24/7 Online Writing Cafe

Using spatial chat in writing communities
Feb 18, 2021

Here's a link and an invitation to a 24/7 online writing cafe.

For the last few months, I've been meeting with a group of writers on Zoom. It's good for accountability. You show up, say hey, and then focus for an hour. It's almost like a private study group: invite only, close-friends, predictable. This kind of format derives from the design of the technology we use. But my group has recently shifted to a new platform called Spatial Chat. It's a video-call platform that has both "spatial audio" and screen-sharing. A few simple features in this platform can enable an entirely different kind of writing community to emerge. It enables a writing cafe on the Internet.

A cafe is a public space. You show up to a place that might have some friends, but is mostly filled with strangers. Even if you don't show up with the intention to meet new people, you submit yourself to randomness and serendipity. There is the potential to meet someone on your wave length.

In Spatial Chat, your video feed is a bubble that you can move around a virtual space. While you can see the bubbles of everyone in the room, you only hear the people within your proximity. This means you can have 50 people, all in a single room, not shouting over each other. It results in organic breakouts that are constantly in flux. It's like Clubhouse, but the audience is unmuted and having a party.

What is unique about this platform compared to others is the ability to cast media into a room. In addition to posting videos, images, GIFs, and live streams, you can share your screen (or tab) as a frame into this virtual place. The vision for this writing cafe is the ability to "drop in" to a persistent place, and stumble upon dozens of people currently working on essays. You could show up with a consistent group at a consistent time, or you could show up at a random time and run across writers from around the world.

I think back to my times of renting monthly music rehearsal spaces in NYC. These places had 50+ rooms, and several bands in there at any given time. As you walked around, you would hear noise bleed into the hallways. Even if you didn't ever meet the group, there was a sense that you weren't alone in the thing you were doing. It's a way to beat basement-syndrome. If you stuck around long enough, and made a point to hang out in the hallway, you would meet some others. One time I held the door for someone, which led to an invitation to get high with some Cuban Harlem rappers.

The idea is to host two types of rooms in this cafe. Everyone arrives in a lobby, where anything and everything is allowed. But there is also a "focus" room, where microphones are disabled, and writers can concentrate. If you want to communicate with someone mid-draft, you have the ability to use text or images.

I show up to this writing cafe at 8:30 am with Andy and Zakk every day to work out an essay. We're inviting other writers and groups to do the same. Show up on your own or with a friend, with the intention to share your screen as you work on something. Draft in public with a community of others who are doing the same. It's a good way to meet others, but more interestingly, it's a great way to focus. When you are drafting in public, you're less likely to get sucked down an Internet wormhole.

No food will be served.


| Twitter - NFTs - michael@michaeldean.site - 2021 |