Inspired by a post about portable wifi by Scott Hanselman and the Radio 5 Wittertainment Code of Conduct, which details good manners at the cinema, I thought I would write this post about how to do the right thing when using a laptop on the go.
1. Choose appropriate locations.
One of the first rules is that you need to choose the right sort of place. Pulling out your Thinkpad at the Palm Court at the Ritz in London isn’t appropriate because of the expectations of other customers. People sitting down for a special afternoon tea don’t want you hammering away on a keyboard next to them, even if you have met the dress standards.
Best locations are Starbucks, Hotel lounges, hip independent cafes.
2. Choose appropriate times
A bar might be empty in the day, and glad of your custom, but when the after work crowd starts arriving, you’re a square peg in a round hole.
Best times: work hours, mostly, but hotel lounges late, if that suits you.
3. Keep the noise down
My rule of thumb is that I use cafes for coding, for getting away from other people at work when I just need to code. If I want a room for a meeting, I’ll hire one.
If you need to make lots of calls or go one-on-one with Glad0s, leave it until you get home.
4. Be Unobtrusive
Get a small table, out of the way, not in the window and not a prime seat.You don’t need it, you aren’t meeting anyone, and you’re less likely to scare away any normal people coming in.
5. Pay your Way
The cafe/hotel bar that you are in is expecting to get paid. Don’t sit there with an empty cappucino cup for 2 hours – buy some drinks. Make sure that next time they see you turning up that they’re happy to see you.
This isn’t a problem to me, as I run on caffeine, but I would guess that if you’re in a place for an afternoon, you should be grabbing at least a couple of Americanos, and maybe a muffin too. If you’re going to be there all day, it’s probably polite to order lunch too.
That way, the owner sees you as a good customer, and will welcome you back.
6. Tip your waitresses
These are the people who will see you again. Be nice to them – tip them, chat with them. Build a relationship if you’re in a place regularly.
7. Ask about Power
As laptops don’t run on caffeine, you’ll need power.
I think it’s best to ask before charging up your laptop off their power. If you can run on battery, might be best to.
8. Don’t abuse Wifi
Most cafes aren’t running fat T1 pipes, so don’t abuse it. If you start downloading the current Wikipedia archive, you’ll be denying other users a reasonable speed.
In summary: don’t make yourself unpopular with the owners or the other customers and you’ll be fine.