Coworking is a modern work innovation where people in various creative professions share a common work space, synergizing their talents and making best use of fixed-cost resources. Here is a portrait of how coworking might develop in public library spaces as public libraries transform themselves in coming years. Architects, take notice.
Do you work as a computer programmer, writer, editor, animator, or graphic designer? Would you like a free desk to do work at your public library? What's the catch? The catch is that you need to contribute 10 or 20 percent of your time to serving the public in some way. You can either set aside time to answering the public's questions or teach classes or work on public-oriented digital projects of various kinds. You might also mentor a youth or an adult. You might want to cowork at the public library just three days per week, in which case you need to contribute just 10 percent of your coworking time. If you cowork at the public library five days a week, you would need to contribute 20 percent of your time.
Coworking at your public library would bring several additional benefits to the coworkers. They would have discounted access to the digital production services of the library. Digital production would include not only video production, but also animation, photography, graphic design, editing, and computer programming services.
About 165 years ago, a young man in Massachusetts decided to simplify his life as much as possible by living in a shack in the woods, confronting only the essentials of life to determine firsthand what people need and don't need. The outcome of this experiment, documented in his book Walden, demonstrated Socrates' wise saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Thoreau invites each of us to reflect more deeply about our role on the planet, what it means to be true to oneself and how to avoid mindlessly following the herd. In his separate essay, “Civil Disobedience,” he explains why jail is the most logical place for a person to be who is subject to unjust laws.
Across the world a person named Mahatma Gandhi read Thoreau's writings, took them to heart, and showed how dignity could vanquish brutality. Back here in the United States, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. further developed Gandhi's methods of passive resistance to continue the long work of dismantling slavery.
What does all this have to do with technology, you might ask? Plenty, as it happens. When Thoreau invited me to engage in a lifetime of reflection, I took him up on the offer. In my interactions with the world, when I see things that unsettle me, I speak softly but firmly about such matters. And after doing so, I sometimes choose to take actions in support of my convictions. And then I tell others about such actions and invite them to consider whether they might choose such a path for themselves.
The future of the world will be shaped by today's middle and high school students, so I always get a kick when a student comes up to me at my public library job and asks, “Do you want to hear about the app I designed?”
I've always got time to hear about a student's programming efforts.
Recently, Jonah Chazan, a sophomore high school student in Takoma Park, Maryland, asked me that very question. He has been programming computers since he was in second grade. In his elementary years he participated in some computer programming projects for youth at the nearby University of Maryland. He developed a fondness for the Processing programming language.In middle school he studied three years of True Basic.
CNN recently reported that Neanderthals were as smart as Homo Sapiens. (See the last sentence of this CNN article.) Sure, they were as smart, but they routinely shipped their products two years after Homo Sapiens did, with a minimum of usability testing. And Neanderthals depended on income from previous products, such as bowls, when fire first came out. Neanderthals' VP of Marketing freely admitted as much: “We didn't see fire coming. We were so focused on our new model of bowls, we missed fire completely.”
Meanwhile, Homo Sapiens packaged fire so elegantly – just two sticks in a box. That's it. Just two sticks in a sleek white cardboard box. Fire didn't even come with a user manual. People just intuitively started using it. When Neanderthals came out with fire, two years later, it came with five stone tablets of instructions. Honestly, who wants five stone tablets of instructions? The street reacted brutally to Neanderthals. Brutally.
And by the time Neanderthals released fire, Homo Sapiens was already sewing up the market for sewing. What Homo Sapiens didn't see was that people weren't interested in buying closed fire forever. They wanted an open fire, which they could use and adapt to their own purposes. They didn't want to be locked into a particular kind of fire. What Homo Sapiens did to Neanderthals, Homo Sapiens Open would do to Homo Sapiens. And Homo Sapiens Open's fire caught on so quickly, it spread like – well, you know what it spread like – leaving Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens holding the bowl. Their days became numbered right about the time they sought patent enforcement.
Google Hangouts, the group videoconferencing part of Google+, has attracted some of the most creative minds on the Web – and these folks are putting their ingenuity to good use. One of the first out of the gate is Bruce K. Garber and his friends from the Southern New England Media Makers. They captured this video of their group videoconference by using Camtasia Studio and uploaded this video to Youtube. The sound quality is surprisingly clear considering that they were using the condenser mics built into their webcams. I'm wondering how clear their audio would sound if they each used a USB microphone, such as a USB Logitech headset or a Snowball microphone. Here are the other participants in this video chat.
Other people have designed cloud-based video editors, but few have as large a vision as Novacut. This collaborative video editing system is coming to life just at a time when bandwidth in many areas is becoming broad enough for such efforts.
There's no denying that video editing is labor-intensive. If the video editing process can be divided among multiple workers, the finished product can be produced faster and with less effort. Stories that would otherwise not be told now have a better chance of being told. We are all becoming richer as a result.
OpenShot is a free, simple-to-use, feature-rich video editor for Linux. The brainchild of programmer Jonathan Thomas, OpenShot has garnered a large and enthusiastic following for many reasons, one being Thomas’s responsiveness to user feedback. To quickly see the best uses of OpenShot, check out the beautifully created music videos of Verity and Gersom de Koning-Tan, from the Netherlands. Several of their videos have had more than one thousand video views. These videos have much going for them, not least their musicality and playfulness.