Coworking past and future
February 17th, 2010

Coworking is an emerging trend for a new pattern for working. Typically work-at-home professionals or independent contractors or people who travel frequently end up working in relative isolation.

Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space. (Coworking wiki)

The term “coworking” was coined by Bernie DeKoven in 1999, and in 2005 used by Brad Neuberg to describe a physical space.

Neuberg organized a coworking site called the “Hat Factory” in San Francisco, which is a live-work loft that is home to three technology workers, and is open to others during the day. Coworking spaces now exist in Argentina, Australia and Germany, although most of the sites are in the U.S. The San Francisco-based consulting firm Citizen Agency has actively promoted coworking, starting a space called Citizen Space which rents desks but also allows free drop-ins in the public spaces.

Tara Hunt added to this in the comments to this piece: “A wee correction to the history. Brad established ‘Coworking’ in The Spiral Muse in the Mission in 2005 (or earlier?)…there were seven of us who created The Hat Factory in June 2006: Jay Dedman, Ryanne Hodson, Chris Messina, Brad Neuberg (his second!), Ted Tagami, Neil Drummond and myself. It still runs under Eddie Codel. Citizen Space still exists (now owned by myself and Hillary Hartley, one of our first tenants at Citizen Space: ), but Citizen Agency is no longer.” Thank you Missrogue you are right, these bits and pieces of history needed to be compiled. !!!!

In 2007 Neuberg and DeKoven held a short dialog on Smartmobs about the origin of the term Coworking.
Today Smartmobs asked Coworking pioneer Bernie DeKoven to describe how he perceives the past and future of Coworking.

My interest in the idea of CoWorking evolved from my interest in CoPlaying. I had been immersed, since 1971, in exploring what I came to understand as “the play community” – the social dynamics of people playing together.

I was living in Silicon Valley (Palo Alto) in 1983. My friend Dave Winer, who was very active in what we later identified as “social computing” (I had met him through his “Living Videotext” online bulletin board) had developed a computer program that called “ThinkTank,” an “outline processor.” It was a prefect match for how I worked, as a computer game designer. It allowed me to give structure (a very flexible structure) to my designs, to assemble all the interactions between the player and virtual objects with greater and greater detail until I was able to arrive at a comprehensive, clearly organized design document.

By that time, I had attended enough meetings to make the connection – an outline processor, projected onto a large-enough screen, could help me facilitate the social dynamics of people working together.
In 1984, Dave popped over my house with one of the first (I think it was number 4) of the new Macintosh computers. He was already at work developing an outline processor for the Macintosh, and I was able to help him understand his “personal productivity tool” in the context of group productivity. This led to a product called MORE, which was also the first program to allow people to develop group presentations.

By 1986 I was using a Macintosh and a computer projector (my first was a Limelight) to facilitate meetings all over the world, at places like Apple Computer and the Stanford Research Institute. I learned a great deal about how people worked together, and especially about how technology could be used to help them work with ideas, together and more productively.

My understanding of the dynamics of the play community was a tremendous help, because I discovered that meetings, like games, had many different levels of rules and interactions, many of which were changing almost as quickly as they were defined. And, like games, when meetings were “good” they tended to be fun. Sometimes very deep fun.
So I began to focus more and more on working together, and how working together could be made more productive, and more fun, through the shared use of technology. This led to my use of the term CoWorking.
According to the Internet Archive – the 36th online issue of CoWorking was published on May 11, 2000.

The site was an outgrowth of my work with a method I called “technography” (first instantiation I could find on the Internet Archive – – was April 29, 1999, and on 3.4.1999 on Dave Winer’s UserLand bulletin board –

A few years later, I met Gerrit Visser – who was passionately collecting and documenting links to the exploding variety of computer enhanced communication and productivity tools. He and I partnered to extend the comprehensiveness of the CoWorking concept. And in 2005, Brad Neuberg began using CoWorking to describe a shared physical space, adding a dimension to the CoWorking concept that helped bring it into popular use.

Today, Gerrit and I are delighted to announce that the domain will soon be transferred to people who are continuing to enrich the idea of Coworking, bringing it to new places and practices.

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