Tracking Coffee House Commuter Culture – An Interview with Gregg Taylor and Lori Thiessen

gregg-taylor-and-lori-thiessenWe have often discussed the benefits of blogging for authors.  Blogs are a great platform for building an audience while you develop your work.  But blogs can also serve as an excellent vehicle for researching your book, especially when you are tyring to identify and explain new social trends. 

Gregg Taylor and Lori Thiessen have set up a blog to help them gather stories and information for Coffee Shop Office, which details the phenomenon of a new class of mobile entrepreneurs; those individuals you see with their laptops working from coffee shops. 

Both Gregg and Lori are entrepreneurs themselves.  Gregg, through his Vancouver BC based company, Transitions Career & Business Consultants Inc., coordinates public and private sector career planning programs and provides career counselling, success coaching and HR consulting services.   He has a keen sense of the latest workplace and workforce trends and had the idea for the book.  Not so coincidentally, his grandfather started a coffee company in Montreal in the early 1900’s.  Lori writes and provides other contract business services through her own business, Scriptorium Ink.  She has an interdisciplinary background in history, psychology, sociology, and philosophy.  She provides the literary prowess and creative flair for the project. 

We recently interviewed Lori about the Coffee Shop Office project and her and Gregg’s experience  with using a research blog.

FPP:  What is Coffee Shop Office about and how did you come up with the idea for the book?

LT:  The Coffee Shop Office is about people using their local caffeinated watering hole as their alternative or even preferred office. Gregg is the brains behind the idea. He was sitting in his local coffee shop and noticed that just about everybody was working away on something, either solo or with another person or people. Gregg is fascinated with new work trends and wanted to investigate this one further.

Gregg asked me to come on board and help him with the research and writing. Plus it’s just more fun having someone else to work with.

FPP:  What motivated you to set up your site and blogs as part of the book project?

LT:  Setting up a website and the blogs seemed a no-brainer because much of our lives, social and business, are being carried out online. We wanted to connect firsthand with people who were using the coffee shop as their alternative or preferred office, and hear about their experiences. That’s why there is a link on the website and the blogs to our online survey. We want to capture as much raw data on this work trend as possible.

Gregg also felt that packaging the research material into manageable chunks, like posts of about 350 words, would make the book writing process a bit less daunting. We’ve been finding out that blog writing and book writing are two different animals. Writing the posts have been useful though, as a way to really focus in on a particularly juicy piece of information.

FPP:  You how have two blogs. How does each of your blogs help you gather research for the book?

LT:  When Gregg and I first started working on this project, I was constantly attracted by information outside of the scope of the coffee shop office topic. For instance, I am a history buff and became a bit obsessed with the history of coffeehouses until Gregg pulled her back to the 21st century coffee shop.

All this information was fascinating for both Gregg and I. It seemed a shame to ‘waste’ it so the caffeculture blog was born. It encapsulates all the meta-topic stuff to do with coffee, like coffee culture around the world.

FPP:  What has the response been from your readers?

LT:   Our readers have been very supportive and kind. The comments have been very positive with people chiming in about their own coffee shop experiences which is what we were hoping for.

FPP:  Were you surprised by some of the things you’ve learned from readers?

LT:  I have been somewhat surprised, but gratified that many of the readers come from Britain, Australia and Europe as well as Canada and the US.

One Coffee Shop Office blog reader wrote in this wonderful advice about how to secure your computer data when working remotely. Neither Gregg nor I are really up on the tech-side of cafe commuting so it was a great piece of information to receive.

FPP:  Has the site been effective in connecting you with the media?

LT:  It hasn’t been nearly as effective as we had hoped initially. But the online world is full of people wanting their project, product, etc. to be noticed so it’s all about jockeying for attention through search engine optimization.

However, we have been delighted with the number of people who have picked up on our blog and promoted us to their readers. 

FPP:  Have you used the site as a marketing platform, and if so, how effective have you found it to be thus far?

LT:  At this point, Gregg and I haven’t really been fast-tracking the marketing side of the project. We’ve been engulfed by researching and writing.  However, we will be taking the marketing full-throttle in the next while, and the website and blogs will play an important role.

FPP:  Are there any other things you would do (or do differently) to gather research on a future book project?

LT:  Not really. Research is, by its very nature, a time-consuming task and covers a wide range of media. We sift through blog sites, websites, article indexes, newspapers (both local and international), books, social media and mainstream media to thoroughly know our topic. There is always something more to learn. We also had a librarian friend do an article search for us that provided some great foundational concepts such as “third spaces”, the idea of community spaces where people connect outside of home and office.

FPP:  What advice would give authors about using a blog for book research?

LT:  Do it. You never know when someone will provide you with a different view of your topic that may lead you into something really exciting. But always double check the information if you can. There are many knowledgeable people out there, however, not everyone possesses reliable information. If you can’t verify the information, then don’t use it in your book. It’s your name on the book and your reputation on the line.

FPP:  What is the next step for Coffee Shop Office?

LT:  Keep on writing the book and marketing the heck out of this project to publishers. And Gregg mentioned something about total media domination … Then settle down for a nice, celebratory cuppa joe!

Want to know more about Coffee Shop Office or share your own coffee house commuting stories?  You can contact Gregg and Lori at coffeeshopoffice@gmail.com.


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