What has Ben been up to?

Not that anyone was really asking, but I want to tell the few of you who aren’t search engines and spiders, what I have been up to recently (and hey if the spiders are amused, all the better). It has been a very busy year so far for me and I have realized that too many of the posts on Alt Text recently, have been links to other sites, posts, and videos and a lot less of me. I’m not contending that people think I am all that interesting, but a side-effect of not talking about myself is that I have not been talking about things I am doing and things I care about, and this is perhaps effecting how much passion I have had for blogging. How can I ask you, the reader, to care about what I am writing here, if I have been less than passionate? The answer is, I can’t. So I am hoping to start some more off-the-cuff style posts – perhaps putting less research into some topics, but also adding more of my own personality.

So what have I been up to? As I was saying it has been a very busy, but also a very fulfilling and, in many ways, extraordinary year so far. The first thing to note is that I co-founded a company with my friends, Scott and Jesse. My work as part of Refactr has been rewarding and fun. We have developed a product that we plan on releasing soon and we are working with a medical startup company to help them develop their flagship product. In addition to working in a very agile way we are leading the way in the Groovy/Grails development community by building a large application using this new language/framework.

To help foster community here at home in Minnesota, we have started the Groovy(and Grails) Users of Minnesota. Meetings are the 2nd Tuesday of each month. In late April, minnebar, the (un)conference I help to put on was a huge success with over 330 people spending a Saturday indoors geeking out. By all accounts, it was the second largest barcamp event in the world and the largest outside of India.

In addition to work and community related stuff, I have been playing volleyball and kickball this winter and spring. Jena and I threw a Cinco de Mayo party with her sister and husband that was quite fun and then my loving wife gt me a Wii for my birthday so I have been busy playing Wii sports like golf, tennis and bowling, as well as trying my luck with Super Paper Mario, Zelda, and Call of Duty 3.

CoWorking or open source office space

It has been nearly two months now since me and the rest of Refactr LLC have been out on our own and participating in the great experiment that is virtual officing. We have been using spaces such as coffee shops and libraries to meet and conduct our business. We have tried many locations and it works well when we have meetings in one part of the cities or another to just move around like nomads. It is very nice to have low overhead costs and use the three things we need: Internet access, electricity, and a table – all for the cost of a few lattes and maybe a bran muffin.

We find that it is great to get out of the house and work together, and have not missed a day of meeting, usually at 8am once we went out on our own.

However, like many things in life, the little jagged parts – issues that at first seemed pretty minor, begin to rub you the wrong way (or the same way but in the same spot repeatedly) until finally you can’t take it any more. In actuality, coffee shops are not free as each of the three of us has consistently spent between $25 and $50 per week on coffee, tea, and snacks. That adds up ($300-$600/month). Then we have to always cart all of our stuff in and out each day. We can’t bring too many books in our our good headphones. Bringing outside food is also, either awkward (rude to the establishment) or impractical (no refrigerator or microwave) so there are additional costs for lunch (both monetary and time-wise).

No wonder, so many start-ups or freelancers look to get together in a more permanent space using ideas described and put into in the form of things like CoWorking and Bucketworks.

These endeavors haven’t been easy as the headlines show – Saint Paul’s “Ren Box” in need of rescuing. I think that a primary problem is a lack of a person who devotes most of his/her time to it. I believe it really takes a lot of administration to do something like this, and people don’t get into this to be administrators.

Garrick wrote a summary of this topic a while back as well.

Now my friend Justin Grammens at Atomic Objects, is restarting the discussion for the Twin Cities. I am excited to see what comes of it.