Friday, March 9, 2012

Coffee shop wifi and open source development

Some recent events locally got me thinking about the importance of coffee shop wifi and open source development.
A few years back my friend Jon Anstey and I started working in our spare time on Apache projects - Jon on Apache Camel, and I on Apache Servicemix. We'd meet up on Water Street (downtown St John's) at Hava Java, a small coffee shop with free wifi, and pick an issue each from the project Jiras and hack away at them until we had patches ready to submit for review.
This continued for quite some time, eventually we both received invitations to our respective projects to join in as committers, the rest is history. The important part here is that we could spend hours and hours at local coffee shops using resources off the web while working on submitting patches. Those hacking sessions were instrumental in starting us off on the path to being contributing members of the Apache community. If no programmer space was available I'd have to wonder if either of us would have stuck as close to working open source projects as we did.
Today when I hear that a particular coffee shop (not Hava Java - they're awesome) may try to restrict the length of stay for those of us using coffee shop space for laptops and books I wonder how many good efforts could be impacted. Shoot, I wonder how much of Jon's book, Camel in Action, was written sitting down in a coffee shop? For that matter, how many Apache Karaf releases were kicked off while I've sat in a coffee shop?
Even though my early days as a new contributor with Apache are now behind me I still enjoy being able to meet up with other new contributors at coffee shops and be able to give them the benefit of having coding session with someone that can help show them the way. Take away these kind of informal environments and I fear the opportunities to expand our local open source community begins to fade away.

The story aired on the local CBC news. The impart of social media can be felt in a small town like St John's.

Enjoying Humble Pie
As mentioned in the comments, and the CBC report, the coffee shop offered up "Humble Pie" to students for two weeks in apology for the treatment a few experienced.
To be fare, I was there during an off hour, but I could see why people would enjoy the comfortable seating and large tables for spreading out their notes & laptops. As long as people treat the establishment with respect and not take up space for an inappropriate length of time (for the sake of argument, well past the time it takes you to enjoy a cup of coffee and slice of pie) than incidents like this should not occur again.

So, talking of Coffee Shops with free wi-fi - which coffee shops in town do you frequent when you want to get a little coding done?


Jason G said...

Apparently, the owners of that coffee shop actually posted something on Facebook saying that this was not their opinion, but the manager acted on his/her own accord. They have offered students (who bring their ID) a free coffee+pie for the next two weeks as an apology.

But as for coffee shop development, a lot of my most productive work is done at coffee shops. And studies are showing that the dynamics of the coffee shop environment may actually encourage creativity.

fog said...

I love hanging out at Chatters downtown, especially when I need to get some work done. Gets me away from all the usual distractions in my home office, and I actually get some real work done. Whenever I'm having trouble figuring out an issue while developing an Android app, I go there, and it usually gets solved by my second mug.

Unknown said...

I'm pretty sure the French Cafe technique was first developed at a cafe.. although that may not be as accurate as I'd like to believe.

Pocket Rocket said...

The letter was so distasteful. Sometimes, I get so disappointed in people. I have no problem with management getting fed up with people who buy 1 coffee and regularly extend their stays past the life of their drink. But really, there are more tactful approaches.

Jamie Goodyear said...

I'm happy to know the coffee shop in question is attempting to make thing right. It was a costly mis-step that could have been avoided with a little more careful tact in approach.

I know in my own case that when we'd be working away on patches we would regularly get up for more coffees/tea and cookies - never did we stay for long after we had our last order.