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The Neo-Nomads

The Martin Chronicles
The Martin Chronicles
The Martin Chronicles
2/23/2006

2:30 PM -- Manning the jargon watch, I've been following random posts in the last two weeks spawned by a post on the Charter Street blog by Greg Olsen, founder of Versai, a Silicon Valley "software infrastructure technology startup" currently operating in stealth mode, about "Going Bedouin."

Olsen writes that with the widespread availability of "ambient Internet connectivity" (i.e., WiFi hotspots), hosted IT services, cellphones, and VOIP, certain types of startups need not invest in the costly infrastructure and physical offices of traditional companies. "By focusing almost exclusively on service-based infrastructure options, a business could operate as a sort of neo-Bedouin clan," writes Olsen, "with workers as a roaming nomadic tribe carrying laptops & cell phones and able to set up shop wherever there is an Internet connection, chairs, tables, and sources of caffeine."

Picking up on this idea on Om Malik's Blog, Jackson West adds that in San Francisco, at least, some café owners are working to attract entrepreneurs and the nomadic workforce. West appends a list of the top hotspots for actually getting work done (as opposed to surfing the Internet, listening to Norah Jones, and ogling the baristas) in SF, including the Zig Zag Café in the Marina, Coffee to the People in Haight-Ashbury, and Ritual Coffee Roasters in the Mission. (A similar list for Boulder, my base of operations, would include Pekoe Tea House, on North Broadway, and the new downtown Vic's, at Canyon and Broadway.)

Dave Austin, on his Web Applications Blog, adds that the proliferation of free WiFi zones is cutting down on IT management needs and feeding the related growth of managed service providers: "Steadily we're moving towards a hosted world of IT services."

Myself, I've gone Bedouin out of necessity plenty of times. Frankly, I prefer having an office to camp out in, especially one with a futon, a CD player, a door, and a view of the Rocky Mountain foothills. I also think expecting your employees to go fully mobile carries costs of its own. There's no question, though, that virtual organizations will become more prevalent as mesh networks spread across the urban landscape. And office space has become too damned expensive anyway.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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