This is a bit of an update of a 2006 article in GigaOm on cafes as the new garages, but still worth noting. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has a long article about “the new Bedouins,” tech workers who have moved more or less permanently out of offices, and now circulate among cafes.
A new breed of worker, fueled by caffeine and using the tools of modern technology, is flourishing in the coffeehouses of San Francisco. Roaming from cafe to cafe and borrowing a name from the nomadic Arabs who wandered freely in the desert, they’ve come to be known as “bedouins.” [ed: the term appears in a 2006 Charter Street post, which is also a nice meditation on the benefits of “going Bedouin”]
San Francisco’s modern-day bedouins are typically armed with laptops and cell phones, paying for their office space and Internet access by buying coffee and muffins.
San Francisco’s bedouins see themselves changing the nature of the workplace, if not the world at large. They see large companies like General Motors laying off workers, contributing to insecurity. And at the same time, they see the Internet providing the tools to start companies on the cheap. In the Bedouin lifestyle, they are free to make their own rules.
“The San Francisco coffeehouse is the new Palo Alto garage,” declares Kevin Burton, 30, who runs his Internet startup Tailrank without renting offices. “It’s where all the innovation is happening.”…
“This is just confirmation that Starbucks and its cousins are all really in the commercial real estate business,” [Daniel Pink] said. “They’re giving very cheap real estate for a very pricey cup of coffee.”
As I argued the last time this meme bloomed, “the shift from garages to cafes” isn’t really just about getting rid of offices, but instead reflects “a shift in preference away from [working in] spaces that are privately owned and isolated, to ones that are more public, that provide services, and offer the potential for fruitful random encounters and social interactions.” My sense is that that’s still true.