One of the many things I love about the UK is that no one seems to drink alone. Pubs remain at the center of the local village, with news, both good and bad, being shared amongst friends, colleagues, and neighbors.
I just read in eWeek Europe how BT Broadband and Heineken have teamed up to connect 100 of London's pubs to the Internet with free Wi-Fi. Apparently, the install began in March and is nearly complete. The companies plan to expand to 200 more pubs around the UK by 2012.
Here's my question, though. While pubs are truly the hub of social networking in the town/village/city, should they also be the hub of virtual social networking? Will the character of the pub become a "heads down" place as patrons share jokes with friends around the world rather than the bloke next to them at the bar? I'm going to see what my cousin thinks of this. She owns a pub in a village in the UK....
In the meantime, any thoughts? Are we heading down a slippery slope, or are we already in free fall?
Well, the real questions should involve productivity.
If engineers start bringing their laptops to the Pub for lunch, what happens to design cycles? The extra hour gained with ability to perform circuit design during lunch should be a bit of a boost in productivity. However, at some point the consumption of beer will begin the negate that extra productivity.
Would all facets of electronic design be affected equally? For example, is it possible that circuit design would be negatively impacted but layout positively affected? Would analog design take a bigger hit than digital? Software more than hardware?
I suggest a detailed research program to characterize the effects of varying amount of beer on the set of electronics design sub-disciplines. Once the study is complete, an industry association could publish guidelines, perhaps in the form of a new ISO standard, recommending specific pub-based WiFi utilization time and accompanying beer consumption volumes for the maximum increase in productivity.
If you have a smart phone you don't need the wifi to send connect to the internet. I do think combining beer and wifi may lead to some "interesting" texts.
When I am traveling and need to go online with a laptop I will find a Starbuck's, but I am not meeting and interacting with people, I am working.
I would think that having internet access would change the pub experience greatly. I am not sure if for good or bad; consider here in the US the proliferation of coffee shops that provide free wifi and yet still make money and still have people meeting and interacting just like before.