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bringing the buzz back

Found this article via Twitter (thanks to @jamesreiner).  It’s from the Wall Street Journal and it’s about coffeehouses and how they have changed over the years.  Here’s a quick sample:

We’ve become a nation of coffee sophisticates—to the point where McDonald’s feels compelled to roll out some semblance of an espresso program—but we’re still rubes when it comes to the real purpose of the place: It’s not the coffee. It’s what your brain does on it.

The article does a good job talking about how coffee shops began as a place of discourse. It’s where students and academics, activists and organizers, or just people with time for opinions and conversations, met to discuss things.  The atmosphere was loud.  The conversation was the primary selling point, not the coffee.  The coffee just fueled the dialogue.  But something changed.  Here’s what the author says:

Which brings us to the laptop. At any given moment, a typical New York coffeehouse looks like an especially sedate telemarketing center. Recently, there’s been a movement afoot to limit the use of laptops. The laptoppers hog the tables, but they do the coffeehouse experience an even deeper disservice. They make it a solitary one, and it’s a different kind of solitude from the stance sung by Hemingway. You’re not just alone—you’re in another universe entirely, inaccessible to anyone not directly behind you.

“A sedate telemarketing center.”  I smiled when I read that because for several years in San Diego, my primary office was a coffee shop.  And it’s true.  It’s the laptop brigade, fighting for table space and electrical outlets.

It’s an interesting article worth reading and worth fleshing out for greater implications.