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a third place

As an information architect in New York, I was a little jealous of my colleagues in Silicon Valley that all seemed to know and hang out together. Whenever someone tried to start an IA gathering at a "third place" in NY it lost momentum quickly. Few companies in this economy are willing to host professional meetings, and there aren't many cafes with space and quiet enough to have serious chats.

I instead started an "IA Salon" - called a salon as we meet in someone's home. Details: http://www.iawiki.net/IASalon It's been continuing nicely once per month for about 9 months now.

So for us, the successful "third place" is our homes, but our homes shared with others.

Victor Lombardi
Saturday, March 01, 2003

Hate to rub it in, but that is one nice thing about California.  I knew a group of about 15 people that play at a pizza place one night a week, when that closes, they go to the donut shop 100 ft. away.

Never been to N.Y.  Yeah, there is a lot of room out here.  I live in Greater L.A. area.

Brian R.
Saturday, March 01, 2003

As someone who lives in the Bay Area (CA), I was surprised to see Joel mention it as a place supposedly particularly lacking in "third places".  Yeah, there are a lot of people who moved out here after college (like me, e.g.).  It turns out, though, that these are almost the exact people who have interests in common with me.  There are tons of "third places" out here.  Personally, I regularly attend a gaming group that met multiple times a week and sometimes drew more than 20 people.  And there are a lot of outdoors-y groups too.  There aren't a lot of places with such a high density of smart, interesting people as the Bay Area.

Kevin Postlewaite
Saturday, March 01, 2003

I think the availability of potential "third places" varies tremendously by neighborhood. And one of the things about mostly suburban areas is that, while third places may exist, it can be hard to find them unless you know exactly where to look. The best way to know where to look is to ask local experts, but if you're new to an area and have few friends, that can be tough, especially for people who lean toward introversion in the first place.

I live in Seattle now, and I see a huge contrast between the availability of these kind of places in different areas. I live right in the city, and within walking distance there are a number of non-franchise coffee places that encourage prolonged stays, local pubs that offer regional microbrews, etc. Lots of options for third places that you can find just by walking around for a few minutes. But over on the Eastside, in Microsoft's neighborhood, it's a different story entirely. It's not really pedestrian-friendly, and you can get in your car and drive around for hours trying to find an interesting place to hang out. That's not to say that suitable third places don't exist at all, but I suspect they're either vastly fewer in number or just much harder to locate.

I've found the Bay Area to have similar variation. In certain areas, like parts of SF itself, Berkeley, and so on, finding third places is no problem. In other places, like much of the Valley, they exist but you have to search around a bit. If your daily commute is from a gigantic planned housing development in San Jose, up 101, and along some arterial into a monotonous office park, you sure won't see a lot of potential third places along the way.

John C.
Saturday, March 01, 2003

It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation, have the 'third places' disappeared because nobody wanted them anymore, or did they disappear becuse as Joel says 'capalist society has eroded' them all?

I think people are slowly turning back on to the knowledge that people generally have always needed other people to maintain a quality standard of life, meaning that interaction with others is a great source of pleasure and offers a feeling of belonging.

(I think I need grammer lessons)

The last 30 years of work has bought great social change, most of us are far richer than we would have been in previous lives, but it has come at a cost, maybe we're not prepared to sacrifice our sense of community afterall.

Alberto
Saturday, March 01, 2003

>>> I think people are slowly turning back on to the knowledge that people generally have always needed other people to maintain a quality standard of life, meaning that interaction with others is a great source of pleasure and offers a feeling of belonging. <<<

Or it can be a source of pain and offer a feeling of exclusion.

I grew up in a house with a porch.  People knew their neighbors, but I don't remember people stopping by to sit on the porch and talk.  Third place interaction tended to be at places such as churches.  Now I live in a big condo building.  I know a few of my neighbors and am familiar enough with many of them to say hello when passing in the elevator or at the grocery store.  But most of my third place interaction is at a couple of community organizations I belong to.  And they are too far to walk to.  Not much different from the good old days.

On line communities based on maillists or discussion boards are a recent phenomenon, but one where I see significant advantages even if you don't have in person interaction.  They give one more control over those interactions and offer the possibility of maximizing the pleasure/pain ratio.

By increasing our area for potential interaction from our physical neighborhood to the entire on-line population we increase the possibility of finding others of common interest. 

By limiting interaction to text messages we can reduce the potential for exclusion from the group based on prejudices against the class of people we happen to belong to.

I have noticed that some maillist or USENET online communities have evolved to the point where participants decide to meet in real life (e.g RABfests).

mackinac
Saturday, March 01, 2003

There are places in the bay area where stuff is happening but they are not near downtown. Downtown is totally dead after 10pm unless dingy coffee shops and preteen transvestite hookers are your third place.

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, March 01, 2003

Right next door to me here in Cologne, some lisp guys are meeting once a month.  (Perhaps to take back computing.)

I think the dotcom implosion ensured that only the crazy ones stay in informatics.  So meeting is more worthwhile now.

Offtopic, to the original poster:  don't you note that people have a hard time working with you when by extension they're just "knowledge workers" to your Information Architect?  I guess we don't have to veer offtopic though...

n
Sunday, March 02, 2003

RE>Offtopic, to the original poster:  don't you note that people have a hard time working with you when by extension they're just "knowledge workers" to your Information Architect?

Not sure what you mean. I actually started the group because the level of conversation in electronic forums was rather low, and I (and, as it turns out, we) wanted to pursue more in-depth issues. That also became a factor in who was invited to the salon. If that sounds - as I think you're implying - elitist, then maybe it is. But it's highly satisfying and doesn't keep us from sharing what we learn in other forums with other people, which we do.

btw, Information Architecture is becoming a fairly well-established discipline, this isn't just me with a pretentious title :-)  see http://www.aifia.org/

Victor
Sunday, March 02, 2003

I have to ask... What is Asilomar?

B#
Sunday, March 02, 2003

No, I wasn't implying you were elitist.  Rather, I was thinking about some esteem problems I've observed, from east coast people who reacted to that term "information architect."  No criticism intended. ;)

n
Sunday, March 02, 2003

Why the 'Asilomar Institute for Information Architechture' of course!  The palindromic home of all things Institutie!

Seriously, is Asilomar simply a location or does it have another...

B#
Monday, March 03, 2003

Funny, here in Australia Sony has been marketing the PlayStation 2 with the logo "The Third Place".

I'm fairly well educated and well-read, and so are many of my friends, and none of us could figure out what they were trying to say. It seemed dumb to us to market your product as anything other than First Place.

I'm glad I now understand the reference! Thanks Joel!

Is this "Third Place" concept a common reference in the USA? Would the average American know what it means? Perhaps it's just another cultural thing that doesn't translate well.

Darren Collins
Monday, March 03, 2003

I don't recall ever hearing the term "Third Place" before, but the concept somewhat familiar.  The average person in the street might wonder what you are talking about even though the concept is not all that strange.

Does it make any sense to an Australian?  I would think that the idea would be common to any free industrialized country.  The concept that I have of Communist countries (e.g., the old Soviet Union) is that the government either tries to control or destroy anything that might be a third place.  Don't know how accurate that is.

mackinac
Monday, March 03, 2003

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