Citizen Desk no more; party tonight

Citizen Desk (Wausau, WI) coworking - saying farewellThe citizens of Wausau (WI) are deskless! Or at least Citizen Desk-less.

As of last Saturday, there will no longer be “physical” space called CitizenDesk. We’ve shut down the office space.

I’m hoping to interview the space founder, Marcus Nelson, to do a more-detailed failure analysis and find some lessons that other coworking organizers and catalysts can learn from. He does give some clues, however, in his farewell message on the space blog, as he looks in the rear view mirror and notes the “slow adoption rate” of new ideas in the town:

Had I had more time to do it all over again, I would have first focussed on building up the local Web Community, like the idea of organizing the Jellys & a Web715 network (which should still move forward under someone else’s stewardship). Getting a group of like-minded people together takes time – especially in a smaller market like Wausau. My good friend Alex says all the time – community, community, community! I suspect that’ll be the way I do it next time.

Although the physical space may be no more, the community continues, marking the occasion tonight with brews flowing at Red Eye Brewery starting at 7. Let’s all virtually join them from afar, raising a glass to toast the coworking that was… and the coworking that will be… in Wausau and around the world. — Raines

Cinco de May-aye-aye

So how many dollar store Hot Tamales can YOU fit in your mouth at one time and still breathe? My record is 27. I beat Stan by a mile who wimped out at about 19. He is so not the man. Well, at least when it comes to dollar store tamales. We are actually getting work done today, even though someone kicked in the blender a bit early (what do you expect we’d drink with pile high nachos and quesadillas anyway – coffee?).

Janis was a bit grossed out (by the tamales, not the tequila) but all survived and the new carpet is still intact. The whiteboard is getting worked overtime today as groupies add to the “What We’d Be Doing At Home Right Now If We Weren’t Sipping ‘Tea’ And Hanging Out” list. The more we sip, the better the confessions.

I just met and hopefully did not scare away Henry, a possible newbie who wanted to see the space. I told him that our work-party actually had nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo. We just like Mondays. He kinda sorta half-smiled. I think I need to learn to not dead pan in certain situations, especially those involving business deals.

Our favorite party animal, Cobi the golden, came down from upstairs to hang out and its a good thing too because I think Stan will need an escort home. Oops.

Okay . . . that whole rant above was a bit of a stretch. We didn’t have a bunch of members hanging out, the blender is still clean and, except for a very nice drop-in visit by my pal Bruce, here I sit, waiting to exhale a big sigh of relief for the day when this place is hopping with activity and, alas, a break-even revenue stream. Our day is just around the bend, I know it. But, for an uber impatient gal like myself it will seem like ions. Until then, more tequila for me.

Buenos Tardes Amigos.

Suzitta de Desparado

Be Free Or Die

When we first discussed hosting events at group88, we thought that we would have some freebies mixed with paid seminars that provide many layers of apply-it-now knowledge. Now I’m rethinking it all. We want to have tons of events but I don’t want attendees to have to pay. I’m finding out that finding sponsors is not difficult, nor is convincing them to pay for sponsorships in a cool atmosphere with cool people.

Convincing people that, yes, they are more than welcome to attend our events, however, is a bit of a challenge. Our space is brand spankin’ new and the comfort zone has not yet been established. One thing that I’m quickly learning is that people are just too nice.

Our first event is next week (4/24) and is a discussion on “Low-Cost Video Production for Solos and Small Businesses” from a local TV anchor celeb and her new vid production company. We first promoted this event as $25 for non-members and $15 for members. Our result was: zero. Not one sign-up.

Today, after sealing the deal with cool social finance site Geezeo as our sponsor, I was able to eblast a “guess what? drinks are on us!” announcement. Response? Four sign-ups within two hours. And I only eblasted half my list.

What’s really interesting is that I got a phone call from someone who received the invite but was unsure if it meant she could really attend. This brings me back to my earlier point: people need comfort zones. Once they visit your space and have a good experience, you’re golden. Before that happens you need to make sure your online, mail and phone experience falls 100% into their comfort zone.

It’s no different than having new friends and going to their house for the first time. There’s always that adjustment time. I know we’re all e-hogs and find it easier to chat or email but, when it comes to making people feel comfortable, there is nothing better than a phone call. It’s the closest thing to meeting in person and helps create a comfort zone for your new friends instead of making them create it on their own. Then, the decision to join your community is not a decision, it’s an important event on their calendar.

Coworking at the PSFK Conference in New York

I’ll be talking about our experience with co-working at NASA at PSFK‘s great New York conference in March, and will be joined on stage by Etsy Labs to contrast our experiences. I’d love input from anyone else with experience using co-working in government or other large enterprise contexts as I prepare my talk.

Back in July, I received a ping from Patrick Tanguay from Station-C coworking in Montreal suggesting that we should band together and submit a panel for SXSW Interactive 08 (the conference at which we had met, in fact).


Over the course of the next week, we shared ideas and, with input from Chris and Tara of Citizen Space, about how we might approach this topic to be a bit more general to appeal to the entire audience. We came up with a title and synopsis!

Coworking and the evolution of the independent worker:
A few years ago everyone wanted to work from home. Now we realize, working alone sucks. What new resources and communities, both online and off, are enabling workers to really step up their game. Coworking spaces are opening everywhere and playing a central part in this new way of doing business.

After submitting the panel and having it voted on, weeks passed. Months passed. Panels began being picked and posted for the conference. Our expectations were set appropriately (we’d be first time SXSWi presenters), and we weren’t shocked to not hear back.

As the last few weeks have been filled with lots of twitter-chatter and question-asking about our SXSW plans, I decided to email the event director, Hugh Forrest, to see if he had any news since we never really got an official “no” on our panel.

As it turns out…we weren’t out of the running! I found out this morning that we’ve been slated to join the list of Core Conversations, a new format to SXSW that reads a bit more like an unconference (see BlogPhiladelphia). This format, rather than a panel, is more of an opportunity to converse and share experiences and knowledge about our journeys in the “indy” workforce.

I’m SUPER excited about this, as it will give us a platform to unite the coworking community as it converges on the city of Austin from all over the world. Last year we had a really fun coworking meetup at Barcamp Austin, this year, we get an official session and location, as well as a spot in the program, to hold it!

I’d like to work with a handful of key people to help make sure that the 1 hour session we have is loaded with interesting and valuable information, so for those of you attending who have something in particular you want to share, drop us a line.

I’ll be posting more as I hear more about the time and date. We’ll also have to organize a coworking lunch or brunch or something like that. I know there are currently ~8 people from IndyHall who will be attending the conference, and many more from Philadelphia I’m sure. If you’re going to be attending and interested in coworking (or Philadelphia and our social/creative scene on any level), drop a line in the comments and we’ll be sure to look you up once we’re in Austin!

Dec 13 Event: Co-Hopping San Francisco

BioDiesel Betty

The group of us who run coworking spaces in San Francisco, including: Citizen Space, The Hat Factory, Sandbox Suites, The Altrupreneur Center and AF83 are really excited to be throwing a conjoint Co-Hopping Event on Thursday December 13 from 6:30-10:30 pm. We are also really excited to have Bio-Diesel Betty (aka Lindsay Hassett) entertaining us between venues in her bus with the Bamboo Floors, pillows and, what else, bio-diesel fuel.

The route map looks something like this:

Co-hopping Map

And can be found on Google Maps. The event commences at Citizen Space (425 2nd Street, #300), but you could potentially begin at any of the spaces on the route and catch up with us as the bus will be making the loop throughout the evening. There will be food and drinks at each of the spaces and the event is totally free.

The night is intended to give people a flavor of the different spaces, meet the peeps who run them, find out a little more about coworking and just generally celebrate. 🙂 Hope you can come out and celebrate with us!