Office Space Race

Inside the landmark El Dorado Hotel is the El Dorado Kitchen and adjacent to that is the coffee house “Kitchenette.” Somehow, the metonym for these three enterprises has become the affectionate abbreviation “EDK,” a location that has blossomed over the past year into the de facto office for a dozens of Sonoma entrepreneurs.

This genus of “knowledge workers” with speciation as media mavens, social media marketers and consultants of every stripe, use the comfortable couches and free wireless to run their empires, meet clients and otherwise dominate the world. Or at least Sonoma, or specifically the immediate three feet of Sonoma they occupy in any moment. I applaud EDK, its owners and management, for enduring this daily siege upon their real estate, for this is one place where our local economy is quite evidently rebuilding itself, click by click, refill by refill. EDK’s initials should stand for “Entrepreneurs Doing Krap,” an accurate if indelicate (and misspelled) description of a particular Sonoma experience of which I’m proudly a participant.

EDK’s general manager Jens Hoj has actively fostered this community, each member of which is an almanac of Sonoma Valley tourism notions and available as a resource to the hotel’s out-of-town guests, who sometimes mix and mingle and as often network and jive with the hive, make deals, prolong their stay. I’ve personally up-sold a few visitors into lunching at the restaurant and have successfully invited myself to several such impromptu dining excursions. In these instances, I waive my consulting fee, of course. Finding suitable workspace has been something of a career-long issue for me. When I first went pro at the Petaluma Argus-Courier over a dozen years ago, I bristled at the notion of regularly turning up to the “lifestyle desk” having honed my chops in the sturm und drang of pre-Starbucks-era cafes. I was eventually inspired to negotiate a work-at-home situation when my chum Aristotle Smith showed up at my apartment one morning with a bottle of Veuve Clicqout and kindly explained how I was not going to the office that day.

Since then, I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with offices. And Veuve Clicqout. When I was a stringer for the San Francisco Chronicle, not only had I never visited the newsroom, I never met my editor – our business was conducted entirely through email. Ditto the Bohemian, for whom I briefly wrote a column about local news while living in Los Angeles (gotta love the Internet). And there, amid the smog and tears, my first movie biz deals landed my partner and me desk-space in the copy room of a studio subsidiary. An appreciable up-tick in traffic followed as people came by to watch the monkeys type.

Eventually, he and I went AWOL and began squatting uninhabited cubbies on the lot. This became the inspiration for a project about two wannabes who sneak off a tourist tram and live in the sets of a major Hollywood studio while trying to score a deal – the very deal we briefly had until a three-month development freeze found me on an extended wine country sojourn. Apparently, the deal is still frozen seeing as, four-and- half-years later, I’m still happily here waiting for the thaw.

For a few years, I manned a desk I poached from a colleague’s departure at a local media gig but was canned with a baby on the way, which necessitated starting my own micro-mogul venture in a matter of weeks (I’ll remain forever-grateful to the I-T for bringing this column in from the cold). The first thing I did? I sublet some office space.

Now, I ask myself “Why would I do such a dimwitted thing?” I never go there. Nor do my officemates. This week, there was a moment when we all realized that none of us were at the office but were rather huddled around laptops or chatting with our respective clients in various corners of EDK. We decided to move permanently to the lobby. Jens approved. So, now I’m back working in cafes. Home, sweet home. I’ll toast the move with some Veuve.

Web 3.0, the Pedantic Web

No sooner has popular culture digested the term ?Web 2.0? than the ante is upped by the next generation of the World Wide Web. Behold, ?Web 3.0.?

Um, yeah. This unfortunate protologism, doomed to eternal comparison to its pithy predecessor, proves the adage that ?Good technologists borrow, great technologists steal and then add 1.?

Also known as the ?semantic web,? Web 3.0 presently has several working definitions, the most salient of which seems to be web godfather Sir Tim Berners-Lee?s suggestion that a semantic web will enable ?the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives? and ?machines talking to machines.? Meaning, data presented on the web and necessarily meant to be interpreted by humans, but inscrutable to machines, will soon become scrutable.

Though the notion of machines talking to each other about one?s web queries, sundry database entries and general arcane of our digital lives, might lead to a more expeditious online experience, it may also foment a paranoia of the sort described in a Philip K. Dick novel. Especially if the machines are chatty and gossip-prone.

Interestingly, the semantic web?s etymological ancestor, Web 2.0, was coined by Sonoma County?s own Tim O?Reilly, the open-source maven, publisher and founder of O?Reilly Media based in Sebastopol. O?Reilly chose the term to describe the emergence of post-crash web-based businesses and the commonalities they share (social, collaborative, no Fusbol game in the foyer) as the raison d?etre for a conference.

?Could it be that the dot-com collapse marked some kind of turning point for the web, such that a call to action such as ?Web 2.0? might make sense?? O?Reilly wrote in 2005 post entitled What is Web 2.0 archived on OReilly.com. ?We agreed that it did, and so the Web 2.0 Conference was born.? So too was born an infectious meme that has seen the ?2.0? appliqu? on everything from healthcare reform to sex (incidentally, the Sex 2.0 conference, explores the ?intersection of social media, feminism, and sexuality? returns to Seattle this May).

In the half-decade since O?Reilly?s coinage, culture has undergone something of a digital renaissance (think Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter) and his Web 2.0 Conference is now the annual Web 2.0 Summit. So, how is it then that New York-based Mediabistro, a trade group that bills itself as ?the premier content, career, and community resource for media professionals? came to host the so-called Web 3.0 Conference last week? Clearly, something has gotten out of sequence. That is, unless Web 3.0 involves time travel and paid us a visit here in the present to show us the future with a stack of PowerPoint slides. Gimmicky, sure, but revealing nevertheless ? about half of the seminars and presentations were presented by marketers about leveraging the semantic web, which some hope will emulate a kind of artificial intelligence, to target consumers. ?Ka-ching 3.0? might have been a more apt title for the conference (better lock that in ? the KaChing Button, an iPhone app that makes a cash register sound for the currency of your choice, is already up to version 1.0.3).

Given the Sonoma provenance of Web 2.0, it was somehow apropos that its unrelated pseudo-sequel was held at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, where the conference rooms are dubbed ?Sonoma,? ?Napa? and ?Mendocino.? Adorning the walls are tilt-shift prints, photo-collages and other digitally-produced eye-candy designed to evoke a Silicon Valley aesthetic, despite its wine country pretensions. And wherefore Wine 2.0? That conference happened in New York last November.

In the coming years perhaps we will experience Web 4.0, which will find its comeuppance when Webs 2.0 and 3.0 join forces and become Web 5.0. Web 4.0 will respond by rehabbing Web 1.0 out of its post-bust stupor (so-named the way the Great War became World War I) and attempt to beat Web 5.0 at it?s own game. An accord will ensue and all parties will reform together as simply The Web ? at which point it will become sentient and enslave us all. You know, if it hasn?t already.

Originally published in the North Bay Bohemian.