Bram Pitoyo, Interlude

Internalizing Sustainability In Design-Business Environments

The word ‘sustainability’ carries with it several inherent meanings. I would categorize these into three different schools. So when we talk about “sustainability,” we can mean:

  • The nature or environment
  • The next generation, long-term thinking
  • A system with self-supporting patterns

There is, I believe, no single correct definition for the word, because to think that one objective meaning can be extracted from one phrase is a fallacy. But if all of those are true, then what is the most helpful for us to use in this thinking?

1. The nature or environment

Idea

This is the school of thought that is perhaps the most clear in intent and execution, but also came early in the movement and are thus grossly overplayed. The idea is that that we must not destroy the environment that we lived in—where by “environment” we really mean “everything, not including humans.” It thinks of nature as resource, and human as consumers. And the only way to consume more is to conserve more. Thanks to its relative maturity and development (the relative maturity of the people who champions for this idea is another matter entirely,) the Nature/Environment school of thought is the one idea that we hear the most on public conversation and political/commercial rhetoric. Sure, the framework may be limited, but to many people, this school is the gateway drug to more awareness.

Action

Between planting a tree, biking to work, buying locally, turning off electricity and buying carbon offsets and wind power, thinking in this manner, taking measurable actions toward sustainability is simple.

2. The next generation, long term thinking

Idea

The tenet: This school no longer sees human and nature as two separate parts, but rather, as inseparable whole, eternally interdependent of each other. Human stewards. Nature provides. The hope: by taking humanity into account and thinking about problems more in terms of what the next generation will face and less of what we will face, actions could be taken to solve future’s problem today. The clearest example of this thought in action is in the philosophy of “designing for the future.”

Action

This is where things get a little more abstract. The action part of this school gets more into the process, rather than the implementation, of design. For instance: using biodegradable materials in design and modernizing manufacturing processes to achieve more efficiency and reduces waste in power. This school is where the thinking that being sustainable will not only benefit the environment, but also the business, come from. Or, in other words, the thinking that “what’s good for the environment is good for business.”

3. A system with self-supporting patterns

Idea

This school takes the next generation idea further, by positing that, not only is human and nature inseparable, but their relationship forms a complex symbiosis. Way too complex, in fact, than any one of us could ever hope to understand—and so we have to think about it as one system. Move one node, and the whole grid is impacted. Do it right, and everything will go better.

In other words, in a system with self-supporting patterns, we’ve changed the pattern too much into ones that inform the system to move in a direction that is not necessarily in our best interest.

In its purest form, this school rejects abstraction by saying that it only distances us away from the problem-at-hand, in favor of taking every single factor possible into consideration when thinking about things.

Action

The problem, they say, is that—to go back to our node-and-grid analogy above—we’ve moved both the wrong node and in the wrong direction too much that there are very few simple things we can do to repair it. Biking to work may save money, but is your bike made sustainably? Buying an organic food product may be better for the environment, but is all party involved in the process, from cradle to grave—from the land itself, then farmers, suppliers, businesses, advertising agencies to retail associates—compensated fairly, and worked in ways that not only takes the earth into account, but also works for the betterment of human development?

The most helpful definition

Though most complicated, abstract and impractical, the System–Patterns idea of sustainability fits our framework better. Here are some reasons why:

  • Avoiding separation of Human–Nature as entities (or indeed, even acknowledging it) means divorcing from a Cartesian point of view
  • Forgoing easy solutions with immediate effects (not because they’re necessarily bad, but because they’re most often oversimplified) means thinking of things as webs of relationship
  • Acknowledging complexity and integrating it in the framework means that we’ll more likely to make better solution, if only for the fact that we put more time to think and plan before we actually implement

Where we went wrong

The Western world have just embraced these thoughts. This is good, and is certainly better than where we had been in the past. But this also means that we, our culture, didn’t grow up with these ideas, and thus couldn’t necessarily internalize it. Sure, we may do the right thing, but only when we try.

Let’s imagine for a moment that any thing that we do won’t actually harm nature. Would we still do things that will harm nature? It’s a safe bet that the answer is probably no. Given a world with no resistance, we probably won’t do things that would work with the earth, instead of against it, by natural tendency.

And this, the natural tendencies both manifested through and taught by culture, is where we went wrong.

Is there hope?

Yes. Eastern and other indigenous cultures developed and grew up with the notion of ecology. It’s just that we sometimes mistook it for unsophistication or tried to fit it into our cultural frameworks (as we naturally behave.)

For example: do you know that the Yin–Yang model does not imply a separation of Yin and Yang (much like how we separate light and dark, male and female, hot and cold, and so on), but rather, a dynamic interplay between the two? For instance, rather than implying that “absolute goodness” is better than “absolute evilness,” the Yin–Yang model explicitly stated that both good and evil must exist in order for the ideal to be achieved. And “perfect balance,” far from being a notion where everything is static and unchanged, instead imply a fluid, ever progressing movement where the two continually interact with each other.

I think that we should learn from them, and maybe start to adopt their way of living and thinking into our culture and business.

Design Business Environment: Where Sustainability Fits In

Today, we know that what’s good for the environment isn’t always good for business. It’s good for the right kind of business and not the others. A lot of businesses today realized that by touting themselves as being and acting sustainable, consumers are willing to pay a premium, thus creating higher profits.

This isn’t wrong, but if we are to take the System–Patterns principles and apply it here, it’ll be inadequate. These businesses are considering sustainability as a competitive advantage by rethinking design processes, distribution management, marketing efforts and other steps in the product lifecycle. But what if they consider ecology a core foundation, not just an added value? And what if they reinvent business (and profit) models, not just the processes?

Remember the two phrases often uttered in talks about new businesses?

  1. Good design makes good business
  2. Good environmental practice makes good business

I propose we change this into something along the lines of:
Good environmental principles helps make good design better, which in turn helps make good business.

What you can do today

Start with the environment as a core foundation. Don’t just “duct tape” it into your business, and don’t worry about taking every little detail into account at the micro-level either. If ecology informs and guides every one of your business element, you don’t even need to take it into account anymore. It’ll be second nature to how you operate, design and make profits. And, if you ask me, doing things out of nature is always easier.

And if we can make the process easier to more people, maybe we can also move toward a regional design business environment where sustainability is not just practiced, but internalized.

The future: is “sustainable design” the right term for the job?

If words influence the way we think, then we should start using terminologies that align with the way we want to be. In light of this discussion, “sustainable design” may be inappropriate. Consider the fact that the processes of learning, problem solving and creating, all parts of this whole we call “design,” is an inherently sustainable process. Better yet if it takes the principles discussed above into account.

But by taking the word “sustainable” and stick it next to “design,” we have created a separation between “sustainable design” and “non-sustainable design.” It’s true that the former is better than the latter. But design should not be thought of this way. “Sustainability” in the future, should be a function of “design” rather than an added feature. It’s like saying that a keyboard should be able to input alphabet characters, because it is made to do so.

Therefore, it should be just enough to, in the future, say “design” and expect “sustainability” to already be integrated fully into it.

Your job is to try these principles today.

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Links

A New Gig For A Week

Over the next week, I will be guest writing at Designer Daily.

Designer Daily features resources, tutorials and (mostly) inspirations for visual designers. Whether you work in print, web, interactive, information, it’s safe to bet that you’ll probably find a useful thing or two on it. The blog is run by Mirko Humbert, a Swiss designer who took the same brave plunge to independent works right after he graduated.

I’m looking forward to write articles and find resources that address the interesting area between creativity and technology—and hopefully be a good representative for Portland in this realm.

Will I see you there?

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Bram Pitoyo, Interlude, Links

If We’re In A Symbiotic Relationship With The Web, It Should Evolve With Us

Last week, I posed the idea that websites should be thought organically, much like how we think of each other as living, breathing people. For example, if we act differently when we’re at work, at home and at night outs with friends, and change our outfits depending the season and time of year, then websites should do the same. By the way, this is technically achievable by using a Javascript, but we’re not going to talk about it at that level yet.

To start off, we’re going conceptual

If the web and web-centered communities becomes our second-life, and we interact with them as well as we interact with their meatspace equivalents, then the web should start behaving more like the way we do.

In other words, as our relationship with the web becomes more fluid and less rigid, the parallel between the way websites work and the way we work becomes more important than ever.

This is comparable to the move from the command line to the GUI. If you remember, back then, we had to adopt different metaphors and interaction models. For example: using a mouse to complement a keyboard, instead of just the latter. Sure, we had to learn a few concepts along the way, like “document window” or “multi tasking,” but it turned out that the GUI model fit our way of interacting with computers better.

A similar move happened when the web came. With the GUI and the said document window model, we’re used to text and images structured in a page-like format. The concept of referencing to another document without actually including that document in the text was, in our framework of interaction with computer, unfamiliar. Today, we call this “linking.” Similarly, the concept of including a snippet of object of a different type from the document format was unthinkable. Today, we call this “embedding.” To put it shortly: we learnt the concept of Hypertext document through the web.

In addition to adopting and learning, this also brought the idea of evolution into play. Sure, our physical bodies may not be evolving in the truest sense of the word. But mentally, we do. Look at us twenty–thirty years ago: comfortable with reading any book. Then look at us today: wishing that the text of the said book be more succinct and behave like a Wikipedia article, giving us related informations and references, accessible anytime we want it, without turning to the endnote. And “turning pages”? We wished we don’t have to, because on the web, we literally open sets upon sets of books in the browser tabs.

Does the browser tab concept make us more productive? Absolutely. Does it mirror the way we read articles in a print publication? No. But we adapt. We evolve.

Note how there is a tension here between what we can do online, but not in real life (like tabbing), and what we can do in real life, but not online (like making near-instantaneous, from-the-moment annotations, unencumbered by mouse clicks and keyboard taps.)

Anywho, my point was: with the coming of the web, we had to learn new models and change our behaviors in interacting with computers. But our lives are for the better thanks to new concepts like linking and embedding.

Let’s go on with the timeline.

I bet this is still fresh on your mind: when the social web arrived, we learn yet another sets of metaphors and interaction models. Banner advertising? Bah. Community management is the new way to get your product/service name out there, and we have to learn how to interact nicely with each other if we want to achieve anything. Again: we forget past behaviors (trolling forums, recruiting customers for “street teams” and “brand ambassadors”) and learn new ones (gathering users and developers around your brand, then service them the best you could.)

Not surprisingly, then, the web culture that we’re at today also require new metaphors. Even the terms have changed linguistically. “Democratizing information”? That’s so early web. The fact that any piece of information should be available everywhere, at all times, is a given. Today, we’re “decentralizing” and “distributing” them by using things like microformats.

And, not only that, the information should also have the ability to be remixed and spliced into what’s relevant for, out of all people, me. Because I don’t have all day to filter through all the information in the world, but I want to, and I want the cream to rise to the top.

See a trend here? We continually learn new interaction models in our relationship with technology and the web. And these interactions, although concerned mainly with computer, were always moving toward becoming more humane. This is a thread that runs consistently through these examples.

But if interactions are becoming more and more humane, why hasn’t the idea of the website evolve accordingly? Sure, models like Wiki and social network have changed this idea somewhat, but a website is, by and large, still thought of as a page. It could be as dynamic and malleable as it has never been before, but it’s still just a page, not an architecture/building. A page is a collection of codes, services, frameworks and design. An architecture/building is all that, with the underlying notion of space—to live, work, play and interact—included in it.

This was the reason why I wondered if we should start thinking about websites as architectures

An architecture can be a collection of foundations, exterior frameworks and interior designs, but it’s always thought of as an integrated whole, rather than the disparate parts. Watch a building being built, and you’ll see that, even though the workers and architect may be building one part of it at a time, they had a vision of how the building will look like and how the space will be used when the structure is finished.

In the same manner, a website can contain pieces of design, lines of code and mashups of services, but it shouldn’t just be thought of as “a collection”. We interactive designers, web developers and information architects need to bring spatial concepts like the psychology of space, and start thinking about how will the website be interacted with after it’s done.

The vocabularies need to change, too. A website should be architected (an all-encompassing, visionary process,) rather than designed (which implies a mainly visual process), coded (a foundational process) or assembled (a structural process.)

For now, here’s what I will do

I will change my vocabularies and consider things like the psychology of space when I describe and think about websites.

So try it, won’t you?

A note on interaction models: everything you need for the future is here

Go back to the “command line to GUI to the Web to the social web to Yahoo!Pipe” story above, and you’ll notice that new interaction models and metaphors were already invented when we used the old ones. They’re just waiting for the critical point in time in which our familiarity with the old models lead us to change and adopt new ones.

For example:

  • GUI was already invented when the command line was popular. In fact, various softwares at that time had things like a menu bar
  • Hypertext document was already applied to leading edge software development projects as we install our copy of WordStar from the floppy disks
  • The “social” features of the web (now called “2.0”) was there when the AOL Instant Messenger gained popularity
  • RSS is a rethinking of XML, which was already in use to display documents in many websites
  • Dapper is an API for any website. API grew in popularity with the rise of web application-as-service and open source

So, if history is correct, the interaction models that we will use and adopt widely tomorrow is already here today. I don’t think I found other shared characteristic of these possible models yet, other than the fact that they’re already invented.

What you can do today

  • Start examining how we interact with the web
  • Look around for some potential technologies that change this interaction
  • Then ask yourself this:

What’s the most natural extension of the way I interact with the web today?

The technology that provides this extension could be what we use in the future!

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Bram Pitoyo, Interlude, Links

A Field Guide To Coffee Shops Around Northwest Portland, Particularly The Pearl District Neighborhood

Good afternoon.

As a freelance designer-turned-brand strategist-turned-hacker-turned-community manager, I spent most of my times working either at home or around coffee shops. Notwithstanding the fact that beverages are now becoming my biggest monthly expenditures, I still chose to work around gathering places, and places around Northwest Portland. Why? Because the presence of people (and particularly, hardworking Twitter users) compels me to work harder, too—and Northwest Portland because the area offers that cliched “urbane,” or “hip,” or “rustic meets industrial meets Bauhaus” atmosphere that so many people with good taste crave.

But, first things first, let me clarify that this post serves to answer one question (and one question only):

Which coffee shop is appropriate for which occassion?

Now, having spent adequate time in various coffee shops around this area in specific, and Portland in general, I feel that I am able to identify some factors that are present in most, if not all of them.

The analysis are offered in this format:
Name of Factor
Relative Importance
Explanation and/or Anecdote

They are:

Hipster Barista

Extremely important
It should be noted that, in most cases, a hipster barista not only bikes everywhere, drinks PBR and watches indie music concerts—she also consumes coffee in copious quantity, and therefore actually cares about the quality of the coffee, from the beans to the mugs. Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, the relative degree of “Hipsterness” is directly correlative to quality of cup served. Bonus if barista is spotted wearing shirt with a flashy —either yellow, hot pink or bright blue—color (male), shirt with the name of a band or club from the 80’s (female) and skinny jeans (both.)

At a certain coffee shop in Southeast Hawthorne Street and 38th Avenue, I have had a barista prepare a cup of Americano and delay the delivery of the double-shot after briefly sniffing the bouquet and declaring that the shot was, in fact, inadequate for his standard before proceeding to dump the cup, apologizing profusely and restarting the process. If that doesn’t show devotion, I don’t know what else.

Indie music

Mildly Important, although bonus if band is one whose name you have never heard of before and is so obscure that mentioning it at the Sasquatch music festival generates “I don’t know”s and “what the hell is that”s. Also bonus if music is being played extra loudly, or contains either synthesizer instrumentation, guttural vocal and/or cheap-sounding drums that the volume doesn’t matter.

The presence of coffee shop and music has become synonymous to one another. Whether the music is pumped through iPod or a conventional stereo system, there are certain factors that indicates the coffee shop’s relative attitude, friendliness of barista, fitness for a workspace, fitness for a conversation and quality of food items.

View the Table Of Relationship Between Kind Of Music Played In A Coffee Shop, And What It Influences

Furniture with Mid-Century Modernist leaning

Optional, but nice to have
What is a coffee shop without a decent chair or table to lounge and do work on? Some claims to only pay attention about “the coffee, and nothing else,” but do not be fooled. A good coffee shop would care about the beverages as much as the wall decoration. This is not considered to be pretentious in The Pearl District.

Aesthetics can range widely, but always fall within these three general patterns:

  • “The Couchsurfer,” low-budget, spare and IKEA-ish
  • “The Next Door Neighbor,” sofa-dominated, low chair (with padding) and flowers
  • “The Upscale Hipster,” some designer furniture, roof generally left open and floor unfurnished

Notably, I have spotted an Eames Lounge Chair (without the ottoman) on a coffee shop in Northeast Belmont Street and 37th Avenue. The aesthetics was exactly Upscale Hipster, and the sandwiches were quite good, if not a little bit expensive for such a small quantity.

Outdoor seating

Very important for about two months out of the year, then negligible, bonus if the said seating have electrical outlets nearby, and is sheltered, but otherwise facing direct sunlight

Hailing from a place where the temperature rarely hits below 80°, I’m a natural sun worshipper. In the summer, this is the one feature that I judge every coffee shop by—and to my knowledge, only one place could do this (which is coming in the review, so be patience.)

Stumptown Coffee beans

Arbitrary, but this is Portland, therefore: Very Important

Reliable wifi connection

The most important of all, as well as the reason why this post was written in the first place
Here in Portland, we expect that wifi be fast and coffee be good—on all coffee shop at all time. After all, if we nomad knowledge workers want to actually get things done and be productive, we need a connection with a decent download and upload speed, and one that doesn’t block any port (such as, you know, email or FTP access.)

Unfortunately, I found this to be the most unpredictable factor of all. This is why I will devote the rest of this post to review not only which café is appropriate for which activity (client meeting, coworking, reading, watching time go by, finishing up that intensive project that was due this morning, etc.) but also which one offers the best service, food and beverage, amenities and—perhaps most importantly—wifi connection.

Here we go.

Stumptown Coffee nearby Powell’s Books

Address

1022 SW Stark St.
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 224-9060

Amenities

  • Bar stools
  • Comfy couches
  • A big table
  • A bathroom so clean you may as well polish it while you’re doing your business

Atmosphere

Mellow, warm and dim

Ideal for

  • Lounging about
  • Meetings with friends
  • Place to stop by on a date

Wifi rating

☝ ½
Never fast, but Google searches in proper speed, so that’s something, right?

Pro tip

Out of seating? Need to get away with the date when the mood strikes? More couches and chairs around a table—that no one ever sits on—are available when you take the stairs beside the hotel reception desk to the 2nd floor. Amber Case, the Cyborg Anthropologist who holds the title of Most Tabs Open In A Browser Window, told me that you can further take this stairs to the 4th floor, where seating nirvana supposedly lies. You’re welcome to prove or debunk this story.

Aside

They will serve your Americano in a small glass, and, to my knowledge, had no tall ones available.

Stumptown Coffee on 3rd Avenue

Address

128 SW 3rd Ave.
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 295-6144

Amenities

  • Bar stools that are actually located around the bar
  • Medium tables and chairs
  • A set of couches at the end of the room
  • two outside tables frequently occupied by hipsters

Atmosphere

Airy

Ideal for

  • Individual work sessions
  • Small client meetings

Wifi rating

☝ ☝
Slightly better than Stumptown in the Pearl, but only for light browsing

Pro tip

Come early in the day and grab the couches, an ideal coworking space thanks to skylight and enough separation from the rest of the room. It’s also elevated slightly by a platform, so you feel that your job is more important than maxing out a level 70 Night Elf Dark Knight on the side of the room whilst sucking up all the bandwidth—but only slightly.

Aside

Speak softly, I’ve heard that the room amplifies your voice

World Cup Coffee and Tea at Powell’s Books Yellow Room

Address

1005 W Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 224-4905

Amenities

Plenty of chairs and tables

Atmosphere

Serious and literary, even though they have the comics in there, or whatever the heck they categorize McSweeney’s humor category as

Ideal for

Working alone, and, to a lesser extent, coworking—because the place is, more often than not, noisy

Wifi rating

☝ ☝ ½
Decent. Suited for medium browsing, but not for flash-heavy website

Pro tip

People always thought that there’s no outlet in this space. Well, here’s a secret: make a left immediately after you enter the room, past the bookshelves and onto the long-table facing the window. Look closely, and therein you’ll see several outlets. They are the only set of outlets in the room. There, I just increased your productivity by tenfold

Aside

A Go club meets every Wednesday night for games. 5 to 6 boards are usually played simultaneously, and we all know that watching Go brings zen, right?

World Cup Coffee and Tea at the Ecotrust Building

Address

721 NW 9th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 546-7377

Amenities

  • Long plush chairs
  • A set of couch
  • Bar stools
  • Medium tables
  • Sun-drenched outside seating
  • Hot Lips pizza next door

Atmosphere

Sunny and chic

Ideal for

  • Both individual and coworking sessions
  • Small to medium group meetings
  • Small to medium client meetings

Wifi rating

Anywhere from zero on the rooftop, to ☝ ☝ ☝ ☝ ☝ on the back of the room

Pro tip

The Ecotrust rooftop is, as far as I’m concerned, every sun worshipper’s wet dream, as long as she doesn’t need to go online. It has movable tables, easy chairs, great view of the Jamison Park and the Pearl District, and even a fireplace as a shade if she ever changes her mind.

Outlets are located nearby the wall. Look for the small, metal boxes.

Also, go to the back of the room “under the Blanket Of Warmth,” as Christina Williams put it—which really means “the right back table, on the chairs facing the front door”—to get better wifi connectivity.

Aside

How many coffee shops have non-standard (black) tea prepared in their fridge? This World Cup keeps a secret stash of cold Mango Ceylon in summer months, so you don’t have to order one with 80% ice and 20% tea, or pour a hot one over ice—thus drowning the sweet, sweet nectar with water to a tepid result.

My research have shown that a 20 oz. cup of non-iced cold tea will remain cold in direct sunlight for about 15 minutes—but I strongly doubt that it would last unconsumed for that long.

Also, Hot Lips, the pizza place next door, has great garlic parmesan and pesto basil breadsticks (I buy one each and pair them with a cold Mango Ceylon for a filling lunch), but very rarely will your waiter offer the marinara or ranch dipping sauces.

Ask for this, and you won’t regret it.

Backspace

Address

115 NW 5th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 248-2900

Amenities

  • Medium tables and chairs
  • A set of couches
  • Bar stools
  • Circular work table
  • Computers in the back room, for rent
  • Enough outlets to power your laptop, iPod, Blackberry, digital picture frame, and whatever gadgets you could possibly have

Atmosphere

Geeky and dank (in a good way) Rock ’n Roll Bohemian, says Mark Colman

Ideal for

  • Both individual and coworking sessions
  • Code sprints
  • Maxing out your level 70 Night Elf Dark Knight
  • Small group meetings

Wifi rating

☝ ☝ ☝ &9757: ½
Outstanding, but a lot of users are always on, so speed may be inconsistent at times

Pro Tip

Get a sour-laced, mango-creme-filled Voodoo Doughnut if the caffeine kick isn’t enough to pump you up to frag your opponents. Know someone from Vidoop, eROI or Planet Argon? Then you’ll most likely catch her getting a cup of joe.

Aside

Watch for hipster kids setting up their bands, particularly during the evening, around dinnertime. Backspace is one of the few places in Portland with a very diverse (credit: Reid Beels) music genre, which means that the possibility of watching a twee electro-pop and Brit-hair rock playing after a Klingon death metal band all in one night is quite high

Also, watch for Treasurelicious’ “Expose your treasures” sticker on the restroom

World Cup Coffee & Tea (nearby Mission Theater)

Address

1740 NW Glisan St.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 228-4152

Amenities

Tables and chairs

Atmosphere

“Very intense and full of people with laptops” was what I roughly heard from Kevin Chen.

Ideal for

Wifi rating

Unknown, here’s why:

I’ve only been to this coffee shop once, two years ago, to meet somebody from Wild Alchemy on a particularly gray September. This was my one of my first forays into Account Planning, and was then alerted that Wild Alchemy tend to be busy during the end of the year. I wore either a black or brown dress shirt, a black jacket, and had a Mango Ceylon that was so piping hot, I had to pour it bit-by-bit on the small plate and sip it from there. This was how coffee was traditionally drunk where I grew up. I was without a laptop then, and so wasn’t able to check on the wireless quality. The meeting went well.

Pro Tip

This place has free parking, says Brian Krejcarek (@treefern.) It should be noted that no other coffee shop reviewed in this series has this feature.

Aside

Nothing here yet. But I bet that you must know something that I don’t about this venue.

Caffé Umbria

Address

303 NW 12th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 241-5300

Amenities

  • Tables and chairs
  • High tables for coffee sipping around the bar
  • Plenty of Italian attitude

Atmosphere

Sleek and serious

Ideal for

  • Small, medium to large client meeting
  • Working alone

Wifi rating

Zero
As of my last visit, there is no wifi at this venue

Pro Tip

There are a lot of coffee shops suitable for coworking among friends or finishing up the novel you always wanted to finish but never had the chance to. Café Umbria is not one of them. My recent trip proved that the venue is filled with executives and pitching entrepreneurs, which can only mean one thing: Café Umbria is great for client meetings.

Aside

Any attempt to order an “extra hot non-fat grande pumpkin caramel breve,” while may only be replied with a condescending chuckle at Stumptown, will cause Café Umbria’s barista to give you a dirty, dirty look. Stick with the standard. You have been warned.

Urban Grind Coffeehouse Northwest

Address

911 NW 14th Ave.
OR, OR 97209
(503) 546-5919

Amenities

  • Tables and chairs
  • Outside seatings, sheltered from the sun
  • Some high tables and chairs
  • A black leather couch
  • The Famous Long Table On The Back Of The Room

Atmosphere

Geeky and studious

Ideal for

  • Working individually, and especially coworking
  • Small client meetings

Wifi rating

☝ ☝ ☝ ☝ ☝
Solid. Go here if you need a reliable and fast connection, with good upload speed.

Pro Tip

Urban Grind Northwest is becoming the coworking venue of choice for many Portland creative and tech independents. Enter the space on almost any day of the week, towards the afternoon or after lunch, and you’ll most likely find any of these fine people working away at The Famous Long Table On The Back Of The Room:

In short, go here if you’re itching to meet a Portland Tweeter in real life.

Aside

Bring an extra layer. Thanks to the air conditioning inside, the temperature inside is, more often than not, colder than what’s outside. Also plan to be here for a while, if not for the great atmosphere, then for the relatively slow service.

Sip and Kranz

Address

901 NW 10th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 336-1335

Amenities

  • Medium and tall tables and chairs
  • Outside seatings
  • Kids play area

Atmosphere

Sun-drenched and raucous

Ideal for

  • Individual and coworking sessions
  • Small client meetings
  • Working with kids

Wifi rating

☝ ☝ ☝ ☝ ½
Excellent, but FTP port is blocked.

Pro Tip

In my mind, there are only 3 criteria that any coffee hop must fulfill if it’s to make an ideal work environment:

  1. Great wifi
  2. Plenty of outlets
  3. Outside seatings in direct sunlight

For example, note how World Cup Coffee And Tea at Ecotrust only fulfills criteria 2 and 3, and Urban Grind Northwest, Backspace and Stumptown Coffee on 3rd Avenue only fulfill 1 and 2.

Sip and Kranz fulfills all three—and not only that, the seating outside has shades, so if you suddenly decide that the tan is, in fact, enough, you can simply drag the chair half a feet away.

Wondering if the same outlets that power the tree lights outside can be used to charge your laptop? Me, too. Just unplug the cable from the box, replace it with your laptop charger, and resume your work accordingly. If you ask me, the power is best used to power your laptop, who has tree lights on during the day, anyway?

Aside

Watch the merry gentlemen throwing small steel balls on the sand park.

Peet’s Coffee and Tea

Address

1114 NW Couch St
Portland, OR 97209
(971) 244-0458

Amenities

Tables and chairs, both inside and outside. Also: some high tables toward the front side of the room.

Atmosphere

Urbane and, unfortunately, cramped

Ideal for

Small client meetings. Definitely not for working.

Wifi rating

☝ ☝ ☝ ☝
Buying a cup will get you an access code valid for 2 hours of wifi access. Thanks to this, the connection is reliable.

Pro Tip

The heaters over by the seating outside turn up during the cold months, which shows that sitting in a 40° temperature while not entirely freezing yourself is, in fact, a viable way of enjoying a cup of coffee. Just sayin.’

And the list goes on

Do you have any Pro Tips and hacks on any coffee shop in Portland? Email me at brampitoyo@gmail.com or, better yet, add it to the PDX Coffee Shop Wiki!

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Bram Pitoyo, Interlude, Links

Get Your Name On The Portland Tech Twitter Wiki And Help Evangelize Portland

Let’s say that you’re someone who works in the creative or tech industry, who is new to Portland or are visiting the city.

Actually, let me back up, you could also be anyone who is curious about Portland, and is watching the beat of the city.

You may have visited the city on several occasions. Or you have have just settled in your new place. And you’re looking for a user group, meetup, or a venue to learn something useful. You may start bookmarking events and going to them. Then you meet someone, who tells you that almost all the community member uses Twitter to communicate with each other inbetween the usergroups, meetups and venues.

But you don’t know how amazing Portland is—not yet. All you have is an invitation to join “this microblogging thing called Twitter” and the Twitter username of your newly met friend at the usergroup, meetup or venue.

So your friend says:
“If you’re on Twitter, follow me @JohnSmith!”

But then you ask:

“Sure, but who else should I follow on Twitter?”

And your newly met friend replies:
“There’s about 50 of them that would be perfect for you to follow, but that I can’t think of right now. Can I email you when I get home?”

Here’s the problem: there’s a chance that the email will never get sent, and you may never discover how vibrant the local creative/technology community is.

What a waste of opportunity, right?

But what if your friend can refer to a page that has Twitter handles of all Portland creative and technology community member, along with a short description of who they are and what they do (and even a profile, if you’re that curious)?

Let’s call the page Portland Tech Twitter wiki. And the URL: http//tr.im/ptt

And, lo: you’re able to search for Tweeples to follow based on your interest, and your friend don’t have to blame his inability to recite names of 50 Portland area Tweeple—impromptu!

All we need now is the “50 Portland area Tweeples” bit (which, in reality, is closer to 5,000 Tweeples.) Because Amber Case, Mark Dilley and I couldn’t possibly type all of your usernames, short bios and profiles up.

But you can.

So, could I ask you a favor?

  • Go to the Portland Tech Twitter wiki
  • Edit the page by hitting “Edit Wiki,” and then
  • Add your Twitter handle, name and short description to the list, or correct your description—mostly made by Amber Case and I rather hastily (I try my best to be snarky)

That’s it. There’s even this code that you can Copy and Paste to the wiki edit window to make it easier:

:[http://www.twitter.com/YourUsername @YourUsername] – [[Your Real Name]]
::A short description about what you do, and your day job at [[ThisCompany.com|This Company]]

The goal is so that everyone can refer to the page when they meet someone who is new or curious to the city and its communities, and make it easier for everybody find people who he/she may like to converse with on Twitter or meet in real life. New friendships are thus made. Connections are born. And communities, grown. And everyone leaves the room after the meetup better than when he/she came.

So add your name to the Portland Tech Twitter wiki, won’t you?

And don’t all go hit the “Edit Wiki” button together.

Thank you.

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Bram Pitoyo, Etc., Interlude, Presentation

Beer And Blog: How To Make Your Blog Read Better

UPDATE: The presentation is now available for viewing and download.

This Yesterday afternoon, Justin Kistner Direct Messaged me, saying that he had a spot open for tomorrow’s Beer and Blog. He then asked if I have a topic that I would like to share.

And I thought: typography for the web, of course

So if all goes well, tomorrow’s Beer And Blog presentation is going to cover best practices to make your blog read better. It’s going to be light on the technical and heavy on the tips (and visuals.) We’ll discuss simple things that you can do to improve legibility and readability.

What things? You know, like selecting the right typeface for the job and adjusting it accordingly. And, who knew, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two about our reading behaviors, too.

The most subtle typographic difference can make your next great post read like butter.

Are you ready?

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