A few months ago I was chatting with John Borthwick, who had just returned from a trip to San Francisco. I asked him how the city was doing as if he were a traveler who had visited someplace exotic — “How is it over there?” (As an investor he probably sees the crazier side of the city, since part of his job is looking at hundreds of companies, the vast majority of which will fail, and trying to pick a few winners.)
Despite getting near-daily meeting requests, I don’t currently have any plans to visit San Francisco. I was there in June for a few days for Foo Camp and for drinks with the artist Tom Marioni. I returned for WordCamp San Francisco in October, and again a few weeks ago for Scoble’s 50th birthday party and a board meeting. But the couple-times-a-year rhythm seems to be enough for me. I’m enjoying the distance a bit, in fact.
There has been plenty written about the bubble culture in SF right now, including on the antitech movement that never really took off. It’s a topic I already blogged about in 2013. But I was curious to unpack my own thoughts about being away from it all.
What I don’t miss:
- Too many meetings — every possible company is there, and everyone wants to meet.
- High prices for everything, from groceries to cocktails. Not even going to talk about the real estate market and rentals.
- It takes forever to get across the city, even though it’s only 7 miles.
- The public transit, while workable, pales in comparison to other places like NYC.
- The weather isn’t bad, until you drive to Palo Alto or Marin and notice how much nicer it is there. (Or take a one-hour flight to Los Angeles or San Diego.)
- This is anecdotal, but I feel like cell phone service is terrible, especially for making calls. Calls are unintelligible and drop frequently. I think this is why everyone texts.
I don’t have any problem with the social scene; SF might be tech-heavy, but it’s fairly easy to get out of the tech bubble. Many forget that San Francisco is home to a ton of people working for non-profits, in fashion, finance, bio-tech, art, and music.
What I miss, deeply: the people. Some of my favorite people, professionally and personally, are in the Bay Area, and that’s the thing that will draw me back someday. I’m lucky that I can catch up with folks when they travel, like Jane or Tony in New York or Om in Italy. Of course the Automattic headquarters is there, along with some great colleagues, but I can also catch up with them at meetups.
I miss how much technology permeates the culture there, from billboards to services like Uber or Postmates (or Munchery or Spoonrocket) that today seem like conveniences, but will be the basis of something very meaningful down the line. You can feel like you’re living in the future there. Internet speeds seem to be getting better, too — local ISPs like Webpass and Monkeybrains are leading the way, but even my Comcast account there delivers 120mbps.
I miss being able to run along the water, and the close proximity to lots of beautiful nature areas (granted I didn’t take much advantage of those when I was still around). The quality of light is really nice — when you can see it. Restaurants, though tending toward pricey, offer great ingredients and quality.
Finally, you can’t deny it’s a city of hustlers. This tweet has since been deleted, but you get the idea: