In May, I leased the first desk at the Caroline Collective, a new coworking space near downtown Houston.
Today, I moved my stuff back out.
I left because of something simple: I need too much “stuff” to do my job. In order to do my job, I use a few pieces of bulky technology gear like a big monitor, a couple of virtual servers, and a few external hard drives. I’ve downsized that gear as much as possible, but it’s tough to fit a multi-terabyte data warehouse in a shoebox. There’s two common solutions to this technical problem: downsizing the gear, or remote-hosting it. I need 8 cores minimum, 16gb ram minimum, 4tb storage minimum, etc., and I frequently reinstall the OS from scratch, so I need DVD boot access. I could do it with a blade in a chassis somewhere, but only if I had really fast upload access, and that’s not usually true even at my house.
I wanted to be able to leave my gear at my desk, so I got a dedicated desk at Caroline with lockable storage. The problem is that I can’t lock all of my stuff inside storage – a monitor and a couple of servers don’t fit in a box. Originally, I wasn’t concerned because the plan was that only full-time Caroline tenants would have keys, and the rest of the time Caroline would be closed. As long as a tenant was there, I wasn’t worried about my stuff walking off.
As time went on, though, the Caroline Collective became something bigger than a coworking space – or to be more accurate, something other than a coworking space. It frequently hosts after-hour events and parties where hundreds of strangers come in and mingle in the open space and parking lot. People come and go all the time, and it’s becoming really successful. I didn’t mind that the “working” part of the coworking space shut down after 5pm as parties and events started, because I didn’t work much after 5pm anyway.
That’s great for Caroline, but it’s not so good for coworkers who want to lease their own dedicated desk space.
I really loved the environment at Caroline, and I strugged with the security decision, but I ended up having to pull the plug. A few times, I came into the office and found the doors unlocked (or just plain open) and twice I found strangers sleeping in the coworking space. I had a mental problem with that: sure, I should ask them who they were and whether they belonged (with an open/unlocked door, it’s a valid question) but what would I do if they gave the wrong answers?
At that point, I got nervous for my own security, not just the security of my gear, and I decided to call it quits. Even if I lassoed my monitor to the desk with a Kensington lock and jury-rigged some kind of server cable lock for the rest of my gear, I still couldn’t handle the thought of walking into an office and finding a stranger sleeping in it.
I’d voiced my concerns with Matt & Ned before, and we agreed that I’m not the right tenant for a coworking desk at Caroline.
In a perfect world, I’d just upgrade to an office there because that would solve my security concerns. I’d just lock the door, and that’d be the end of it. Unfortunately, I can’t justify the >$500/mo cost of a dedicated office, and I didn’t really want that to begin with. To me, the point of coworking is that awesome interaction with others, and you lose that when you’re in a private office.
I still believe coworking is the way of the future. More and more people are working remotely, freelancing and consulting, and we need places to work. Caroline is the best option out there right now. It’s just that it’s still not the perfect option for me personally, but I bet if you’re reading this, and if you telecommute, you would be happy at the Caroline Collective. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anybody – as long as they don’t need a bunch of expensive gear to do their job.