On the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle today was this headline:
"Where Neo-Nomads Ideas Percolate"
The story was about the growing number of neo-nomads or "bedouins" in San Francisco. Bedouin doesn't describe just any Hobopoet... it specifically refers to what I often call cyber-hobos. These are people who run their own web based businesses using a laptop, a cell phone, and an internet connection. I'm one of them.
The article also describes the SF coffeehouse culture that is tied to the bedouin movement. The bulk of the cyber-bedouins use coffee shops (with wifi connections) as their office. I certainly do. While I do have a connection in my apartment, I find I quickly get claustrophobic and prefer to be in a coffeehouse where I can people watch. My favorites in SF are Cafe Puccini in North Beach, Quetzal on Polk St. (next to my apartment), and Its a Grind... (also on Polk... in Lower Nob Hill).
The infrastructure of coffeeshops, free wifi, Kinkos, etc. "makes it possible for people to work where they want, when they want, how they want" said Dan Pink, author of "Free Agent Nation".
Pink calls it "Karl Marx's revenge, where individuals own the means of production. And they take the means of production and hop from coffee shop to coffee shop."
I agree. The high-tech Hobopoet revolution has started. And I also agree with Dan Pink's implied conclusion-- the bedouin movement is, at its core, about freedom and autonomy.
Its about financial independence-- owning the means of your own production. Its about doing what you want to do, when you want to do it, how you want to do it. Its about being able to invest your personality, emotions, and values in what you do. And while I've discussed many strategies for doing this, increasingly I see web technology as the most promising way to do this.
Starting a normal small business" requires sizable loans-- even a tiny Mom & Pop corner shop required tens of thousands of dollars (at a minimum) to get going.
But a web business is open to anyone with the patience and persistence to learn and experiment. All you need is a laptop... and enough for a coffee each day at a cafe with free wifi.
As I explore this trajectory, and progress upon it, Im becoming more and more enthusiastic about the possibilities. To be sure, this is not a "get rich quick" scheme, as some seem to think of the internet. In fact, it might not even be a "get rich slow" scheme. But its certainly possible for almost anyone to "make a living" with their own web business (given enough patience, experimentation, and persistence). And thats HUGE.
Why? What's the big deal?
For one, it means for a very tiny financial risk-- anyone can start and own their own business. Furthermore, such a business can be run from anywhere. You can stay on the move,... you can travel the world,... you can work another part or fulltime job while growing the thing for a few years,... you can try absolutely anything you want.
I've never thought that the Hobopoet life was solely about laziness (though I am a proponent of periodic inspired laziness). The whole point is autonomy-- being totally responsible for your own life. The internet makes that easier than it has been in a very long time. And thats exciting.
So to all my fellow disgruntled wage slaves out there, I say-- Start your own web business now. Just start SOMETHING. Wade in and experiment. Keep your foul job for now, if necessary. Dabble and play and experiment with your little website as much or little as you like. But do it. Don't believe what all those business books tell you about having "a business plan" and the like. You don't need one. Develop it as you go.
Just get started, try stuff, see what happens, and your little business will evolve.