Thursday, January 13, 2011

Starbucks Java Squatters

San Rafael, California
Mission? Squatting @ a Starbucks

I've become one of "them." A squatter, and even I'm irritated when I come into a Starbucks and see all the tables consumed by fellow java squatters. They get the stare. The same one I'm a recipient of while I'm squatting.

On July 1st of 2010 Starbucks made the bold move of providing free wi-fi to all its customers. This was/is big news for people like me. At the same time they launched the Starbucks Digital Network. The screen below is what pops up when you first connect to the wi-fi and launch your browser.

It's really pretty cool, at least for me. You can get free premium content such as a download of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. What Starbucks is attempting to do is mesh together social media, coffee and a type of community meeting situation. I've been coming to Starbucks for a long time, and I've observed that Starbucks coffee houses are significantly more crammed with people since its move to free wi-fi. The question becomes is whether this translates into more profit for the company. 

I can't see how linking up social media with face to face conversation is going to work. They are opposing forces. Us laptop warriors usually have earbuds crammed into our lobes oblivious to the old school human interaction taking place around us. Our main concern is the availability of an electrical outlet. 

It is interesting to observe how things are evolving. As in most things, the success of  any of this is dependent upon people doing the right thing. I spend money each time I trigger a squatting event. There is the same cast of characters I see regularly, and some could be charaterized as freeloading hippie types. What can I say. When someone comes in with a stack of DVD's, snags a free cup of water and proceeds to take up a table for an entire afternoon, all of us squatters run the risk of losing the privilege. I feel for the couple who come in who just want to sit at a table and enjoy a cup of coffee, but all tables are occupied with mobile command posts. Even more upsetting is people who step outside to take a 45 minute phone call while all their crap takes up a table. So I work to mitigate my squatter ways. I am grateful to Starbucks, as coming into the local shop is a great joy. The employee's are friendly, the place is clean, and of course I'm a coffee addict.

Blast From the Past

This shot is from Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, California. Circa 96. That is John Gamble on the left. 


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