing about this, Angel, the owner of my home coworking space, mentioned I should drop by another coworking spot and connected me with the wonderful folks at Office Nomads which is in the heart of downtown Seattle on Capitol Hill. She said I could do so because of the….

The Coworking Visa Program

What?! Sounded to me like a new credit card — but it’s way better. Apparently if you’re a member of a coworking space in one city, you can drop in on select coworking spaces around the country (and the world!) while you’re traveling! As a coworker, I had no idea… although now that I think about it, it’s not something you consider: “how am I going to cowork while on vacation?”, because coworking is typically something you only do with others in your own community. But if you’re traveling, definitely check out the Coworking Visa Program to see if there’s a space that you can escape to for getting some work done and possibly connect with other independent professionals like yourself while in another city.

What to Expect

Sometimes, it can be hard to know what to expect when you’re arriving at a new space, so my approach is: expect the worst, but plan for the best. That way you are less likely to be disappointed. Remember that the coworkers you’ll be seeing are there by choice, not force like a corporate office, so they will be very approachable and likely share similar values as yourself of working independently. Just that simple commonality will help you connect with those you meet while coworking.

My Visit to Office Nomads

Immediately when I entered I was greeted by Charles. He introduced himself as a resident member who was helping out with tours, phones, and greeting drop-ins like myself. He gave a quick tour of the space and all the amenities including the kitchen, tea/coffee machine, restroom, all the desks to work at, the meeting rooms, and even showed the mid-day yoga class that was going on. (By the way, a yoga class in a coworking space is an amazing idea!).

Then Charles introduced me to both Susan and Jacob who run Office Nomads and because Wednesdays are the busiest day at the space, I took one of the only available spots on their desk.

The next few hours were filled with a burst of productivity on one of my projects, trying out a few teas in their vast collection, adding to their ingenious “What do you want to do before you die?” wall in the restroom, nerding out on the door that had at least 100 digits of e written out, admiring the collaborative collage wall that was updated live online, and conversing with a few coworkers about their work.

Overall an amazing day, and to top it off — Susan even graciously connected me to another App developer who was a resident member and I later caught up with him to discuss the App industry in which we’re both involved.

As Angel always says — or if she hasn’t said, she’s written — or if she hasn’t written, she’s thought — or if she hasn’t thought, she will at some point — that “Coworking is about spreading awesomeness”. And that’s exactly the vibe I got during my short visit to Office Nomads — a lot of awesomeness was being spread around.

Check out some more pics from Ashok’s visit to Office Nomads below!

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Colorado Coworking Mini-Tour: Part 2

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Boulder Digital Arts

Well, it’s been a few months, but @CohereLLC, @HeidiTown and I finally teamed up for Part 2 of the Colorado Coworking mini-tour that we started last fall.

Coworking spaces are popping up all over our beloved square state, and I was most impressed with the ones we visited this time around!

Boulder Digital Arts – Boulder, Colorado

Boulder Digital Arts (also pictured above) is a community resource for digital artists and creative professionals working in film/video, web/interactive, photography and graphic design. They recently expanded their offerings to include a bright new coworking space across the hall from their original suite.

I often comment on the fact that sunlight is one of the most important amenties at any coworking space. If you try to sit me under fluorescent lights, I’m gonna get stabby.

This was not a problem at BDA. The entire space is filled with natural light from windows at the front and above. The drop in workspace is a large, well outlet-ed table right up front that allows you to smile and wave at the regulars as they file in.

There are also a fair number of dedicated desks in the large room, as well as private offices around the perimeter. Joining the coworking space gets you sweet discounts on BDA workshops and classes, and being a BDA member gets you similar perks if you want to cowork!

If you’re ever in the area and want to spend the day coworking with the creatives at BDA, just drop Kira, their lovely community manager, an email at: info [ at ] boulderdigitalarts.com.

Network, A Coworking Spot – Longmont, Colorado

The best word to describe Network is cozy. And not in the shady landlord way, more in the “itty bitty but really comfortable” way. The space is designed for just 8 workstations in the large open room and has a small meeting room that sits 6 people in the back. There is a kitchenette in the main work room along with a work table where a print/copy/fax machine is available to use.

Network is owned and operated by Jessica, a stay-at-home-mom, so unlike other spaces you might visit, it’s not always staffed during business hours. Instead, members are given passcodes to the front door, and the community participates in running the space together.

If you’d like to get chummy with some Longmont creatives, just email jessica.hulse [at] gmail.com, or check out their Meetup Group and Facebook page!

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New Book Helps Freelancers Escape The Coffee Shop Office

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Coworking: How Freelancers Escape The Coffee Shop Office

If you’ve ever tried to explain coworking to a skeptical audience, and wished for a resource that would convey all the benefits along with reasons to give it a try, this book is for you!

Fast on the heels of the first-ever ebook for coworking space catalysts comes another riveting read…made for coworkers by coworkers!

Coworking: How Freelancers Escape the Coffee Shop Office (and Tales of Community from Independents Around the World) is designed to help the mobile workforce and small business owners escape the coffee shop or home office, and embrace the coworking movement.

“Anyone can locate a desk and a free internet connection, but coworking provides more,” said Angel Kwiatkowski, the book’s co-author and Madame of Cohere. “It allows independent professionals to participate in a global community that is part support system, part educational network, and part creative think tank.”

This is the book I wish someone would have handed me when I first started freelancing! It walks you through an explanation of coworking, and why it’s different from everything you’ve tried before. It acknowledges that freelancers crave community but often shy away from typical networking events and meetups.

Coworking: How Freelancers Escape the Coffee Shop Office includes vital tips for finding and participating in a coworking community as well as over 30 stories from independent professionals all over the world that are embracing this new style of work.

Today’s mobile workforce is savvy, but their options for workspace and community are limited. Coworking recognizes that freelancers can accomplish more through collaboration, and gives them the solid platform they need to grow and succeed.

Check out a preview of the book here, or download your own copy today!

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