An Interview With Ashley Aspiranti

Ashley Aspiranti works closely with The Coop and Desktime in Chicago, where she is well known for taking excessive iPhone photos of the office dog, Eli. She is also the Coworking Wiki Upgrade Project’s Directory Coordinator, which seems fitting considering her lustful architectural eye and obsession with list-making. She enjoys working remotely and is passionately curious about how and where others work. Her coworking weakness? Any workspace combining exposed beams, high ceilings, reliable wifi, inviting ambiance, and free coffee.

How did you first hear about coworking?
I saw a flyer with the word “coworking” on it, and even though I wasn’t sure what that meant, I had an idea of what it could mean. OfficePortCHI was moving into the live/work building that I’d called home for years, so I was instantly intrigued by their opening. And as a recent graduate trying to freelance “for real,” the idea of going somewhere to write was very appealing to me.

How did you get involved with it?
My first bonafide experience was renting a conference room for a client meeting. After that, I assumed I’d keep working from home and out of coffee shops, but I didn’t. About a week later I attended a WordPress workshop at that same space. The following week, I dropped in again as a day visitor. I loved the vibe, and working from home seemed less productive after coworking a couple times. Now I work for Desktime and The Coop, so instead of renting space, I help offer it. In a way it feels like I’ve come full circle.

What do you think of the current Coworking Wiki?
It has succeeded in helping fuel and create a dialogue about coworking, so in that regard it works well. But there are a lot of broken links and outdated information that don’t represent the coworking movement well. Plenty of value can still be added, particularly to the directory section.

What would you most like to see changed about it?
Honestly? Cleaning up the directory, making it more useful and informative. The wiki is a resource used to help most newcomers understand and explain coworking, so the content needs to be organized efficiently and updated regularly. In order to keep up with the pace of the movement, we have to keep the wiki up to speed. That’s why the Coworking Wiki Upgrade Project is so important.

What’s your role with the upgrade project?
I’ll be focusing primarily on revising and updating the wiki’s coworking directory – zeroing in on even more awesome shared spaces and creative nooks from all over the globe.

You also work for Desktime. How is the Coworking Wiki’s space directory different?
I love Desktime, both the product and the people behind it. And though some of our goals at Desktime overlap with the aims of upgrading the wiki, they’re quite different tools for remote workers. The only stipulations for listing a space with Desktime are that it be furnished and the rental period not exceed a month. As far as the directory, Desktime’s is a bit broader, showcasing creative spaces like photography studios, community print shops, production houses, and collaborative project spaces, so not just coworking spots. The wiki, in comparison, is a resource and neutral platform to support, share, and decipher the phenomenon that is coworking. The common thread here is that they both have directories of bad-ass shared spaces. And, even though what you see when you go to Desktime right now is a directory, what we’re actually focusing most our time and energy on is building software to better manage coworking spaces.

What are the most important features of a listing besides basic location and rate information?
Good question. It seems to me that most renters look for interior pictures before anything else. Renters want to see the inside. They want to see what they’ll be renting and where they’ll be creating, because the space we work in often influences how we work. Of course location, pricing, and specific details about membership plans are key features for any listing.

What inspired you to get involved with the project?
Having firsthand experience with The Coop and Desktime, and given the importance of the Coworking Wiki within the community, I couldn’t help but want to be part of it! This will be a great way to round out my understanding of coworking beyond Chicago and the Midwest.

Is there a part that you’re most looking forward to?
Discovering new, amazing shared spaces. Hopefully I’ll get to tour a bunch of spaces under the guise of “research” and meet more passionate people along the way.

Among your friends, what’s a cool thing you’re known for?
Other than being a redhead? I’ve dog-walked for the past five or six years, which still intrigues most my friends. I started when I was in college and just never stopped. Then again, it isn’t the sort of thing you easily stop, either. I’ve definitely gotten attached to some of the dogs, in particular this one black lab I’ve known since she was a little puppy. In addition to all the dog licks and fun walks, it’s an awesome way to see inside some amazing residential spaces in the city.

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