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I work from home, but I think I'm much more productive around other professionals who are also (or at least appear to be) working hard. I wondered if there are any websites where people could make themselves available via web cam (even if informally organized through Google Hangout sessions) and groups of two or more people would do their own things in the virtual presence of others.

Coffitivity is a great site—but I'm too familiar with the looped samples now.

In New York City, I used to use Loosecubes to find free coworking spaces, before they shut down. I now live in the west coast, but the only coworking space near me costs $375/mo., which is not only a bit steep for a productivity boost, but also provides sectioned "offices" (hence the price tag) as opposed to the open space that I prefer. I think a virtual solution would be ideal for me.

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There is the public library and Starbucks. Leaving as a comment not an answer since that clearly isn't what you are looking for. – Jeanne Boyarsky Nov 14 '13 at 2:37
We could always set one up somewhere if it doesn't exist :) My most productive hours in my teenage days were the school IRC channels. My current fix is just to get a MP3 playlist loop when I'm working, because chatting and webcams can be distracting. – Muz Nov 17 '13 at 8:01
The difference is interesting - I am by far at my most productive when on my own, with no people within miles of me :-) – Rory Alsop Nov 18 '13 at 23:49
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I have never used most of these solutions. But I have done a bit of research on the topic in the past so I thought I would share a list of options.

For web/video chat most of these are designed for teams (meaning the rooms are not open to the public) but if you find someone else who also works from home you might still find them useful.

  • Sqwiggle I have used Sqwiggle but it is designed for working teams and is not free. It costs $9/person/month which makes it more apt for businesses than freelancers, but it worked really well in my experience. I also liked that it was web based.
  • Google Hangouts Free but it did not work very well in my experience for always on persistent chat because in Windows and Linux it would at least once a day crash my sound for the entire OS until I rebooted. I tried different browsers/sound drivers etc. but it always crashed right around the 4 hour mark. (YMMV) It also doesn't work very well if you want to get someone's attention who has the hangout muted.
  • rabbit Is OS X only but looks like it has free/open hangout rooms that you are looking for. It has a lot of other collaboration tools you probably wouldn't use but appears to have the openness you are looking for.
  • Perch This one is iOS based but is more of a 1-to-1 connection so you would have to find someone else you want to keep a "portal" open with. I like the idea but I'm not sure it would work for what you want to do.

These are all shared workspace finders which all cost money and may not be available in your area. But I thought I'd put them here anyway for completeness of an answer.

  • Desks Near Me Basically allows companies with space list their office(s) and name their own prices. You might find something for free but in my area (Los Angeles) I did not.
  • PivotDesk Smaller selection than Desks Near Me but a similar solution.
  • Sharedesk Same thing as the other two but also international.
  • GoodCoworking Another international option but requires signup to search (which I wasn't willing to do).

I'm sure there are more options out there but these were some that I looked at in the past and a few I looked up just now to expand your options. Hope it helps.

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I have this exact problem and started a service currently based on Google hangouts -might build something different if more people use it.

It's called Cafe Soloista - check it out - would love to see you there.

The Cafe is open to all, I've had 25 people drop in from all over the world since Monday 9th December so I'm sure there is an appetite for this.

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I've been meaning to use it for a while, and finally am. I like it! Unfortunately, no one else is on at the moment. I wonder if there's a way to motivate people to come back? Something as simple as logging the number of hours users are online. – Andrew Cheong Jan 23 '14 at 15:25
Thanks for the kind comment - the early feedback is that it's hit/miss to find other people on it. I'm open to ideas, but I think there is enough interest to do more. The logging the hours might work, I;m willing to try it but would require moving away from Hangouts - I have very little control of what happens in the hangout, analytics etc. Also I think if I got some funding I could use it to focus on marketing to specific geographies to you are more likely to meet people in the same timezone - another reason why attendance is patchy. – user2485629 Jan 30 '14 at 22:39

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