Public Spaces

Approximately 2'30’’ minutes reading time

Yesterday I felt like having a conversation. I wanted to talk about user authentication on iOS. How to implement it without asking the user for a password. I wanted to do even better and have anonymous user accounts.

I was excited! Like a little kid that comes home from school and wants to talk to his parents about something new. Then, I stumbled. Who do I talk to about this? I am not at an office. I am not sitting at a co-working space. I am not attending a developers’ conference. Suddenly, I paused. Where is everybody? How do I reach out?

I thought of Twitter first. One reason I love Twitter is how it makes everyone accessible. You can direct your message at anyone and everyone. So I did, knowing full well that the chances of someone coming back are slim.

Twitter is more about sharing your thoughts, talking about what’s happening now. Twitter is async by nature. It’s not a way to have a discussion. Let alone getting a reply to jump on a call to have a conversation.

Then I thought of Slack. I am a member of some channels and occasionally spend some time on Athens iOS Meetups. I also decided to visit the Seattle Xcoders channel. Surely these are the places you can find iOS developers to have a chat with.

Not really. Just because people can be found there, doesn’t mean they are available. When you step into the room people don’t have to greet you. In fact, such a behaviour is not netiquette. Saying “g’day”, “καλημέρα”, “bonjour” messages is just noise1. Asking a question doesn’t mean it will get acknowledged. At best, what you will have is an async, robotic chat. With any form of expression narrowed down to written dialog. No eye-popping dialogue, no raising eyebrows, no gesticulations, nodding, human interaction.2

Finally, I thought of email. I will admit this was getting silly. Still, I looked around on people’s websites that I felt I wanted to talk to. Not much. No email information. No contact me. No happy to talk. Nothing. In fact, I’m guilty of that too!

Huh? In an online world, where we are all connected and accessible, where is everybody?

With social media focusing on individual expression and ways to satisfy our need for external validation where do we gather to exchange thoughts, ideas, knowledge?

In a world filled with co-working spaces and open plans offices why do we wait for lunch or a coffee break to converse? How accessible are these spaces to the public?

Are we all too busy working, driven by numbers maximising output that both our willpower and availability have diminished?

Where are our public gathering spaces used for civil discourse?

  1. Walking into a Kafenio at a Greek village would cause the following in order. Visual assessment of the individual, acknowledgement, greeting, getting familiar, showing interest in what one has to say. ↩︎

  2. Thank you Marc Schwieterman for having a word with me. ↩︎

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