Tag Archives: coffee

Libraries for 30 days wrap-up

After trying to work from a new coffee shop I had never been to before, every day for 30 days, I loved the routine of getting out of the house so much that I set on another challenge: visiting 30 libraries. This proved to be more difficult, mostly because of the extra driving required, but I wrapped it up yesterday.

I’ve put together a web page of all the libraries, with photos and links to the microblog posts for each day. The posts are also tagged with #newlibraries.

After wrapping up libraries, I thought I’d make it a trilogy of 30-day endeavors, with a final 30 days of working from city parks. This was a suggestion from Daniel Hedrick, who had worked from parks before, tethering to his iPhone since there’s usually no wi-fi. I loved the idea right away because it fit so well with the goal of getting out of the house and discovering something new in my own city. I even spent a couple hours earlier in the month researching parks and planning out whether I could do it.

But now that it has come to it… I am really burned out on commuting. Finding new coffee shops and libraries has been a great experience. There are several wonderful places that I know I will return to again, and I never would have found them otherwise. I just need a little break from the forced routine of driving somewhere new each day. Maybe I’ll pick up the parks idea next year.

Coffee shops in Portland

Following a similar pattern as my 30 days of coffee shops, my friend Jon Hays has started mapping out a challenge to hit a month of coffee shops in Portland. The twist on his visits will be to focus mostly on the east side of Portland, and to only have lattes. First post: Cathedral Coffee.

Jon is documenting the coffee shop visits on his new microblog. An indie microblog is a great framework for posting this kind of thing, without the overhead and pressure that many people feel when faced with writing full-length blog posts.

See also: the 500 latte photos project by Aron Parecki, which looks like it wrapped up at a (still impressive) 312 lattes; and Tiny Challenges, a site and podcast from Daniel Steinberg and Jaimee Newberry about trying something new each day for a month.

Core Intuition 224

We posted episode 224 of Core Intuition today. From the show notes:

“Manton and Daniel discuss Apple’s revelation that Cookie Monster uses an iPhone, consider the Amazon Echo as the next big technology platform, and catch up with Manton’s successful 30 days of Austin coffee challenge.”

I like this episode because it touches a little on tech industry and business themes that we weren’t planning to talk about, so it captures whatever our gut feelings were on those topics. And as we talk about at the end of the show, I did end up wrapping up the coffee shop visits today. I’ve updated the coffee shop page on this site with the final list.

Is this even possible?

When I tell people that I’ve started going to a new coffee shop every day for a month — and importantly, one which I’ve never been to before after living my whole life in Austin, with no duplicates or separate locations from a coffee chain — they usually ask: are you going to run out of places to go? At the beginning I didn’t know. And that has made it a particularly fun challenge, because doing something that you know is possible is boring.

I’ve never been interested in building an iOS app that someone else has already done. I’ve never been excited to write a blog post that is just a rephrasing of someone else’s idea. Starting a new project with a unique twist, even a minor one, is what makes our job as developers and writers fun.

And it’s easy to take a simple idea and build it into a more advanced project. On the latest Core Intuition, Daniel continues to suggest ways to add layers to my coffee trips, from adding photos, to publishing future locations ahead of time so that anyone can stop by and join me for a coffee. (I’m going to be doing this.)

Now at day 10, I can more easily answer the original question, though. I have 16 suggested coffee shops in the queue, so if I visit all of those, I’ll only need 4 more places to hit 30 new coffee shops in 30 days. A few of these might seem like borderline cheats — a donut shop, or a food truck to pick up a Thai iced coffee — but being exposed to new places I would never otherwise go is the whole point.

New coffee shops, week 1

I’ve now wrapped up the first week of my attempt to visit a new coffee shop I’ve never been to, every day for a month. To track the progress, I’ve created a web page with all the visits so far, the coffee shops I hope to try soon, and also a bunch of places I’ve already been over the years (and so which are disqualified from this endeavor).

This has required a little more planning than I expected. I’ll be going to all corners of the city to not repeat myself for a full 30 days. Even then, I’ll have to broaden my search to include more traditional cafes and donut shops too.

I’ve also realized that I need to do a better job of ordering something unique when it’s on the menu, or asking for a recommendation. After all, the point is to get out of the house more often — to take a break from the isolated work-from-home environment, be exposed to something new, even if it’s just a simple drink or view outside, and get back to my current projects refreshed.

Core Intuition 220

On this week’s Core Int:

“Daniel orders a Brother, Apple defies the FBI, Manton continues to struggle with his Kickstarter, and the two discuss using structure and constraints to encourage tackling new goals.”

I like this episode because it has a mix of serious and fun topics. Toward the end of the episode we talk about my new goal of trying a new coffee shop once a day for a month.

200 MB free

I wrote a draft of this post a couple weeks ago while on the road, then gave a summary on Core Intuition 115. But I still wanted to publish it and give a little more detail about my experience with cellular on the iPad.

I ordered my retina iPad Mini with T-Mobile, hoping to take advantage of their free 200 MB of data per month. Since most of the time I’m at home on wi-fi, I figured the savings for all the months that I don’t need even 200 MB would more than offset the extra $130 cost of buying the cellular version of iPad.

I had three primary use cases in mind: the occasional commute on the train to work at coffee shops downtown, when it’s nice to be connected but the train wi-fi doesn’t cut it; swim meets and other kid activities with very long downtime, again without need for a laptop but it might be nice to catch up on some writing or RSS feeds; and road trips, lonely stretches of the highway where I’m technically on vacation but still need to check in on email, chat, or App.net.

I got home from the Apple Store, excitedly opened the box, restored my iPad from iCloud, tapped to set up a new T-Mobile plan, and… immediately wished I had chosen Verizon instead. Because the first thing I saw was an error that the web site wasn’t working. T-Mobile is smallest of the big carriers, and the error made me doubt that T-Mobile had the coverage or competence to make this work.

I followed up the poor first impression by searching the internet for similar problems that other T-Mobile customers might have run into. Sure enough, it was common weeks earlier during the iPad Air rollout, and T-Mobile still hadn’t fixed it. The workaround was simply to disable wi-fi during setup, forcing the connection to go through T-Mobile’s network.

A week later I gave the network its first real test on the road. Checking email, looking up maps and directions, writing, even a little streaming video for the kids.

The coverage between major cities wasn’t good. The iPad Mini was often on Edge where my iPhone 4S on AT&T had 4G. It worked, but would frequently drop and reconnect. Sometimes I’d get lucky and find a spot of LTE for a little while, and it was a beautiful thing, while it lasted. Other times it was all but unusable.

The good news is that “200 MB free” is not a marketing gimmick. No strings attached, no credit card required, and no phone plan needed; it really is free cell data. The cost is dealing with a company that wants desperately to “get” iOS but isn’t quite there, and poor connectivity between cities compared to AT&T. But after a rough start, I have no regrets. I’m typing this on my iPad along I-10 somewhere between Austin and Orlando, and that’s priceless indeed.

Working from coffee shops

Ben Brooks makes several good arguments for working from coffee shops:

“Coffee Shops started sprouting up everywhere in the U.S. because of massive demand for the coffee shop — not massive demand for coffee, mind you, but for the seats in the shops. This is evident with the way most shops are setup, but no more evidence needed than to look at the move of Starbucks providing free WiFi, instead of paid WiFi they started with.”

I agree. There’s no sense in fighting this trend, and the coffee shops that do will largely fail. But also, as customers, we should be careful not to abuse the privilege. I try to follow these simple rules when working from a coffee shop:

  • I don’t take up more space than I need.

  • If there’s a line, I usually wait until after I place my order before claiming a chair.

  • For local small businesses especially, I leave a tip.

  • After a few hours, I order another coffee or wrap up and leave.

Ben also points to a post from CJ Chilvers about libraries. I worked from my neighborhood library earlier this week — it’s a really nice, quiet environment — but the Austin libraries don’t allow you to bring any drinks inside yet, let alone have an on-site espresso machine. While traveling in Oregon a couple years ago, I remember the Eugene public library having a really nice cafe and I was immediately jealous.