Tag Archives: size

Coworking Musings — Why is More Better?

[fr] A Paris pour Coworking Europe. Trois jours pour penser au coworking et à l'eclau! Là, je médite sur le fait que la mesure du succès pour un espace coworking semble être "plus de coworkers" ou "plus de revenu". Je ne suis pas d'accord, comme vous imaginez, si vous connaissez un peu l'eclau...

Here I am in Paris for Coworking Europe. Three days to think about coworking and talk with other people who are also running spaces or participating in the coworking movement one way or another.

Rather than live-blog, I’ve decided to take a few notes and write more synthetic posts with my thoughts and take-aways.

One of the first things that strikes me is how success seems to be measured by numbers here. More members, better space. I’m not sure I agree. That is in any case definitely not how I manage eclau.

More members means more connections. But at what point do more connections start being “noise”? Do we always need more connections? Is this the single only indicator of success? Take the Hub Melbourne. 700 members. Mind-boggling, but is it still a community? Also, how do you count members? Are they people who have signed up to be on a list, or people who actively and regularly come and work at the coworking space?

I know I’m very careful about how I count numbers. It’s simple at eclau: a member is somebody who shells out the monthly fee. And for that, they have to have signed up for six months minimum. Yes, six months! When I give numbers, I don’t count occasional members, who can come up to 3 times a month and are on the e-mail discussion list. Many of those who sign up for occasional membership never come. Or come once. Counting them feels like cheating.

On the other hand, I see other coworking spaces boasting large numbers of coworkers but which are not “fuller” than eclau on a normal working day. Maybe we should count people actually present in the space instead. Coworker-days or something.

Something else to take into account is the size of the city the coworking space is in. You don’t have the same scale in Lausanne, which counts barely over 100K inhabitants, or London or Paris or New York. The pool of possible coworkers just cannot compare. A space with 700 members in Lausanne? That is the size of a major company for our part of the world. 12 full-time members in London is probably laughable.

Peace. I like small numbers, small groups, small communities — at least offline. I’ve been holding monthly blogger dinners for many years now, and our record attendance is less than 20 people. Despite that, these dinners have allowed countless people to meet and get to know each others, and there are many friendships and business relationships who can boast some kind of Bloggy Friday connection.

The question of numbers, and therefore connections, is probably also different whether you’re catering primarily to entrepreneurs or freelancers. Most established freelancers have their own networks. What interests them (as far as I can see at eclau, at least) is more the network of peers than a network of possible clients and business opportunities. Of course those exist and are there, but I think it’s the peer support that is at the core of eclau’s success.

These observations might be biased as there is certainly some self-selection going on. People who need more connections might go somewhere else.

For the moment, I’m quite happy for eclau to stay “small” — a coworking space where there are sometimes more cats present than humans. ;-)

#back2blog challenge (10/10)

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Posted in Coworking | Tagged Coworking, coworking europe, coworking lausanne, members, more, network, scale, size, success | 2 Comments

Scale in Community and Social Media: Bigger is not Always Better

[fr] Plus, ce n'est pas forcément mieux. Quand une communauté grandit, sa dynamique aussi. Un outil comme Twitter est peut-être plus gratifiant avec quelques centaines ou milliers de followers. Quand on arrive dans les dizaines ou centaines de milliers, le côté "conversation" disparaît. Au cours des dernières années, la blogosphère s'est aussi transformée: plus de blogs, plus de gros blogs, plus de lecteurs, et la disparition du sentiment d'être un peu "spécial" que l'on avait, tant lecteur que blogueur, au début.

Faire équivaloir le plus grand nombre au succès, c'est à mon avis faire fausse route. Ce n'est pas parce qu'un blogueur a plus de lecteurs qu'il est meilleur qu'un autre. Ou parce qu'on a plus de suiveurs sur Twitter qu'on exerce plus d'influence, comme l'a démontré une étude dont a parlé ReadWriteWeb.

In his blog post Defriendization is the future of social networks, that I commented upon in Defriending, Keeping Connections Sustainable and Maybe Superficial, Laurent Haug mentions his previous article Openness is difficult to scale, about how the kind of community involvement that worked for Lift in the early days just did not scale once the conference became more successful. This is a rule we cannot get escape from. Scale changes things. Success is a double-edged sword, because it might bring you into a country where the very thing that made your success is not possible anymore.

Clive Thompson explains this very well when it comes to the number of followers on Twitter, for example, in his Wired piece In Praise of Obscurity. Even if as the person being followed, you don’t really care about the size of the community gathered around you, the people who are part of that community feel its size and their behaviour changes. Bigger is not always better. More people in a community does not make it a better or even more powerful community.

This is one of the reasons it annoys me immensely when people try to measure the value of something by measuring its size. More readers does not mean I’m a better blogger. More friends on Facebook does not mean I’m more popular. More followers on Twitter does not mean I’m more influential.

I think that this is one of the things that has happened to the blogging world (another topic I have simmering for one of these days). Eight-ten years ago, the community was smaller. Having a thousand or so readers a day already meant that you were a big fish. Now, being a big fish means that you’re TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb, publications that for some reason people still insist on calling “blogs”, and we “normal bloggers” do not recognize ourselves anymore in these mega-publications. The “big fish” issue here is not so much that formerly-big-fish bloggers have had the spotlight stolen from them and they resent it (which can also be true, by the way), but more that the ecosystem has completely changed.

The “blog-reading community” has grown hugely in numbers. Ten years ago, one thousand people reading a blog felt special because they were out-of-the-mainstream, they could connect with the author of what they read, and maybe they also had their own little blog somewhere. Nowadays, one thousand people reading a blog are just one thousand people doing the mainstream thing online people do: reading blogs and the like. The sense of specialness has left the blogosphere.

If you want to keep on reading, I comment upon another of the links Laurent mentions in Log-Out Day: Victims of Technology, or a Chance to Grow?

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Posted in Thinking | Tagged bigger, blogging, change, clive thompson, community, laurent haug, publication, scale, size, twitter | Leave a comment