Dislocation and Working in Strange Places

22 Comments

I am in New York this week, for work, and mostly to get away from Silicon Valley. Between visits to art galleries, hanging out with friends over long wine infused dinners, I have to find time to work, and write and still be productive. I am finding that its not that easy. Working out of cafes in San Francisco, or roaming Silicon Valley is by now second nature.

New York, is proving to be tougher, mostly because of geographic dislocation. Unlike SF, I am not familiar with the WiFi zones. I spent most of the evening yesterday and today looking for WiFi connection because the Verzion EVDO Express Card stopped working for some odd reason. (Any tips on a quiet WiFi enabled cafe below 23rd street in Manhattan?) More than connectivity issues, I am finding that the new geolocation is not letting me get in the flow of things. Do you have any advice or tips for me? Have you experienced similar issues, or is just an “om issue.”

22 Comments

Ron

Hey, I saw you’re here is Silicon Valley too — do you have any favorite wi-fi friendly cafes in San Jose/Sunnyvale/Palo Alto area?

softspot

you know, i’m glad to have run across this old post and to see it’s not just me who feels this way. i moved to nyc from sf at the beginning of july, and am still trying to adjust to working in this city’s cafe’s. i can’t pinpoint what it is exactly– but the whole rhythm’s off somehow. i’ve wasted entire mornings walking endlessly after the place i’d intended to work at for several hours didn’t… work out for whatever weird reasons, among which are…

1. overcrowding. or too few tables to begin with.
2. the feeling you shouldn’t stay there very long.
3. no power outlets.
4. you *thought* it was a “café-coffeehouse” but it’s actually a “café-bistro/restaurant” and they’re clearing tables for the lunch rush.
5. there is no wifi (i ended up purchasing Verizon’s national broadband).
6. there are no other people working on computers and it “feels weird” to be the only one.
7. their hours are… unreliable.
8. they routinely close 30-45 minutes before they advertise tho only on evenings when you need just that much time to finish your deadline-pressured project.
9. you can’t tell if it’s okay to work there.
10. one day it’s the perfect place you’ve been looking for, then every other day you’re about to begin screaming at the 5 tables around you where 3 year old’s have begun foodfights with each other, unfettered by their indifferent, cellphone-chatting parents.
11. the next “comparable” place is a long walk and/or two subway stops away.

i agree with the person who posted re: libraries. the only thing being that often times, i end up working late at night. and most everything that doesn’t have a full-bar seems to close around 9pm.

Janko

I learned to love public libraries. Nowadays they always have free Wifi, plus it’s a calm, concentrated atmosphere – everyone aorund you is focused on reading or work, so there is no distractions. Plus it’s also a good solution for your snack addiction – you’re not allowed to eat, so you focus on your work – and reward yourself in the cafe …

Nick Braak

Cafe Ari WAS my preferred choice, but as of a few days ago it’s CLOSED and the windows are papered over:-(

Tea Spot is my second choice, and I was there on Thursday. Great tea, nice things to munch and enough outlets to make working possible. A bit cramped and can get noisy when the NYU crowd shows up.

And yes, I find it VERY hard to find head/work space in NYC. And that’s after 23 years! The public wi-fi in parks is all very nice, but there are HUGE swaths of Manhattan with nothing to connect to at street level. And nowhere to sit, other than Starbucks. Grrrr.

Pierre

Sprint and Verizon’s Ev-Do is fantastic. It is speedy and works just as well as most public Wi-Fi spots. Sometimes it’s even better and it’s definitely more secure. With Verizon’s service you also have access to their public WiFi across the city.

With that your work space options open up dramatically. The entire city becomes your office.

Om, you are a notorious tech maven, why don’t you use your phone as a wireless modem with Sprint or Verizon EV-Do?

Om Malik

Tea Spot is perfect…. quiet, and good tea. never thought I would be able to do anything, but it worked nicely. Love the place, and basically i am going to stop here and work for at least two hours everyday.

i think we really need that free wifi wiki.

LivNLet

Have you considered Kinko’s? If you get the T-mobile hotspot thingy for forty bucks you can connect as much as you want for a month (jeez! I sound like I work for them!-I don’t!).

You’ll part with forty clams but at least their open 24/7.

Good luck!
LivNLet

Rich Owings

This won’t be for everyone but, often before I travel, I’ll use Google Locals (aka Google Maps) to search for “free wifi” in the area. I then use a converter to transform those locations into waypoints, and send them to my GPS along with hotel info, etc.

William S

TRY THIS LOCATION:

Tea Spot, 127 Macdougal St. (at West 3rd), 212-832-7769: whatever people say, there is something nice about seeing people sitting in a cafe and taking their work (or their net surfing?) seriously. The laptop/wireless scene meets the tea scene, in this NYU area tea place. Wide selection of teas. Green tea brewed in too warm a temprature, but still is enjoyable. Once again, not the refinment of special traditional tea ware for different teas, not enough care in these details, but still a nice place. If you need to work, (or surf this forum) and have good tea – it’s a great option.

Sky

It’s just the new location. It can be jarring. I just came up to Philly to see my girlfriend from Florida. Philly has some nice free hotspots so it’s a breeze here but I did tend to have some problems (mentally) at first in the realm of getting mentally adjusted.

David

I have a hard time working in NYC. I live an hour north of NYC and find it pretty easy to get into a work groove at a cafe, wifi zoned or not. But in the City, I’m stumped.

Maybe it’s the lack of trees.

Brian Paul

I have never been to New York so I cannot speak precisely about that local but I have spent my fair share of time trying to work in places other than my city of residence. This may sound a little simple but:

Find a table as close to a wall as you can. Sit facing toward the wall and use headphones.

When we’re in a new environment our brains are doing everything they can to take in all the new sensory perceptions. It doesn’t take long to work out all the new visual information in a wall and if you use headphones you’ve effectively cut yourself off from all that new data.

I am an almost compulsive people watcher, so if there’s a window or if I can see the counter of the coffee shop, etc, that’s going to be far more interesting to me than whatever I’m working unless I’m really enthusiastic about my task.

I don’t know if it will work for you but I’ve gotten pretty good mileage out of. :)

Best of Luck,
Brian

Noel Jackson

I had an endlessly hard time getting into the flow of things in NYC. Perhaps it’s the odd energy of the city – SF is a city of love after all.

Zach Smith

I definitely understand the geo(dis)location issue.

As for the advice, I definitely recommend Panera Bread. When I was travelling, they were almost always there with hot (good) coffee, and free wifi.

Another good resource is Google Maps. It is pretty smart in that you can search for stuff like ‘wifi near address’ and it will show you some hotspots near you. granted, you need internet for it, but i suggest using the evdo bootstrap yourself to faster internet.

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