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Why do developers who could work anywhere flock to the most expensive cities? (techcrunch.com)
263 points by ghosh on Apr 4, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 385 comments

I used to live in SF. It was exciting, but also shitty. I felt connected and alive, which was great, but also drained of resources, which really sucked. Oh, and there were 6 of us, in a 3 bedroom apartment. I had the living room. Yea.

I lasted 3 years, until I met my wife, and by then I was ready to move. We did.

Now, life in the suburbs, is slow. I feel somewhat disconnected and like I don't really belong to this community. My neighbor is a teacher, not a tech worker. I miss the buzz of the city, the energy. But, I'm saving money, and, working remotely is mostly positive (though I do yearn for office banter more and more).

Life I guess, is all about trade offs. Rarely have I found a situation that is entirely positive, or negative. Most, if you look closely enough, are a balance of good and bad. For me now in my life, the reassurance that I will be able to retire some day, is worth more to me than the excitement of the city. That may change... we shall see.

If it does change, I'll be lured back to the city for the exact reasons the article states. The city itself, is the draw. There's something about living in an urban environment, for some people, it's just a pace of life more resonant with their existence.

> Oh, and there were 6 of us, in a 3 bedroom apartment.

This is such a weird American phenomenon, the whole roommate thing. What on earth can make adults choose to share their home with a stranger? Why isn't there intense pressure for building many small apartments, rather than building larger apartments that are meant for roommates? Is it connected to the equally weird college dorm roommate system?

Why are people accepting a situation where they live together with someone they don't like? It's such an obvious recipe for misery!

Who perpetuates this system?

> This is such a weird American phenomenon, the whole roommate thing

I think you're just sheltered; in every country in Europe that I lived in or had friends live in (Poland, UK, Portugal), students and young professionals flatshare. Or live with their parents, but it comes out to the same thing. If you're not already independently rich, you can't afford a single bedroom flat on your own.

The simple fact is that a two bedroom flat split two ways is always going to be cheaper than two single-bed flats. There's obvious efficiency in using the space effectively - no point in every single person having their own kitchen, bathroom, living room. Also, it makes sense that most flats built are 2-bedroom or bigger; that way they can be used both as flatshares for young people, and flats for families.

You don't have to live with someone you don't like - you get to pick your flatmates.

Thanks for your comment, and that of others. It appears that my culture is the odd one out where flatsharing is viewed very negatively.

Sure, it's not non-existent, I have many friends who have done it at some point in their lives, but it was always with existing friends. Advertising for a roommate, i.e. inviting a stranger to share your place is very unusual.

People's expectations of privacy are simply much higher.

The cheapest form of housing for college students is one where you share a kitchen and a living room with a bunch of other people, but everyone has their own private bedroom and bathroom with a door that locks. College dorms is just not done.

It is possible to rent a room in someone else's apartment, but usually in that arrangement the apartment is built such that the part that's rented out is a bit more off, has it's own bathroom, and has its own front door.

Yes, but when Americans (e.g. college students) talk about "roommates" they mean they share a bedroom! Literal roommates

As an Australian in the US, it seems that term is ambiguous.

When a college student talks about their roommate, yeah that's the freaky situation of being an adult and not having your own bedroom.

But on other contexts it just means what I would call a "housemate". You're not actually in the same room.

This is not true. Sometimes it refers to this. The vast, vast majority of the time, they are referring to someone who has their own room in the same apartment. Source: I had "roommates" in the way you refer to it in college, and after graduating, most people who I describe this to are actually shocked that this happened after freshman year.

Nah, that's pretty exclusively a college dorm thing, where it has a pretty direct relation to the price of the dorm.

(my uni had both twin and single rooms, and the twin was maybe 60% of the price)

Only in dormitories. Roommates in an apartment don't normally share rooms.

We don't. I'm an midwestern american college student and "roommate" means "someone that shares your living space" whether that be sharing a room to sleep or just sharing kitchen/bathroom/living room space. The only alternative I've heard is "suitemate" in suite-style dorms.

That's not true. Roommate almost always means two people sharing one apartment with their own bedrooms. Dorm-mate, on the other hand, specifically means two college students sharing a dorm room with two beds.

Two factors perpetuate this:

1) Americans have a self-hating working class.

2) American home-owners are politically organized, and constantly lobby to prevent the construction of both new single-family houses and apartment buildings in general.

> American home-owners are politically organized, and constantly lobby to prevent the construction of both new single-family houses and apartment buildings in general

That's over-generalizing. Many locations in the USA have sensible zoning. SF is the exception.

Boston's another hub and large parts of the metro area dont allow increasing housing density easily

Agreed, in the Midwest they're building new 2,500 sqft. homes every 6 months around here. (Quite poorly BTW)

Every 5 or 10 years an entirely new development emerges.

Any hindrance occurs to municipalities without room to grow. And for city zoning, it doesn't appear they have an issue "building up" instead of out.

I live in Somerville, MA, and we had an article showing that only 22 buildings in our whole city are legal to build again under current zoning codes[1].

[1] -- http://www.vox.com/2016/6/16/11948630/somerville-zoning-ille...

It's funny, that I kind of did things in the wrong order.

When I was in my 20s, I lived alone in a nice place, as a developer I could afford it.

Now in my 30s I live in a shared apartment in London, I can technically afford to live alone, but I'd rather save the money (it would be twice as expensive).

It's not as bad as I had feared, and the community aspect can be interested, it can also be very bad if you end up with the wrong people (noise, ...)

All in all, I don't regret it.

It's common in lots of places outside the US. You have a few choices:

1. Live with parents

Not something most people want to do past a certain age.

2. Live with friends

People seem to be moving abroad more these days leaving you with friends all over the world, but possibly none currently in the city you live in.

3. Live with significant other

Fine until the relationship ends and someone needs to move.

4. Live with strangers

You meet new people, if you don't like them it's easy to just move somewhere else and try again.

The '6 of us in a 3 bed' thing is insane and unrelated to the living with strangers point.

Where are you from that sharing a home with strangers is such a strange concept? Who have you lived with instead? If you were able to afford your own place you're either very lucky or live somewhere very inexpensive because even in smaller cities that's not an option for most people.

> Where are you from that sharing a home with strangers is such a strange concept?


When I went to university, I had a student apartment. It was cheap and tiny, 18m^2. There was a slightly cheaper student housing option where you would share a living room and a kitchen with other people, but in those everyone has their own private bedroom and bathroom with their own front door. Some of my friends rented regular, small apartments in the city. Some shared apartments, but always with existing friends, people they'd known for a while and knew they'd get along with.

As you exit university, you lose your student housing, but if you have a job you can usually afford a small apartment, a studio or a 1BR. The amount of people sharing an apartment with others at this age is even lower.

Eventually, most people get into a relationship, and move into a larger home as needed, and this is where the attitudes between the US and Sweden are the most similar, if you have a family and kids, most people get a house of their own.

One difference between the US and Sweden though is that there is strong political pressure for construction companies to build small apartments. In the US there's political pressure to build low-income housing and accessible housing, but for some reason no pressure for making sure everyone gets their own apartment?

Interesting thanks for the info. I'm in the UK and generally here if you go to University you will get a student accommodation for the first. Then you'll get your own apartment with friends for the remaining years and this would generally carry on until you're in a serious relationship and can share accommodation with your partner. Personally having also tried the living by myself thing for a year I much prefer sharing a house with a few other people (and I'm very introverted). Living by yourself quickly becomes very lonely and living with new people quite regularly is a great way to meet friends and learn about other cultures, particularly if you're living in a cosmopolitan city. Of course the main issue is still cost but for I know a lot of people that can afford a 1br apartment but would see that as a waste of money when sharing is much cheaper with few downsides (unless you get stuck with terrible room mates, but generally people are ok).

> Then you'll get your own apartment with friends for the remaining years

That's still leaps and bounds from the American custom of advertising for a roommate, interviewing a bunch of candidates, and then picking one. There's a reason the "crazy roommate" is a trope used in American TV and cinema.

That is completely alien to me. :-)

> Living by yourself quickly becomes very lonely

Funny, that's a complaint I don't think any of my friends and acquaintances have had. I'm just gonna chalk that up to culture as well.

Just to clarify the first point I meant that at university you will live with friends for the remaining years (friends whom you met during the first year). After Uni people disperse around the globe so you often end up somewhere with no friends and choose to do the sharing with strangers thing.

Why do you assume it is a western thing.

Have you ever been to Asia? It's extremely common in China/Korea/Japan

Japanese people almost never have roommates. They instead live in apartments that are very small.

The flat sharing / house sharing movement is very young there and only applies to a very small number of young people.

On the other hand, I think there are really good reasons for co-living beyond saving a bit of money. There's a great community aspect to it as well. On the occasions where I've lived by myself, I've mostly ended up bored and sedentary, whereas in co-living arrangements, there's always people to chat or cook with, hang out, etc.

Of course, I'm still in my late 20s, so take this with a massive grain of salt. But if my salary doubled tomorrow, I still wouldn't give up my flatshare. I don't see myself wanting to leave it for another several years.

+1 for the community aspect.

I also could afford to live on my own but I prefer to have roomates.

I live overseas,where as a foreigner a personal network is even more important that back home.

Having roomates makes my social life easier. No need to spend so much energy meeting new people outside. There are often people hanging out in the living room. I rarely feel lonely and often meet new cool people,at home.

Plus, you aren't really there except for sleeping and maybe a meal. You're always at work, with friends, out to dinner, at the bar or coffee shop, hiking or biking outside...

I think your misunderstanding just comes from the use of the word "room". To make things simpler to understand: room does not always mean bedroom. There are many rooms in a house: living room, bath room, bed room. Roommate simply means someone you share some of those rooms with (usually bathroom, living room, kitchen...) but obviously not the bedroom.

So, in the case of "6 of us in a 3 bedroom apartment", then yes, they shared rooms, but it's not always the case (I would've expected 3 people in a 3 bedroom apartment). Perhaps parent meant 3 couples (6 people)?

California has adopted a system where new development requires approval from the people already there. If you like where you live you might block and attempt to change it. The evidence shows that in such a system people will block any and all proposed development, but being a great place to live with a vibrant economy and lots of job growth many new people arrive every year. More people need a place to live, no new housing == Crazy housing prices and everyone gets a roommate.

> What on earth can make adults choose to share their home with a stranger?

There's a really simple one: lack of funds to afford their own place.

Also, plenty of roommates are not strangers. I've lived with my brother and one of my best friends from high school, and really only lived with a true stranger during my first year of college, the first year I lived in Austin, and the first 9 months I lived in the Bay Area.

What's with the cultural notion that everyone needs their own kitchen and batchroom and "living room" common room? If you want cheap rent, you need to par down what you need personally, and share everything that you don't.

The most crowded co-living situations I ever saw were in Amsterdam, a place with a dramatic shortage of affordable rental housing. They were a mix of students and newly working people.

> Who perpetuates this system?

Low-cost rental housing generally isn't a good financial proposition.

Most expat workers in Arabian Gulf (GCC) countries live in shared accommodations to cut costs, sometimes 8 people sharing a single room. Life is tough.

Why: because of the financialization of housing.

Why accept it? Westerners don't understand how their economies work to pass surplus value to the non-productive.

> Why accept it? Westerners don't understand how their economies work to pass surplus value to the non-productive

Why do you think it's a question of understanding, rather than a moral obligation to help others?

The system decides. Charity after siphoning off labour is a poor second.


How does that connect to your previous statement?

Yes, the system (and the people who build and make up the system) decide to distribute wealth to 'non-productive' people. That's a good thing, exactly because charity of the 'productive' people is not reliable.

We are talking at cross purposes. The system directs wealth to rentiers, they are non-productive. The rich are the non-productive. The system does not allocate resources correctly, it's totally flawed.

Then I think you need to talk in specifics, not general statements. When you compare our systems with the 'default' of having no system (i.e. anarcho-capitalism), it seems rentiers (i.e. owners of capital/land) are directed even more resources. So if you blame the system, you kinda have to be specific in what aspects you're blaming and how they could be improved.

It's also not necessarily bad that some wealth is directed to rentiers, if otherwise the wealthy would have no incentive to use their wealth productively.

I share a similar life story so far.

As soon as I graduated I moved to NYC. I loved it, it was the most alive I've ever felt in my life. I lived there for 4 months and every day after work I walked around and marveled at a city so massive and stimulating that it didn't seem real. However, I was soon broke. Defeated, with credit cards maxed out, I got a plane ticket home with my last 300 bucks.

I lived in a midwestern suburb for about three years after that, close to home and bored out of my skull after living something like NYC.

When I built up some savings and experience I jumped again, this time for what I considered a happy medium between the two lifestyles, to Austin TX. So far so good here.

One day I will jump one last time to Silicon Valley, just to see what it's like. From there, having lived in all the places I really want to experience, I'll choose my final destination and settle down there.

This comment resonates with me.

After leaving university, and moving on to a full time position in a suburb I feel completely disconnected. I didn't attend a ~huge~ school, but the sense of community was there. The lack of this feeling has been hard to explain, but this comment explains it very well.

I'm not sure if I will(or can) ever do something about this feeling either.

> I'm not sure if I will(or can) ever do something about this feeling either

Why? Suburban life might be the worst social ill the US has ever faced. If you're starting the mental spiral downward, pick up and move. Plenty of jobs in plenty of cities that aren't wildly expensive, but still are walkable (in certain areas) and have things going on and a normal community.

I know some folks thrive in the suburbs, but I really think it's the single worst long-term policy decision any country has made in terms of the damage it did to community and a sense of togetherness.

I travel a decent amount now, and I am absolutely amazed at how some supposedly "destitute" communities seem far happier than the faux-rich suburban communities in the US. In my opinion the social stratification and divisiveness we're seeing today (e.g. a lack of a sense of togetherness) is directly due to a generation completely cut off from each other in the pursuit of getting away from undesirables and giant houses.

I completely understand folks who would prefer to live in a rural community - but those who prefer to live in the suburbs I just cannot understand. It seems like the absolute worst of both worlds to me.

> in a suburb I feel completely disconnected

Suburbs are fundamentally alienating and isolating in my experience. The physical distance between houses limits the number of people you're likely to meet and interact with in your locale. The need to drive everywhere disconnects you from your surroundings and community, as opposed to walking and biking whose physical aspect creates a tangible connection with your surroundings. Disputes with neighbors over relatively minor issues get amplified by concerns over property values to the point of creating permanent rifts. Freedom of thought and nonconformity are generally viewed skeptically if not outright suspiciously. Strangers are distrusted by virtue of non-residents having no reason to be in the neighborhood, ever. Overall my experience is they foster a cloistered, narrow-minded, distrustful mentality that is intellectually stifling and culturally toxic.

There is a gated community in Florida actually named "The Cloisters". It has a guard house at the gate and it is surrounded by a concrete wall. You might expect this to be in a terrible city, but no! It's probably in one of the safest places in the whole state.

That's a bit over the top, but it is useful to able to quickly identify people with no good reason to be in the neighborhood. People can go their whole life without mugging or burglary.

i read this as "those commas resonate with me"

Heh I had originally written "This post", but didn't want anyone to be confused with the OP.

If you're working remotely, there are plenty of cities much cheaper than SF.

Where did you move, if I may ask?

LOL it is the other way around, cities become most expensive because developers flock there and spend cash.

This happens now in Limassol, Cyprus: crowds of developers, most having their own startups, started to flock there since 3 years ago from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine - it was always a country to keep offshore companies/accounts, so every rich developer in ex-USSR already been there and knew the place, but since 2014 it started to make sense to move physically as well - in Russia people escape propaganda and mass chauvinist hysteria, in Belarus economic crisis prompted government to jail IT business people to milk them on their money (then frequently releasing with no right to leave the country - in order to make them earn more, then milk again), in Ukraine they are simply leaving the unrest and crumbling infrastructure.

Since about last year it became a virtuous cycle because developers started to move in simply because it's a place with many developers already so it's easy to exchange ideas, and then investment funds joined. We are witnessing a small Silicon Valley in the making (of course, with probable limits of about a few percent of the real Valley). It already made Limassol a much more expensive place, rents on cheap apartments almost doubled in 3 years.

Developers want to be where developers are, and VCs want to be where there are many developers, and then more developers come where VCs are... and you get another 'most expensive city'.

>>LOL it is the other way around, cities become most expensive because developers flock there and spend cash.

Startups flock to where the capital is. Proximity to capital makes it easier to meet investors, get noticed and get funded.

But startups has to be a tiny tiny fraction of software devs. Even in an area of new offices popping up I can't imagine startups being a large fraction of the companies.

Correct. 'real' startups (those you would read on techcrunch or hacker news about) are a small fraction. Most of them are 'internet moneymakers' in the wide sense, most don't need the investments, or operating in the grey area (like: arbitrage of porn traffic, various bots, etc), they basically just want interesting IT people to exchange ideas with. They still attract VCs wishing to prey on them whenever possible.

OH yeah it is so easy to take for granted how disinterested, uncomfortable and angry people will get at listening to your tech project, in most places.

My town, Sydney is not expensive because there is a handful of Googlers like me live around here. Google here because Sydney is the kind of place that people pay lots of money to stay in. And so I have to pay too much rent.

I love Sydney, it is (spiritually) my home town. But I wish the company would move to Wagga Wagga. I mean the place even looks like Mountain View.

Ex-Aussie here. I wish that Australia would adopt a more de-centralise strategy on tech hubs. I live in Germany now and have seen multinational companies setup their European HQ is small cities or towns. This is equivalent to having Atlassian setting up their HQ in Bathurst.

I don't think it has much to do with strategy or tech hubs. The Australian population is just very centralised -- it makes sense given our geography and demographics.

In Europe "far" away from any big town can mean as little as 50km. Especially in Germany, you are never very far from some mid-size city which once dominated a independent principality.

Rhode & Schwarz, B/H/S and Siemens all have HQs within about 10 minute bike ride of where I used to live in Munich. Other companies in small towns were a somewhat more arduous bike ride away.

The companies I dealt with that were more than 100km from any big city were more into heavy industry. They are the Aussie equivalent of Newcastle or Gladstone, only with many more companies to go around.

You're absolutely right. Far away travel in Australia is measured in days, where as it is measured is hours in Germany. The extremely Australian population density does not help at all.

Also very close to the thriving Israeli tech scene, which has lots of Russian-speaking developers (less Russian-speaking VCs).

Precisely. Short, one-hour flight, and pretty much the same time zone (barring differences related to when daylight savings takes effect) makes it easy to keep teams in Cyprus and Israel in sync.

Considering the massive shortage of developers in Israel, it really wouldn't surprise me to see deepening ties in the development community.

And also home to a lot of spread betting shops. I suspect because of the regulatory regime.

Human memory is short.

In 2013 over one weekend (while withdrawal and banking system was closed) everybody with some bigger asset lost half of the money they had in banks.


I agree with your comment, as there is a factor that increases the cost in the cities where developers live in.

Bringing up Limassol though, is not a valid argument. Limassol on its own has had a lot of rich people from Russia moving there permanently and in the past few years a lot of development went on there. The Marina or the pier etc makes it feel like you are in Miami of some sorts, so that definitely bumps the prices up and it has nothing to do with developers going there. Most rich people there didn't make money from tech but from illegal sources.

These people have been there since decades ago, early 1990s, and not much new ones arrived recently apart from developers. Large scale corruptioners you mentioned definitely don't increase prices on cheap rental apartments.

The development of the area in general is though. Limassol 5 years ago is no where near to what Limassol Now has become. And that has nothing to do with Tech/Dev's moving to the area.

Well, 5 years ago it was in the middle of crisis, but 10 years ago it was way richer and better place than it is now, i don't know what development do you mean. Then, Brits left, real estate prices collapsed, and it became much worse.

It's easy to see that Cyprus GDP is now lower (both nominal and real terms) than 10 years ago.

Not to mention the weather... That is interesting, i d like to read more about it.

Now i am totally confused about how upvoting works here! 103 upvotes - i definitely never had nearly as much before. I don't really see what i wrote here was so valuable or interesting.

This site being mostly visited by Americans, we are interested to hear of this phenomenon playing out in other locales, especially one as small/niche as Cyprus.

Because there is no critical mass to "work from anywhere".

Amazon/Facebook/Google/Microsoft doesn't let its workers work from home in general. A lot of tech companies don't as well. So moving to CheapSmallTown means when losing the job still having to go back to ExpensiveTechHub to network and find a new job. So might as well stay in ExpensiveTechHub just to be sure.

Imagine if all those large tech companies and others allowed working from home as a default. I think that would be a sizeable economic and cultural shift. It might revitalize various part of the country, small cities and towns. It might reduce congestion, real estate prices in coastal cities.

I work from home and love it. But yeah I am still living next to a tech hub because chances are if I switch jobs I might not necessarily have a choice of working from home.

It's worth pointing out that the "big four" tech companies aren't the only tech companies worth working at. You could very well have a higher upside working at a small, remotely friendly company, from Chiang Mai or Bali where the cost of living is 1/15th of SF, and still have a relative mass of expats doing similar things.

Speaking from experience, I'm much more relaxed working from Bali, and I get paid only 20% less than I did in SF. Instead of spending 35% of my net pay on rent, I only spend 2.9% and have a higher quality of life in general.

When all your hard earned money goes to just maintaining social status or staying in a trendy neighbourhood, what have you got to show for it?

> and I get paid only 20% less than I did in SF

Out of curiosity, did you start your current job while in SF and then moved? Or did you find the job while you were already overseas? If the latter, was the hiring process remote too?

In my case (and a couple of friends) the remote salary was slightly less than your typical SF salary but I had no "fixed location". Right now I'm in London working for a different company but the job is also remote. The point of working remotely should never be "find very cheap talent" but rather "find talent globally and remove geographical bottlenecks". Or something like that.

When negotiating a salary, don't let your current location define your salary because in a couple of months you could be in London, SF, NYC or Tokyo.

>It's worth pointing out that the "big four" tech companies aren't the only tech companies worth working at.

They're not, but there's lots of other large-to-midsize tech companies out there that people don't mention when they mention the Big Four, because they're mostly the same. They're in the same locations, and work largely the same.

>You could very well have a higher upside working at a small, remotely friendly company, from Chiang Mai or Bali where the cost of living is 1/15th of SF, and still have a relative mass of expats doing similar things.

The problem here is: what happens when you get laid off? Now you're screwed, because you weren't getting paid much (you say you only get 20% of SF salaries; that won't even leave you enough left over to move back to the States and make a down-payment on a house or a 2-month deposit and 1st month's rent), so you don't have any savings worth anything, and now you're unemployed and have zero hope of a new job in some foreign country.

This is why attempts to "insource", or locate tech companies in cheaper parts of the US, never work out well. You can't get many workers to pack up and take a huge risk moving to the middle of nowhere, where there's only one employer. If they get laid off in a month or two, they're really screwed. So people stay in the tech-hub cities where there's plenty of other jobs in case something goes wrong. It's all about minimizing risk.

This isn't cut-and-dry. There are plenty of opportunities to work in cheap parts of the country (US). If I lost my job (or more than likely, quit on my own terms, which I've done many times before, even before I had a position lined up), I wouldn't be concerned with finding another one within 2 weeks. Every day I'm responding to recruiters on LinkedIn looking for talent. And I'm not that talented.

There are even requests around the geographical region, which I consider if I hadn't had a family and mortgage.

I can utilize all the cutting-edge technologies developers on the coasts think they're privy to, too.

This flyover mentality gets me so worked up. It's really from a pre-internet era.

I can see your argument for doing so in another country (relocation, other added expenses vs. U-Haul across the country), but I'm making the assumption there's more than one fruit farmer there, too.

Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to work in cheap parts of the US. I get emails from recruiters for jobs in these places all the time. The problem is, these opportunities are not in the same place! So if I were to take one of them, I would then be working in a town where my employer is the only place that hires people with my skills, and if that job goes bad, now I'm forced to sell my house and move, because there's no other employer within commuting distance. This is why tech hubs are so popular, and why they're "tech hubs": they achieve the critical mass needed to turn them into such.

I'm sorry, but I simply do not feel comfortable taking on a giant risk by signing up for a house mortgage in a city where I will be forced to move out if something goes wrong with my job. I don't think I'm the only person who thinks that way.

Your commuting requirements list must be very large.

Would you mind exchanging emails? I would love to ask you more specifics about your experience as I am thinking of doing the same. Email in my profile.

"Amazon/Facebook/Google/Microsoft doesn't let its workers work from home in general."

I worked at Facebook as a software engineer in the Menlo park office and I used to work from home at least several times a month. I'm pretty sure google allows you to this as well. They don't allow you to do this permanently however.

If the type of development work you're doing can be easily done remotely, then there is a good chance it can be done much cheaper by a fantastic developer in Ukraine, or India, or China, or some country where wages are a lot cheaper than US or England or Canada. If, however, the type of work you're doing benefits from face-to-face interactions (i.e. quick iterations with lots of feedback from users, marketing and product managers), you're likely to demand a premium, and those types of jobs tend to be clustered in large cities.

If you're a fantastic developer in Ukraine, India or China and have very limited needs (compared to a guy with a family and kids), your disposable monthly income net of taxes, rent and commute expenses is still likely to be higher in Silicon Valley than Ukraine, India or China.

A rational decision then would be to move to Silicon Valley arbitraging the costs as much as you can (living with roommates, commuting by Caltrain, BART or a plain walk, relying on company-provided lunches and dinners vs going out), until the music stops and the industry hits a headwind.

Then one can still return to comfortable living in Ukraine, India or China, but with a much nicer savings account than before.


I moved to SF from Slovenia. The percentage of my income that I save* is smaller, but the absolute number is still bigger. Turns out the glass ceiling for "smart dirty immigrant" jobs is much higher than the ceiling for "remote dude" jobs as well.

Add the nice bonus that there's simply more to do in a megalopolis of 6mio people than a city of 300k and it's kind of a no brainer. Unless of course you're okay stagnating in your career. Then staying home is financially more sound and you can lead a cushy life then retire at 35 or 40. But meh, life's too short to limit yourself out of cushiness.

*save and/or use as disposable income

PS: one thing I've noticed is that those of my friends who couldn't get visas are the loudest opponents of moving to the US and those of us who could are the loudest proponents. It's probably all bias and it doesn't really matter where you are if you're a good engineer. Work will find you.

I'm in the opposite boat as you. I am by no means a "fantastic" programmer, but I did indeed receive a job offer for working in NYC a couple of years ago (I now live in an Eastern European capital of about 2 million people). I concluded that living in a shared appt while I'm in my 30s it's not for me anymore, at least if I can avoid it, and there was almost no way for me to live on my own in NYC unless I had commuted from very far away.

I also couldn't fathom putting an entire ocean between myself and all the people and things I love. I see myself living in Berlin, let's say, but living half a world away was just too much for me. I was also well aware of the money I decided to leave on the table when I refused the offer.

I agree. Having a girlfriend from here and sharing an apartment with her (she also makes 6 figures) rather than strangers makes things a lot easier.

She's an EU/US dual citizen so she could move to Europe with me, but opportunities for soft skills people are hella scarce on that side of the pond. It's hard enough over here.

And 2 million capital vs 300k capital is big difference in "amount of things available" ;)

I'd prob wanna move to Paris or Berlin or NYC eventually. All cheaper than SF.

Hm thats weird, I was a junior engineer and living in Manhattan. And aside from simply being able to afford it with less than 30% of your monthly income, there are more than enough ways to get lucky on rent in NYC.

> Add the nice bonus that there's simply more to do in a megalopolis of 6mio people than a city of 300k and it's kind of a no brainer.

Can you give an example? I've lived in London before and I don't think I saw a single thing available there (that I was interested in) that wasn't available in much smaller cities. I mean, why do you need thousands of restaurants and nightclubs, when in a small city you still have dozens of them, and you don't need to suffer in the tube?

"Ok, which of the 3 decent restaurants am i going to today?" Gets really boring after a while. New ones to try open every few years instead of every few weeks.

You look at Yelp or similar and you've been to everything it suggests and decided it's meh. Or your friends have been and aay it's kinda meh.

There's also that argument that Oatmeal mentioned once. In a small city you have Asian restaurants. Maybe Chinese, Japanese, and Asian. In a big city you have Cantonese, Sushi, Japanese Grill, Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Singaporean, South Thai, North Thai, Dim Sum etc etc

Maybe SF is a special case. The city itself is only 800k people, but it's surrounded by 6mio people which makes it feel a lot bigger than it is while retaining a lot of the smaller city feel. It's basically Bay Area's lower to mid Manhattan.

PS: London is massive. 13mio people in the metro area. That's twice the size of the entire Bay Area so yes, law of diminishing returns definitely kicks in at some point.

I don't get this whole hang-up about restaurants. To me, "the number/type of restaurants in the area" is something I don't even consider when deciding if I want to live somewhere. Admittedly I'm not a restaurant guy. I pretty much never go to them. To me, they're just an expensive way to eat food. And they are a pain in that you need to do so much just to "enjoy" the experience. Get dressed up, drive or walk to the place, wait in line, get seated and wait again, place your order and wait again, finally you get to eat, trying not to think about how much of your life you just wasted, then when you're finally done enduring all that, drop $100 that you could have used to buy groceries for a week.

Same goes for nightclubs, museums, movie theaters, "culture". This is really why people want to live somewhere???

People like different things. What a shock!

> Same goes for nightclubs, museums, movie theaters, "culture". This is really why people want to live somewhere???

What do you do in the afternoons? Almost every home-hobby I can think of is improved by company of people with similar interests. Rather than do DYI in a garage, I'd rather go to a hackerspace. Rather than play the same N boardgames with the same X people, I'd rather to go a boardgames meetup.

And well, while you might not be into 'culture', there's a reason why nightclubs, museums, theaters, cinemas, etc exist. People like entertainment!

> Get dressed up, drive or walk to the place, wait in line, get seated and wait again, place your order and wait again, finally you get to eat, trying not to think about how much of your life you just wasted, then when you're finally done enduring all that, drop $100 that you could have used to buy groceries for a week.

Well, here's the opposite view. I don't cook at all; I'd much rather place a delivery order at one of 20 great restaurants around, depending on whether I feel like italian, thai, vietnameese, british, american, or any other cousine. Why would I spend hours buying ingredients and preparing food, when someone else can do the same for me, but better?

Going out to restaurants is a bit different - when you go as a group, the fact that you have free time as your food is being prepared is a benefit, not a cost. That's the main reason you go, after all - to spend time together, while at the same time enjoying a good meal.

Thank you for answering that. It's still totally alien, but thanks.

Small cities, under 100,000 people even, can have hackerspaces. Maybe they aren't to your standards. (local one here has CNC, laser cutter, 3D printers for plastic, etc.)

To not cook is odd. Even when I lived alone in Boston, I cooked my meals. If you cook, you can be sure that nobody: picked their nose before handling your food, spat in your food (politics maybe), sneezed on your food, scratched their ass before handling your food, failed to wash the salad, plucked out a mouse and called it good, etc.

There are only a few restaurants where you can dine naked, you'd be seen by others if you went there, and you might have to suffer seeing people that make you want to rip your eyes out. At home there is no problem.

While waiting for your food at home (as it cooks), you can spend time together. It's the same as what you get, but with privacy. You can be as politically incorrect as you like, you can cry or shout, you can hold a burping/farting contest, whatever.

At home there is less trouble with kids. I'm guessing you might be single... if yes, how do you find any meaning in life? I remember being single, and I found it to be horrible. There was such a feeling of my existence being pointless. I very nearly jumped off a bridge. So life without family is unfathomable, and family makes restaurants awkward. It takes consistent discipline to keep a crowd of them under control, meaning that one can not relax.

Restaurants are nearly always too dim. I suspect it is so you can't spot defects in the food. At home I can put a 4000 lumen bulb in every socket, which is 6x or 7x normal.

You can go as a group to the supermarket. You can cook as a group. If you want peer bonding, this does it.

There's also just the joy of cooking. It's a skill, no different than programming. I feel the same pride in improving my cooking skills as I do my programming skills. It's nice to make things, and make them well.

> People like different things. What a shock!

For sure, I get that. I just find it pretty amusing that restaurants, of all things, constantly get brought up in these "Why do engineers move to the city" stories. Anyway, aren't we all working 60-80 hour weeks? Even if I liked restaurants and night clubs, I'd have no opportunity between work and sleep to partake, so it would make no difference whether there were good ones around!

> Anyway, aren't we all working 60-80 hour weeks? Even if I liked restaurants and night clubs, I'd have no opportunity between work and sleep to partake, so it would make no difference whether there were good ones around!

And you don't think that's a problem? But no, we don't all work 60-80 hour weeks. Work shouldn't be your life, and 40-45 hours is already a lot of time.

> Anyway, aren't we all working 60-80 hour weeks?

Without a commute that's plenty of time for restaurants and bars ;)

> Admittedly I'm not a restaurant guy. I pretty much never go to them

Imagine that, a person who never goes to restaurants doesn't consider them when making decisions. Shocker.

I go maybe once a week. Sometimes twice. And I almost always end up going to the same few. But once in a while I like to try something new and it's great when that option is available.

And I don't know where you eat, but my fav kind of restaurants are in the $20 to $30 per person range. $100 is for special occasions.

Fun fact: in Ljubljana (my home city) you can barely even find $100/person restaurants. So even if you want to special occasion, you can't. And when you do, the food is often closer to a San Francisco $30/person restaurant.

So yeah

Restaurants and nightclubs aren't the only things people want. There is the arts and exposure to other cultures and languages, educational opportunities, recreation for kids (e.g. parks), and a number of other things that aren't actually available, generally, in these lower cost of living smaller places.

Speaking for myself: I'm a massive nerd. I need friendships with other nerdy people to be sane. There aren't that many nerdy people in my middle American home town of 300k people. There are many, many nerdy people in San Francisco.

Variety? Also, theatres, cinemas, shops... Most of all, the fact that no matter what sport/hobby/game/activity you're into, you can always find people to do it with.

Oponents / proponents sounds a lot like sour grapes / rationalisation.

Exactly. I think there's a lot of that.

> If you're a fantastic developer in Ukraine, India or China and have very limited needs (compared to a guy with a family and kids), your disposable monthly income net of taxes, rent and commute expenses is still likely to be higher in Silicon Valley than Ukraine, India or China.

I feel like I'm rather average developer, and live in Poland (more expensive than the countries you listed), and still managed to save over $7000 per month in my last remote gig. No roommates either (I live in a flat I own). I feel that I'd be MUCH worse off in SV, or in the US in general.

> I feel like I'm rather average developer, and live in Poland (more expensive than the countries you listed), and still managed to save over $7000 per month in my last remote gig. No roommates either (I live in a flat I own). I feel that I'd be MUCH worse off in SV, or in the US in general.

Sheesh - you're better off than a lot of US-based developers I know. Not everyone lives in SF or NY, and not every developer pulls in $100k+ (many do, but not all). I know plenty of jr-mid level devs not pulling in $100k. $7k/month is more than some of them make - certainly couldn't save that much.

Can I pick your brain on this? I'm from Latvia, but currently based in London. Currently looking to move back and move in to working fully remotely.

Were you contracting for US companies in your previous remote job?

Sure. I only work remotely for US companies, as they seem to offer the best rates/salaries.

My expertise is Scala, "Big Data", some machine learning and AI, plus generic Java/Spring/etc experience. My last job used only Scala+Play from that list. They were willing to hire remote people from across the world because (I assume) it would cost even more to hire experienced Scala devs in SF.

BTW if you care about saving money then London's contracting market is IMO even better than working remotely for US firms. It's worse now with the pound going to the toilet after brexit referendum, and will probably soon be only a memory for us foreigners though.

> 7 k$ per month in my last remote gig.

I'm saving that much on an ongoing basis at my full-time job in SF.

I do have a roommate, but, to be honest, the weather alone makes it worth it.

then you make a lot.

Moving to the US is not a rational decision in 2017.

For many people I work with, even visiting the US is something they're trying to avoid.

I can confirm, I'm definitely thinking twice before visiting my friends and coworkers in the US again, and I'm positively not going to book a flight that goes through the US when flying to another American country (eg Canada).

Even for many Americans living overseas, visiting the US requires more to think about than before.

I second that.

take a random sample of 100 devs in Ukraine and India and offer them a green card to the US of A. how many do you think would take it? and for people who wouldn't, how many do you think would cite Trump as their reason?

That's not a good question. There have always been people who wouldn't have wanted to move to the US, for various reasons. People usually like to stay at home, in a culture they're familiar with, near people they know, unless something really pushes them to leave.

A better question is: take a random sample of 100 devs in Ukraine and India in early 2016 and offer them a green card, and then do the same today. How do the numbers compare? Now you're seeing how many people would have liked to come here, and now have changed their minds because of recent political events.

Many would take it, no question. However, taking a green card doesn't necessarily mean that the person will stay in the US forever. The American culture and lifestyle is rather specific and not for everyone. It requires living in the US to start realizing it. You can't grasp it from abroad. Some developers return to Ukraine/India and feel happier there.

Well, it really depends on where you are moving from, doesn't it?

>If you're a fantastic developer in Ukraine, India or China and have very limited needs (compared to a guy with a family and kids), your disposable monthly income net of taxes, rent and commute expenses is still likely to be higher in Silicon Valley than Ukraine, India or China.

No it would not. Nothing can beat sub 500 USD apartment, 5% tax rate and 3 cents for subway ticket

Yes - it absolutely can. What matters in the above scenario is the total cash left over after expenses (surplus), not the size of the expenses (expenditure).

But the idea is that you take a remote job based in (rich country), get paid like a (rich country) developer, but only have costs of a developer in (poor country).

And that idea is just that: an idea. It happens rarely enough that putting forward as normal requires some proof.

The company I work for uses remote workers from Ukraine and India. I know for a fact their salaries are less than 1/3 domestic salaries. This is in my experience what is actually normal. Pretty good for the cost of living, but they aren't saving as much as I am unless a good portion of their expenses are paid by someone else.

>I know for a fact their salaries are less than 1/3 domestic salaries.

What are absolute numbers?

The median domestic salary for the engineering positions the remote workers have is about $110k/year.

Yep, around 3k per month sounds about right for Ukraine:


Sure, but it means that guy should make 2x of what he gets at home just to keep up, and we are talking about same person with same skills, connections etc.

So the real rational decision would be to start company with access to VSs in US and hire developers in Ukraine. Which is exactly what is happening.

That isn't china, definitely.

5% tax rate? Where?

Ukraine if you work as contractor and earn less then 180k per year.

Bingo I did the same :)

> If the type of development work you're doing can be easily done remotely....

Let's not forget the kind that needs some hands-on interaction with specialized hardware (drones, self-driving cars, etc.) I used to work on calibration and test software for fiber optic switches. Working from home was difficult, considering I needed about $100k worth of hardware, some of which did not exist outside my lab, to do my job sometimes. OTOH, it also meant work couldn't easily follow me home, either, so it was a decent trade-off. I also lived 2 miles from work at the time, so I usually just rode my bike.

"Easily" is the key word in that first sentence. Even the deepest infrastructure work, short of actually having to touch hardware, can be done remotely and the people doing it can be among the hardest to outsource/replace. It just requires a bit more skill, effort, and tooling, but employers - even those known for a generally high level of colocation - are willing to pay for an accommodate that.

Time zones.

> If the type of development work you're doing can be easily done remotely

All interesting types of development work can easily be done remotely. Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, name it. The unicorn billions are all things that never needed face-to-face spitting.

It is therefore probably the other way around. If the type of development work you're doing requires face-to-face spitting, you are not doing anything interesting anyway, and then it does not matter anyway, where exactly you are working on your next failure.

> All interesting types of development work can easily be done remotely.

My employer would prefer I not walk out the building with the rather expensive test equipment necessary to debug our latest prototypes (which they would also prefer to keep in the building). Some of us software developers work on actual physical products, those which involve using a logic analyzer, oscilloscope, and JTAG pod for debugging. This equipment is too expensive to replicate for every engineer and has to be configured hands-on.

Different folks have different ideas of what is interesting to work on.

> Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, name it. The unicorn billions are all things that never needed face-to-face spitting.

All terribly boring to me. That's why I'm an embedded software engineer. Somebody has to write the code that keeps your airplane in the air.

In spite of what the article claims, the vast majority of employers do NOT let you work remotely 100% of the time. They are mostly located in the big/expensive cities, so that's where developers will go. There's really no mystery there.

Yep. Network effects.

Best place to start a business is where you have easy access to a large employee pool for your specialty. Best place to locate yourself as a specialized employee is where your industry concentrates a large number of employers.

This is true if you're in software, finance, film, ....

This should be the highest rated comment. A survey of any number of developers would reveal this very simple reason.

Not only that, but from what I can tell, telecommuting is becoming more and more rare. I'd guess that it hit a peak somewhere between 5 and 10 years ago. Now it's really hard to find a company that'll let you telecommute (I've been looking).

Just because developers can feasibly work from anywhere, especially remotely for already-established companies, do not immediately presume that it is best for developers to work from anywhere.

Working remotely is not for everyone. Some people have problems with efficiency and procrastination when working from home or when working without immediate oversight. Some people have poor communication skills which are further hampered by the long distance communication and lack of face to face interaction. Some companies and, perhaps, developers prefer human interaction and team cohesiveness, which is difficult to achieve in an all-remote development team.

In many cases, the most expensive tech cities became that way after the developers landed and earned crazy money and bonuses. Take Austin for example. A mere ten years ago, it was a very affordable city. Now, there are 800 sq. ft. homes with window-unit air conditioning selling for $600,000. Why? Austin became a tech hot spot in Texas while it was still affordable and, due to the exorbitant salaries being paid and countless millionaires being made, the demand for housing skyrocketed. With limited supply of proximate housing, the prices shot up.

Austin seems incredibly cheap to me (when considering southern California as the alternative). You can get a nice house on a large lot for less than 500k. It's not in the city center but I prefer having more space anyway. In San Diego and any reasonable commute around it you get a repair project with anything below 500k. Couple the cheaper housing with income tax savings and I see the appeal.

Having lived in Southern California, Austin, and now San Francisco, I can confirm that Austin remains laughably cheap, despite what Austinites like to claim.

Yea, Austin isn't cheap anymore but it's by no means expensive when compared to the coasts. It used to be something like a factor of two more expensive in SF or NYC, and I don't think it's quite that large a gap.

The Austin city center is also so much smaller than many major cities that it can be misleading. Just 1.5 miles from downtown the price of housing starts to drop substantially.

SoCal/Bay Area expats are driving up costs in Austin.

Agree. Similar thing in all Texas metros. Although expats in Austin are certainly of the CA tech majority. I feel like all of TX is turning into CA.

Well, they do have many things in common:

* Warm weather year round

* Lots of great universities

* Large hispanic population (and immigrants in general)

* 2 largest states in the contiguous US

The most glaring difference is probably the conservative politics. But that's mostly the rural areas. And the hispanic population may actually help change that.

Note: not implying that all hispanic people automatically vote democrat, just that they do in general.

Hispanic people might vote Democrat, but they are largely religiously, socially, and politically conservative.

As the other poster said, Hispanic people in general are extremely socially conservative and religious. They vote reliably Democrat because the GOP panders to white racists and people with anti-hispanic-immigration feelings. As soon as that changes and the GOP embraces them, they're going to be a very reliable GOP voting bloc; all the GOP has to do is promise to end abortion and pander to Catholicism, and they'll get their votes automatically.

"Progressive" liberal politics are on a strong downward trend in the US. The people having kids are mostly very conservative and religious, and the immigrants from the south are very conservative and religious. The anti-immigrant bias from the GOP is likely temporary.

Do you have any data that supports the assertion that liberal politics are on a strong downward trend? That struck me as odd and my (admittedly short) googling found a lot of evidence that the opposite is true.

Did you miss the November election? That should be proof enough.

Compare the anti-Vietnam-war protests of the early 1970s to the anti-Iraq-war protests in the 2000s... oh wait, there were no anti-war protests in the 2000s; everyone in America was all for that.

Compare the birthrates for liberal, irreligious people to conservative, religious people.

>Did you miss the November election? That should be proof enough.

Liberals won the popular vote...

> Compare the anti-Vietnam-war protests of the early 1970s to the anti-Iraq-war protests in the 2000s... oh wait, there were no anti-war protests in the 2000s; everyone in America was all for that.

That is a disingenuous comparison. The support for the Iraq war was so high because a the biggest terrorist attack in US history had just happened and we were going after the people we thought responsible. If you compare a similar situation WWII and Pearl Harbor, there were not protests for that either. In fact support for Japanese internment was high.

> Compare the birthrates for liberal, irreligious people to conservative, religious people.

Birth rates for people who typically "vote liberal"(minorities) in the united states are much higher than those of "conservative voters" (white people).

>Liberals won the popular vote...

Irrelevant. The Electoral College doesn't work that way, and also, Republicans won elections across the board in all the other races: House, Senate, governors, state legislatures, etc.

Basically, the liberals clustered into a few coastal cities were numerous enough to win the presidential popular vote, but that doesn't affect much except the mayoral races in those cities, and the California state government (1 of 50).

>The support for the Iraq war was so high because a the biggest terrorist attack in US history had just happened and we were going after the people we thought responsible.

Only a complete moron believed at the time that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11.

>If you compare a similar situation WWII and Pearl Harbor, there were not protests for that either.

It was no secret that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Their planes were military planes, and had the Japanese flag on them. They even tried to send a warning first but screwed that up somehow.

Not so with Iraq. Despite what chimp Bush said, it was all too obvious to anyone with half a brain that there was no relation there, and the 9/11 hijackers were all Saudis anyway. And the Iraq war wasn't about 9/11 (that's why we invaded Afghanistan, something that wasn't really protested for pretty good reason since Osama really was there), it was about "WMD" which didn't exist. The whole thing was a giant sham and lie, and it was obvious.

>Birth rates for people who typically "vote liberal"(minorities) in the united states are much higher than those of "conservative voters" (white people).

The high-birth-rate minorities are very religious and are in favor of extremely socially conservative policies such as banning abortion. They only "vote liberal" because the GOP panders to white racists and anti-minority voters, for now. As soon as that changes, liberalism is dead in this country. Lots of those minorities are already voting GOP because of social policies and religion.

Moreover, you sidestepped my challenge. I said to compare the birthrates for "liberal, irreligious people" to conservative, religious people. The minorities in this country are not irreligious by a long shot; in fact, they're frequently a lot more religious that the average conservative.

Come on man, enough with the acrobatics.

>Irrelevant. The Electoral College doesn't work that way, and also, Republicans won elections across the board in all the other races: House, Senate, governors, state legislatures, etc.

Your argument was that liberalism was on a downward trend. On the US's biggest election stage, more people identified with the liberal politics than the conservative ones. Those other races have much smaller turnouts on any given day than the presidential election.

> Only a complete moron believed at the time that Saddam had anything to do with 9/11. not the same yada...

You can say that as your opinion, but the national sentiment at the time went with that as fact. Check the history.

> Moreover, you sidestepped my challenge. I said to compare the birthrates for "liberal, irreligious people" to conservative, religious people. The minorities in this country are not irreligious by a long shot; in fact, they're frequently a lot more religious that the average conservative.

Social conservatism does not imply political conservatism...

I've lived in Texas all my ~40 years, all of these things have been true the entire time. The influx of residents over last ~10 years is why I say TX is feeling like CA. It's the ethos. The food. The culture that comes with it. Not a bad thing, just different.

Texas is the friendly state but if I'm being honest there is a part of me that is getting old and cranky and doesn't like it / wishes it could go back to the way it was. However, I totally see the appeal of selling your small expensive CA house and moving to TX to buy a mansion for cash. I'd do the same.

I'm from EU (continental climate) but been multiple times to CA and TX - I would never say they have similar climate.

They dont. July and August are unbearable in TX. June/Sep almost too.

> countless millionaires being made,

I think its more accurate to say that countless millionaires that moved in.

Austin still hasn't had its Google/Intel/Facebook yet.

Back when Austin, Round Rock, and Georgetown were actually places separated from each other by at least a mile or so of scrub and no development you had Dell and a couple of other early dot-com companies mint a large batch of nouveau riche techies who had dreams of 'the next big thing' happening in Austin. I left before the crash and the subsequent agglomeration of the entire area into a single contiguous mass of strip malls and condo complexes, but it seems to me that Austin has had its share of locally generated rich people as well.

Austin's housing market exploded over a series of years prior to its new tech hub status, tech workers only make up a fraction of the influx of monied Californians flooding the poor little town.

Austin isn't cheap when you look at the nation overall, but for tech hotspots it's still a bargain. I chalk it up to being a democratic city in a deeply republican state. Lack of regulation coupled with low taxes, great combo if you ask me.

Speaking as a proponent of remote work, I think the reason is that remote workers are less productive in a _non-remote enabled culture._ And by default most companies are not remote enabled. They don't even understand what that means.

This is totally reasonable, as we still have very few examples of large, successful teams that are fully remote. Many of the ones we do have aren't actually companies, Linux kernel development being a good example. I don't think we yet have a single case we can point to of thousands of full-time employees working together remotely. Which means at the end of the day, enterprises still have to build or lease a huge box and stuff it full of people -- there is no well-understood alternative. They naturally end up building or leasing boxes that are nearby boxes built or leased by similar companies, and here we are.

The only real barriers to ever larger remote teams, though, are information, training and precedent. I doubt the tech industry will ever be more concentrated in a few megacities as it is today. Remote work in one form or another is on a 30 year upward trend.

Definitely. Companies can either "allow remote work" or be "remote first". I've worked at both types.

The ones who are "allow remote work" are entirely office-focused and view remote workers with suspicion. A remote worker is very unlikely to get promoted, be able to take on interesting projects or large responsibilities. And they'll be out of the loop as far as what is going on in the company. (Even at a large company with probably 15% of the workers remote, it was frequent that people would just forget to open up a conference line for company-wide announcement meetings.)

On the other hand, "remote first" companies structure themselves around tools to enable remote working. So meetings happen online (via phone or web conference), project discussion or just water cooler chat happens in a messaging system like Slack or IRC, and projects are documented in a system accessible to everyone. In these environments remote workers are first class citizens and are as much a part of the company as any other.

I was at a "remote first" company that grew out of the open source development world for close to 5 years. I went to a company with the "allow remote work" model and lasted barely a year before leaving for another "remote first" company. It was a painful year, but at least now I know what to look for.

Also "no remote" of course, and then... what would you call this?

I'm at a place that is heavily into IRC. Documentation goes in a mediawiki wiki. There is also video conferencing and email. You could almost call it "remote first", except... all of this is happening on a non-Internet network and nearly nobody is at home. It's separate offices connected over encrypted links. The few people at home (mostly due to health and family issues) need special hardware to get on the network, along with separate non-Internet computers.

Yes it's more about expectstikns and standards of communication rather than "getting the work done" that gets in the way.

where do you find these "remote first" companies? sites like weworkremotely.com? (am just starting out)

It's been luck for me, honestly. The way I found my current position was by looking for who was sponsoring meetups in cities around the world in a field I was interested in. From there I found a blog post by one of the founders explaining their "remote first" mentality, and I knew I had struck gold.

As a company owner where most work is done remotely, I believe it is just education, people have been brainwashed all his life, and it takes time and work to make people operative remotely.

Working remotely means you can life whenever you want,not just in cheap places, (in practice anywhere in the US, as living in other countries have political problems like taxes and bureaucracy) L.A or New York, but people are not conscious they can, and that is the biggest problem, the biggest limitation is the one implanted in their mind.

I love traveling and after some time I need to go met a new city.

In remote working, we have to teach the people the most basic things like they are children or even worse because children would learn it right away but people have to unlearn what they already know.

They know you go to a locked place called school when you get with other people and do what other tell them to do. Over time you don't need physical locks, the locks are already in people's heads.

This behavior has been trained for years. Anything alternative competes with this psychological training.

This model place called school was designed after 1850 in order to train people for the industrial revolution, and it worked wonders for it.

We can't really understand the consequences of improved communications like talking from the US to Japan ultra cheap, simply and fast.

This happened over my lifetime, so social structures have not adapted to the new reality.

It is such a big problem that I am seriously considering creating a company just to train other companies to work remotely.

I've worked remotely online since 2000, my preferred way to work.

You should offer training. A problem I see in a lot of businesses is old school thinking.

Some people just think "Business" means dressing up in a suit, having 3 hour meetings daily and making eye contact and shaking hands.

Like it's still the 1920's.

I moved from a medium sized city that had ~5 dev shops to work at. They all sucked. I had friends from college at each one, and we all basically spent our days plugging fixes into 8 year old java or .net apps and trying to keep our brains entertained.

I did the usual and moved to "an expensive city" of portland. There's hundreds of places hiring, from "work on our inventory system in java" to healthcare to high tech to whatever.

It's a bit more expensive here (housing-wise) but my raise alone paid entirely for my housing expense for the year.

Plus it has a vibrant meetup community, tons of beer/biking, etc.

I hate that I didn't stay east to try to build this type of community myself, but I haven't regretted it in the least.

I moved away from a mid-sized city where the tech employers consisted of:

* Giant defense contractor. The kind of place you'd have to fill out paperwork to enter some of the rooms at.

* The University

* Local government

* A couple of hardware companies and like 2 software startups.

Needless to say, I am much happier with my job prospects in the Bay Area (not to mention my paycheck).

The giant defense contractor probably has amazing projects once you get past the paperwork. If you want to change the world, well there you go. You probably won't work overtime, but if you do there are federal limits before they have to pay you extra. Age discrimination is unlikely.

The university is probably interesting. Actual pay is probably terrible, but you might get free tuition for your kids.

The "couple of hardware companies" sounds promising. That might be real programming, with C or even assembly.

I lived in the "affordable city" of Portland about fifteen years ago. There was ~5 dev shops to work at. They all sucked. :)

My career didn't turn around until I bailed and went to NYC. It is nice to see that the city has turned around, but I have to confess that I don't miss it in the slightest.

> tons of beer

This sort of thing confuses me. It's not difficult to get fancy alcohol anywhere, especially wines and spirits, since they have better shelf lives, but you can get niche beers as well.

For those into the craft beer scene, it's about locality. Many local breweries simply don't have the scale (or sometimes desire to scale) to ship outside of the state, or even the city in some cases. You're correct in your assessment that you can get a certain selection of niche brews almost anywhere, but for many metro cities in the US there's a huge host of options you can only find there.

Is it really that surprising? The cost-of-living vs. increased salary equation almost always works out in your favor if you are young, single, and don't mind a roommate.

It's essentially an arbitrage. You're being paid in the employment market where salaries are based on an average standard. Meanwhile you're happy living in the housing market at a below average standard and keeping the profits.

That profit quickly disappears though once you are no longer satisfied living like a college kid.

I wonder if sociology has anything to say on this topic. My sense is that young tech workers flocking to coastal cities are voluntarily extending their adolescent years, in the same manner as many graduate students. For many young people, 10 years working in Silicon Valley is really a form of graduate school, equivalent in earning potential to a Ph.D. at a world-class university.

The big question: after you get your tech "graduate education", are you able to put down roots and create an adult life in these places, or does it make sense to move elsewhere?

So I live in Boston, and bought a condo in the slums as soon as I could. Not the worst slum (Green St., near Hatoff's gas station for those who know JP), but 50 yards from a halfway house, the suboxone at Arbour counseling and the needles near it, Mattapan is pretty close.

5 years later the condo is up 40%, Hatoff's gas is now being destroyed for (I assume?) more condos, a brewpub is opening pretty close, and families are moving in everywhere. And my mortgage is still $1500, and it will be for the next 25 years until it's paid off.

So why move? I can make great money and I locked into an improving neighborhood. Don't a lot of young people with useful skills do this? Buy into a hood-ish area and wait for it to develop?

I wouldn't have raised a family here before gentrification, but every month it seems more realistic...

My point is, I live an expensive city but I made the right decisions. And now it isn't so expensive, and when I'm at 10 years, 15, 25 years experience, I will still be here.

And anyone who thinks I'm bragging, you can do the same thing I did. My recommendation is Jackson Square and Roxbury Crossing, you can find quite affordable properties in Roxbury. Don't buy where things are nice now, buy where things will be nice later.

EDIT - Hatoff's is just undergoing renovations.[0] I wish it would close! Cheapest gas in the entire city, and connected to a gambling parlor. Not quite gentrified yet...

EDIT 2 - Yes down-vote all you want, sorry me and thousands of other people make economically rational decisions regarding where we put down stakes.

[0] http://www.jamaicaplainnews.com/2017/04/02/historic-hatoffs-...

Hood can stay hood a lot longer than your personal life timeline. It's kind of like the assertion 'the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent'. Younger people who want to buy somewhere affordable get long commutes instead in boring bedroom communities.

I'm fine with it being hood, I live here after all. But it is nice when things improve.

You just said:

>I wouldn't have raised a family here before gentrification, but every month it seems more realistic...

So for young people not wanting to chance the 'gentrification lottery' you're describing with regard to their personal timeline, what you're proposing isn't reasonable.

It is a lottery? Move where there is a subway stop and property is cheap. Allston, Somerville, Southie, even East Boston is coming around. It isn't fuckin rocket science

Somerville has been expensive for years. Our landlord has raised rent by $175/month over the past two years, so we're having to move to Medford.

I mean the process of those areas getting better happened. Somerville already became nice, it's too late to get in cheap.

Dude, there isn't 'hoods' or ghettos in Boston, at least none that I recognize. Plenty of places deep in the south that are much more dangerous.

Yes the entire city of Boston is perfectly safe, we have no murders here /s

Because you mentioned murder specifically

Murder rate per 100k: Boston - 6 Chicago - 20 Atlanta - 20 Washington, DC - 24 Detroit - 44

Boston is a very safe US city.


I wasnt taking about boston specifically.

Lol you don't live in the hoods man...Jamaica Plain is one of the surburbs of Boston and one of the best around. I lived in WR and right now these are the most expensive neighborhoods of Boston...you live in paradise trust me!

It used to be a lot worse, and it could be a lot worse, but it has drastically improved. Drive down Washington. I used to live in Egleston Square, this is indeed paradise. I also don't know how well you know JP, one block is full of $3mil homes and 2 blocks down it's a disaster

For every person like you someone buys in a neighborhood that never gets better. Some get worse. It's not a money train.

I think you are bragging and that you don't understand the wider system, nor where your gains come from.

I think you need to understand a neighborhood well before you buy in. If you throw a dart on a map, yeah it's a lottery. But anyone without a hole in their head could tell (for example) that Broadway on the red line was going to explode, and it did!

Either the Goverbankment pumps land or they don't. You are kidding yourself.

30-year mortgage? Wouldn't a 15-year one be affordable enough?

In my personal experience remote work does not work so well. At least I haven't been able to make it work for me.

For the second point, well I think expensive cities are expensive because people want to be there. If you can choose to live anywhere, why not go to the best place, specially when you can afford it?

I've worked remote for almost three years for a profitable startup. It's not all sunshine and rainbows, but not having a commute is incredibly liberating. I've also found my careeer options to not be limited by being remote.

Also, I live in Florida 20 minutes from one of the best beaches in the country. Not as "culturally fulfilling" as say the Mission or Castro districts (have been to SF more times than I can count, but have never lived there), but I sit on a quarter acre lot with a 2600 sq ft 4 bed/3 bath single family home with a backyard pool for ~$1000/month (owned, not rent).

Trade offs. Living in expensive cities doesn't necessarily translate to a higher quality of life.

I live in Brisbane, Australia. The global hub of literally nothing. What you've just described for living expenses makes me cry a bit thinking about the amount I pay in rent here for a small apartment.

Brisbane has direct flights to Singapore, Kuala Lumpar, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Taipei, Seoul, and Los Angeles.

I mean I'm not saying it's New York or Tokyo or anything, but it's hardly isolated.

Full disclaimer - I live in Provincial NZ so my perspective may be slightly skewed. Also, unrelated, what's it like to live there? Rents don't seem too bad (by NZ standards, our housing inflation is even worse than yours hooray!). My company want me to move there in a year or so.

The world is a big place with lots of housing options, and you can always generate income somewhere if you've got the skills.

Same boat as you, my friend. I actually just moved from Austin to the treasure coast for the exact same reasons (remote, beach, backyard pool on the cheap).

It might not be the cultural apex by tech hub standards, but being a big fish in a small pond is mighty rewarding. Not to mention, bringing that "tech hub" experience to an area like ours is attractive to all sorts of employers, regional and remote.

That sounds great! I'd move back to Florida in a heartbeat if I could. I used to live on the beach for chrissakes. But it sounds like a tremendous risk. You're betting that you're always going to get to stay with that company that allows remote work, or that you'll be able to find another one.

I've done a tech job search while living in Florida--not pretty. It goes like this: Company's hiring manager: "Move to the Bay Area or GTFO." I eventually had to do it so here I am.

I'm basically in your same situation (although my area is getting more expensive as people realize it's a great city). I have worked fully remote or partially remote for years. I live on the marsh, have a boat, and get to enjoy the ocean all the time. I love visiting cities, but after traveling to many different cities I have never wanted to live full time in one (if forced to pick it would be London). I grew up more how I live now, so that probably has something to do with how I feel.

I'm going to guess you live on the west coast of Florida? As a South Floridian, I'm curious.

Outskirts of Tampa. Join me for a beer sometime, my treat, if you're in the area.

Probably an outlier, but i really enjoy my commute, because its 20 minutes by bike so I bascially get 40 minutes of workout per day for free as i cycle at a decent pace.

I also enjoy working with a team in person, many of which became my friends. If I loose my job here, there are plenty of interesting alternatives to choose from. The city also offers a lot of non-work related things that i would not want to miss at this point in my life (no, it's not clubs)

After having worked 5+ years from home I am really happy about my decision to have moved to a big city (Berlin) 2 years ago and giving up working at home, it literally changed my life.

I'm working at home now and really miss my old 20 minute bicycle commute. It's such a great way to start and finish the day, and separate work from life. Now I try to ride every morning, but it's too easy to just stay inside and start work. I'm considering moving to a co-working space full-time just to force myself to get on the bike. In my experience,

Commuting by car < Commuting by train < No commute < Commuting by bike

In theory i could work remote some days, but the cycling is actually a big driver for me to go to the office even on days where i am only there for half the time because of some appointment for example.

While the individual trip is only about 6km, this way i do 60+km per week which amounts to somewhere around 2500-2800km per year and i usually go pretty fast so that i am quite exhausted after 20 minutes. Last year i watched my eating habits and it was pretty easy to loose 10kg of weight and keep it at that level only due to cycling.

It also is a great time to think in the morning and even better to relief stress after work. The only upside to taking public transport would be being able to read, but in the usually crowded trains with 1 stop where i need to change trains, the uninterrupted reading time would be pretty small anyway.

This phenomenon has been fairly well studied in the academic literature, and you can sum it up to a variety of factors including productivity from co-location (Skype just won't cut it in some circumstances!), capitals flows (VC funding is only located in certain places), and other fuzzy things like quality of life and access to similar people. The emergence of "technopoles" led Richard Florida to call the globe not "flat" but "spiky." Consider also the case study of complex geographies and languages (not English!) in Brazil: http://codingplaces.net [full disclosure: Takhteyev was on my PHD committee]

> there’s nothing about software development that requires meatspace interactions

This is a big claim that is not true in my experience. Dealing with highly ambiguous situations, talking people out of bad ideas and learning through collaboration works much better in person.

As someone living in working in a medium size city and non-tech-enclave I can tell you that there's very little non-remote SW/web dev work here. There are people who need someone to manage Wordpress or Drupal sites for SMBs, realtors, dentists, and similar. There are also a smattering of java/.Net nightmare jobs in companies that are non-tech-centric or defense related. There are exceptions, but you might come across one every six months, end even the exceptions tend to have downsides. So I think the "could work anywhere" thing isn't true. Rather, I think it you probably need the connections from a tech-enclave to swing high-paying remote work or find situations that give you the freedom to relocate.

>Rather, I think you probably need the connections from a tech-enclave

As a tech employer who has consistently hired from "non-tech-enclaves", here are some practical tips that may help people in your position "swing high-paying remote work":

- Have a public presence: open source, stackoverflow, portfolio on your own site (bonus points for a cool site that itself shows off what you can do), etc.

- Flesh out your profile on AngelList. Many startups do not care where you are so long as you are doing a good job, and there is plenty of room for salary/location arbitrage in between "market for SF Bay" and "way better than I can earn anywhere near where I live".

- Actively look for remote-only stuff.

It's really not about connections. It's about showing that you are a fit for the company doing the hiring. That's why I'm taking the time to respond here -- there is a pernicious meme that "it's all about who you know". This idea is not only false, but harmful, because it encourages defeatism and fatalism among highly skilled individuals who could dramatically improve their own work situation if they were willing to take a few relatively simple steps to do so.

Great comment.

Here in the UK the difference between London vs the rest of the country is insane: I would love to live somewhere with a better quality of life but it's much harder to find a good job outside London. I wonder how much of the resistance to setting up offices in smaller cities is due to senior managers and engineers not wanting to move away because of kids / partners, or because at their level of income they can pretty much afford anywhere.

Hmm, there's quite a few places in the UK I think you'd be surprised. The salary's are not as high - but they're still really high and outside of london you save mega moneys.

Moved to Glasgow for a higher salary than I had in London, and where rent is 1/3 of the price.

There's Edinburgh, Manchester(home of the bbc) (ranked as two of the best cities for tech in the UK, manchester for media city), Bristol, Bath, Newcastle, Cambridge. All good salaries and likely to save more money than in London.

That does surprise me, in a good way! My concern, aside from salary, would be job security - in London it's possible to find a new job within days... I will look into Edinburgh :)

Edinburgh is a beautiful city - although to warn the rents are higher than most other cities. (I lived there for 5 years). HOWEVER the flats tend to be HUGE so it's good value for money. I had a bedroom in Edinburgh that was the size of my entire 1 bedroom flat in London.

There's some startup hubs in Edinburgh that are really friendly - i'd go put your cv in there. One is called "codebase"

I was earning a London weighted salary of 10% on top of my basic. I've since moved to Cardiff have lost that weighting but gained a house.

It's swings and roundabouts, Cardiff isn't as happening as London or even Bristol (certainly food wise) but money certainly goes further. The worry is if I lose job at 'Thisbigcorp' there are fewer places that would offer a package this good.

Working from home is fairly standard a couple times a week here too.

I make good money. Why would you expect me to live in the middle of nowhere when I can live in the greatest cities of the world?

I lived in big city and while I enjoy most of my time in them, most of what I got to show for is health problems related to living in a big city.

I understand some people enjoy it, I for one traded a 50% pay cut for the ability to live far from any big town with a smile on my face.

I can cycle without breathing exhaust fumes, I can go kayaking from my backyard, I can go fishing after work, I can grow my own food, I can have a dog without feeling like holding it prisoner in a town, I can offer a healthy and low stress environment to my family, I can watch the stars from my backyard,...

Just giving a bit of perspective, coming from a guy who made big money. In the end money is worthless if I'm dead from one of the many things that will end up killing me by living in a big town.

I agree that money is worthless in the end. I would rather live here than earn twice as much in a rural or suburban area.

I'll give you a reason, although it's a reason that's personal only to me, probably.

I love road cycling as a sport. IMHO cycling for pleasure sucks in cities, even ones with great cycling infrastructure.

The cycle paths are full of slow commuters calmly pootling their way to work|shops|date|whatever.

The roads in cities are full of distracted|incompetent|psychopathic drivers in motor vehicles all wanting to "punish" me for shaving my legs and wearing lycra.

The place for people like me is haring about in the lanes and hills of the sticks. :)

In my experience, I've found the best cycling to be in the LA and SD area....bike aware culture and weather permits you to ride over 300+ days a year. I imagine California in general has great year round cycling

I work remote from central Los Angeles. The biking is incredible here. I mainly do hills and the Santa Monica/San Gabriel mountains provide some excellent climbing. There is very little traffic in the hilly parts of the city.

From central/Downtown LA, you can take Venice all the way to the beach with a dedicated bike lane. I rarely go on trails, as I only have a road bike. My favorite trip is to take the bus to somewhere north of Malibu and ride along the PCH for about 20 miles.

Off-topic, but LA really does have great public transportation. It covers nearly the entire metro area such that you can get pretty much anywhere and only have to trek a few blocks to catch a connecting metro line (whether that be bus, rail, or subway). The problem is you're not going anywhere fast.

I never do trails either since all I have also is a road bike. There is a stretch of Mulholland, where it is a dirt road, that is technically passable with road tires, but I have yet to attempt it.

I like Ventura Blvd in the Valley to make it to the beach. It is congested at points earlier on (east), but then it clears out. Venice is busy almost the entire stretch.

Sounds like you just need to move to a more bike friendly city/country :)

Whilst that could be true (there's a distinct mountain shortage in these parts) it doesn't entirely solve the city road/bike path problem.

In cities that are renowned bike friendliness e.g. Amsterdam or Copenhagen most of the cycling is low speed on the excellent cycle paths. Most of the riders are on utility bikes in their everyday clothing (as opposed to dressing to go fast and get sweaty).

If people are just peacefully commuting at 20kph (12mph) I would feel a bit of an arse if I went hooning past on a time trial bike at 50kph (31 mph).

Editor's note: Actually I'd be over the moon if I could maintain a 31 mph average for 10 miles! :)

The small town I live in actually has pretty good segregated bike paths but I only use them when I'm commuting slowly and not when I'm training.

"I make good money. Why should I have to live in a cramped city when I can live in a 3000 sq.ft house on 10 acres of land and send my kid to an elementary school that doesn't need metal detectors and armed security guards?"

Oh, I have no question as to why others don't live in the city. I was explaining why I do live in the city.

For completeness, the elementary school that I went to and that my kids will go to does not have or need metal detectors. I believe the security guard is armed. Are security guards outside the city completely unarmed? I have no point of reference for this.

Yea, different priorities for different people. World is not one size fits all. Sorry if it looked like I was accusing you of implying that!

Surely private schools in SF don't have metal detectors.

Sure, but irrelevant. Who can afford private school for their kids? I bet executive jets offer great convenience and no security lines, but that doesn't have any bearing on my vacation plans.

Private school is popular in SF because there's nothing to stop your randomly assigned public school from being on the other side of the city, so anyone who fails the lottery goes private or moves out of the city. There are inexpensive private schools, like Catholic schools.

>Why would you expect me to live in the middle of nowhere when I can live in the greatest cities of the world?

I mean, I don't expect you to do it, but personally, I like to save aggressively so that I can reach financial independence sooner.

Then the best option is to live frugally on a high salary in an expensive COL location. Really only housing scales linearly. If you can save on that, your base salary can be doubl, which affects your 401k match %, your bonus %, any raises, etc. so even if your entire salary adjustment goes to rent in a couple years you would be saving way more.

Why do you think I'm not saving aggressively? I have saved at least a six figure quantity every year since my early 20s, which seems sufficiently aggressive to me. Being able to save is part of being able to afford living here.

You're right that I could take a higher paying job in the suburbs or in a rural area and save even more, but money isn't everything to me.

If you can live in NYC/SF and still save 6 figures a year, I think your current job would already qualify as "high paying", depending on your lifestyle and expenses.

I did say "higher paying" rather than "high paying".

Steven Johnson, in his recent book Where Good Ideas Come From, pointed out that cities are more innovative the bigger they are, demonstrably according to a quarter power law. Aggregates of people are more creative than individuals. http://www.penguin.com/ajax/books/excerpt/9781594487712

But he ALSO points out that the internet has greatly reduced the need for physical proximity to get the aggregation benefits to creativity.

So, the question stands: why do people flock to the places with absurdly high rent when they could work remotely? The Sand Hill Road Shuffle (raising money for the next startup) isn't THAT much fun.

I list agglomeration benefits from my study notes (Urban economics).

* Knowledge spillovers. This core idea for information-based agglomeration economies. Robotics researcher benefits from touching randomly elbows with metallurgy expert and vice versa. Random human contact happens in internet too, but you don't form deep connections as a rule. Has anyone had a hours long beneficial discussion with random guy in the internet?

* Labor market pooling allows labor to be more efficiently allocated following productivity shocks. Changing jobs is easier. The ability to switch into a new job is first order agglomeration benefit. When large number of similar jobs are located at the same area, its easier for people to change jobs and find the job that makes them most productive.

* Marriage multiplies the effect of labor market pooling. When people marry each other and move together they must find a two jobs within working distance. If they are both highly specialized, highly educated or both, only largest cities allow best job for both without sacrifice.

* Services and more choices. Even a Pizza delivery guy can be more productive in dense city. That justifies the little higher salary for pizza delivery guy. There is more different services available. Increasing the value of the location.

* coagglomeration. The tendency of industries to colocate with other industries and form tight networks that respond fast to new demand.

* Cost of moving people. Travel time reduces productivity significantly.

* Logistics in general is and faster and more efficient. Benefit of moving goods is now considered relatively second order.

* Congestion has costs. Pollution and expensive housing are results of failing urban development. Without congestion costs the concentration of people into the best cities would be even faster.

For me it's (1) that I get to live in a cool area (Boston/Cambridge) and (2) sitting by myself working remotely without being in an office full of coworkers would be unacceptably boring. Even putting aside the subtle ways that having in-person interactions benefits the work, I just wouldn't find the job fun anymore.

I keep hearing that I can work anywhere as a developer. I wish employers would get that message. I've had to move to expensive cities not because I want too (the exact opposite actually), but because if I don't I don't get work. Employers in Canada are hostile to remote for the most part, and working for companies outside of this country, you run into a lot of "remote....but not for you"

Employers in Canada don't actually need (or don't actually want) top developer talent. If they did, they would try to compete with US companies on salary (among other things).

I agree that "remote (US only)" is completely baffling. Hiring from a global talent pool instead of a local one is a huge advantage. Yes, such an employer has to deal with tax headaches but if they want to hire locally from a global talent pool, they will have to deal with immigration headaches which are much worse for the US.

It's also security.

That really productive remote "person" could be a whole team. Three people do the work, and another 25 are dedicated to espionage.

I'm contemplating this right now. I work in London because the extra money over working elsewhere in the UK more than pays the rent and I know people here now. I if lived further out and commuted then the cost of transport would almost wipe out the rental saving and I'd have two hours+ commute everyday instead of a healthier cycle through the park.

I could get a remote job for half the money and that would be worth it for a change of scenery living somewhere cheap despite the tanking pound. Personally I think I'd be more productive living in Asia working London hours, so 3 in the afternoon until 11pm, as this suits me more especially somewhere where there is little to do in the evening. It just suits my body clock.

I know this because I did it for a while despite the financial crisis ruining it at exactly the wrong time, happening two weeks after I left the country for two years. Now I need a financial crisis to stand a chance of buying a house I figure going back to that life is my better option for now.

If there's a financial crisis:

* You're more likely to lose your job or find it difficult to switch jobs, which will impact your earnings * Banks are less likely to give easy lines of credit, making it difficult to get a mortgage

Timing the housing market is as difficult as timing any market - time in the market beats timing the market.

Maybe. 2008 to 2012 were actually the best years for me, both for life and jobs. I even managed to get a contract straight back from my travels in 2010 at a rate that I haven't beaten since. The economy didn't totally shut down. My issue was getting a mortgage but if I hadn't had a gap I could have got one even then as I had a good deposit.

It's the aftermath of QE and years of zero rates that I wasn't prepared for so it turned out to be a very expensive break.

Opinionated take about costs and benefits that doesn't make strong statements about whether remote work or onsite is better:

For context: I moved from NYC to Philadelphia, to finish my thesis and be with my wife who works at the world's best children's hospital. I have lived in Portland, Chicago, and spent extensive time in Toronto. I haven't spent much time in SF.

The change in cost of living is dramatic, and the quality of life is higher by far. I have eaten in extraordinary restaurants in my life and I don't feel Philadelphia suffers in that regard. There is a similar caliber of restaurant (with the exception of a very select few you are likely to eat at a few times a year and could honestly fly to and still save money). While I'm sure ballet and music are better in NYC, I'm not sure most consumers can tell the difference or whether it's worth living nearby.

I don't like remote work as much, and I make no arguments about remote work vs onsite. The talent pool in big areas is probably a huge plus for expensive areas (although healthcare related industry is probably great in Philadelphia, so maybe I haven't lost much there). And if you need onsite workers (again, that's maybe best, I have no argument either way), you can just hire them in SF. (You could probably pay 2x going rate adjusted for cost of living in Philadelphia and still come out ahead, but it might be harder to hire replacements). Quantity of cool jobs is definitely lower.

But if your goal is just financial independence, you could cut your rent to 20-40% of NYC and be within walking distance to work here, it's like getting a 3x pay raise.

I miss certain things about NYC, to be clear. Philadelphia is smaller, there's less of the intense artist feel, less craziness in the streets and much, much more typically dressed men and women. I miss hundreds (literally) takeout places that deliver amazing food in 30 minutes.

I do not miss the trash in the streets (piled three times a week in big bags in Manhattan ) the smell (everyone knows that returning-to-NYC smell), the rats, or the 500 sq foot apartment I was lucky to get in Williamsburg that pales in comparison to the apartment I leased in one of the top ten neighborhoods to live within North America here in Philadelphia.

I don't understand how Philadelphia gets away with being such a wonderful city. It's an incredible anomoly.

Yes! Philly is the best.

i would say this is the epitome of followers vs leaders... a significant portion of devs are introverted, and don't have a life outside work, hence being in a social setting like the office is how they make friends and communicate with the world... yes i used to be one of them...

but once you have other avenues of creativity and life, suddenly working in an office is little more than mundaneness... i've been working remote for over 5 years, and usually do my best to hang out with my team ever few months, mainly to bond on a more personal level which can only be achieved in real time. but a week or two every few months is enough to gain that perspective. working remote is blissful.

there are two major problems. most companies are scared of remote workers because they don't have the trust that remote workers can integrate into the culture, and a large portion of people just can't handle working remotely. it's an art to be able to work without a definite schedule (like being at the office for x hours).

open space work environments are bullshit, read the actual studies done and all of them point to more controlled settings, which allow devs to get into the flow which allow them to produce some of their best work and allow the to be the most fulfilled by their work.

my dollar goes way father than the devs living in sf. i can visit when i want and then bail. i'd rather invest in my family, my house, and my hobbies than paying rent in sf or nyc. and yes there are plenty of cities that offer similar awesomeness for way lower price.

Hello from a cafe in Chiang Mai.

> Chiang Mai is very nice, but doesn’t have the Met, or steampunk masquerade parties or 50 foodie restaurants within a 15-minute walk.

That's true, I do miss museums, theater, and live music from my favorite bands. But there's some really fun events (Songkran is coming soon), you can find some good music, and there's a lot of really good restaurants.

If I had a lot more money, I would probably live in NYC, LA, Hong Kong, or Melbourne. But Chiang Mai is great for now.

Melbourne? Really? Is that a thing now?

Maybe I need to head south for the winter.

Melbourne like all Australian capital cities has congestion problems and very expensive housing. I've found myself wishing I was in the startup scene in Sydney instead (seems more mature and serious.)

I'm in Sydney and was under the impression the scene in Melbourne was much better! The grass is always greener...

I've lived in both, and I can assure you Sydney's startup/dev scene is far larger. For one thing, basically all the multinational IT giants (Google, Facebook, Amazon etc) have their Oz HQs in Sydney.

Fair enough, although Facebook don't have any devs here, so I'm not sure they belong on that list. I found a bunch of places are similar in that they only have sales staff here - RedHat has most of their devs in Brisbane and Cisco has more in Melbourne, for example. Looking at Amazon's jobs page it seems like there's dev roles in Sydney at least, and Google definitely have devs here.

Lots of sales offices in Melb (Google, LinkedIn...)

Losing Startcon to Sydney was one of my top reasons other than that international startups (particularly fintech) seem to gravitate towards Sydney.

Melbourne does have some noticeable startups - Carsales.com.au, realestate.com.au, envato, seek but I think there isn't enough done to phrase them. If you are in Melbourne however I'd recommend coming a Inspire9 pitch night or a SiliconBeach meetup. Finally Andrew Hyde's writing speaks of some of the strengths in Melbourne http://andrewhy.de/why-your-startup-should-visit-melbourne/

Can you not move? The distance is not that big as far as I remember (at least not comparing to AU in general).

Its very possible, spending the medium term figuring out my next move (haven't even been in Melbourne for a year)

I heard there is a bit of a tech scene in Pai. There wasn't a few years ago when I was there but that is somewhere I could imagine working remotely from.

"Working anywhere" isn't as great as people make it sound. Being remote-only severely reduces your job pool, which is fine if you've got a good enough resume to get hired by anyone, but not so much if you're average and competing with everyone else.

Once you have the job, you find that it takes a terrifying amount of discipline to get as much work done at home, or in a coffee shop, as you could in an office. Some people can manage it; many can't.

That's not the case for me. I find being in an open-space office incredibly distracting. When I'm working at home, I can get completely absorbed in the job and work continuously all day long. Being remote is much more productive for me. It isn't for everyone though.

It's very very very simple. Politics. If you are in the Valley and making 300K, you're going to politically gang up with fellow 300Kers rather than release responsibility to people living in <100K salary areas. The truth is, remote works extremely well. Just get mature people and make sure everyone is remote so there is no ganging up (though you may get some timezone tribes..)

The reality is that as long as companies keep building campuses and requiring people to come into the office in the Bay that many people can't move.

I work remotely, only because our building was shut down due to a natural disaster. And when management realized productivity actually increased for the three months all 500 of us were working remotely,they never reopened the office.

That sounds like a really interesting case. Do you or someone else in the company have a blog post about this?

Most employers don't like remote employees. I go where the jobs are, and that happens to pay more because there's more companies fighting for developer talent. I'd go back to a smaller city in a heartbeat if I could find a job paying the same amount of money, or even just the same adjusting for CoL, but I doubt I'd find that. In larger cities I think pay goes up a lot faster than CoL does.

I work remote, and I like living in SF. I've lived and travelled to many places, and SF is my favorite, despite how expensive it is. I live in a 40 bedroom "hacker house", where else am I gonna find somewhere like that? I can discuss the latest javascript framework in the kitchen. I learn about new cryptocoins in the common room. I like living in the Mission, where new restaurants are popping up all the time.

It's also really convenient when I'm working on something really complicated for a client and I can take a 10 minute bus ride downtown to discuss in person.

Could I save literally thousands of dollars a month living somewhere else? Totally, but it wouldn't be the same.

>I live in a 40 bedroom "hacker house", where else am I gonna find somewhere like that?

A university dorm?

If you really can be remote, a smaller city can be nice. I live in Cleveland, right on the lake. It is a functional city and gives me a longer runway for my startup. As more of the workforce becomes truly remote, I believe we'll see a resurgence of small towns. Some smaller cities are putting fiber in already planning for urban refugees from larger cities.

We have a horde of people here who, at the first opportunity, will accuse the mass of developers of being trendy when it comes to languages or frameworks or methodologies. And yet, we have a thousand perfectly rational reasons why so many of us flock to the cities that influential developers live and work in.

Because some of the most expensive cities are awesome places to live, if you can afford it.

You get what you pay for.

The article assumes developers could and would build great companies working remotely if only conservative managers, VCs and others irrationally standing in the way would allow it to happen.

That day will probably come. It might even be here, but I seriously doubt it. I think it still takes a lot of personal interaction and teamwork, and the tech for it is still clumsy, incomplete and annoying enough that it's just not good enough.

Are there any great companies built from the ground this way?

Basecamp and Gitlab seem to be off to a good start. Github also is extensively remote.

I don't know about Basecamp but Gitlab's salaries are about 60% of my current base for SF, and go down for less expensive locations that I have already considered living in. These locations cost about 66% of my current situation (I commute into the City from about a 30 minutes train ride). I'd have to move to a place that resembles a rube filled backwater by comparison for break-even.

Care to give numbers? I will.

I make 125k/year with 15k bonus, good 401k/stock/health/etc. This is outside Indianapolis, where you can buy a nice 3k sq. ft. home for 250k.

To have the same size house where you live, how much would I have to make? I have done some math, it is well over 200k. Maybe you make that much?

Please note I don't contend your scenario is impossible. It's just that there isn't convincing evidence it can be considered normal.

There are successful unicorns that are distributed, remote companies today. That people haven't caught on it amuses me. It should be old news by now that remote companies are possible, that it works and doesn't impede success.

Ok but I don't want to live in a suburb or out in the middle of nowhere. I want to live in a major city. I chose this lifestyle for myself and so have many many others. Yes it's expensive but I make a lot of money. Money that I wouldn't make if I lived elsewhere. So like someone else mentioned above, the economics work out at my stage of my life. If I have kids, the economics might change and make me consider something different. But I don't plan on having kids for a long time so that's not something I have to consider at all.

I don't quite understand your point. You can be remote and chose to live in a major city that's not SF/NYC/London/Toronto, or be remote from SF/NYC/London/Toronto if that's your deal. The idea is to be remote so you make the choice at your leisure.

Also there's a ton of really cool cities out there that are nowhere as expensive as SF/NYC/London/Toronto and that are just as fun, if not more (minus NYC), and way cheaper. And working remote, they're pretty much all within your reach.

So what major city do you live in? And what sum is considered a lot?

The answer is simple: most people don't live intentionally.

I regularly meet miserable people in SF that could elevate their happiness by changing their life situation. But they don't, because the default path is easier.

If you're in debt or you can't break your lease, there's only ever very short windows to change your life. And it wasn't until recently that you could find FI-style communities about avoiding debt.

There's a similar issue with finance: someone anywhere in the world can execute stock market trades from a computer. But as a practical matter in the US 90% of trades are executed in a few blocks from each other.

Yes but where do you think all the information flows

Yeah, but really just about anyone with a Bloomberg terminal has 99% of the same info.

As we learned from the aftermath of the last major meltdown, banks do a lot of deals that require more than just a Bloomberg terminal. If anything, deals like ( http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/goldman-bet-... ) require more physical presence, as nobody wants to leave a paper trail.

Can you elaborate on this? If you bought something from me then I think you paid too much and you think that you paid too little. That's, like, how buying things works. I wouldn't sell it to you if I thought you were paying too little and you wouldn't buy it from me if you thought you were paying too much.

>Yeah, but really just about anyone with a Bloomberg terminal has 99% of the same info.

Exactly. And while the retail investors play, the real money is made on that 1%.

And the illegal kind of info?

Talent pools?

Because I can't work anywhere. It may be theoretically possible but business in the UK is pretty traditional in a lot of ways and just won't consider anything else.

Fortunately I live in the East Midlands, where there's a developer talent shortage, and I'm pretty good at my job, so whenever I want to change something seems to come up.

Leicester? Why?

It seems to me that in economic theory, capital should move around and people should stay at places. It would be rational and also it makes sense from human perspective (you're close to your family, you don't have to deal with the logistics of moving etc.).

However, in economic reality, quite the opposite is often true. Capital doesn't flow into underdeveloped regions even if they contain great talent. And people try to migrate, in fact so much that some think it's actually a threat.

Ha-Joon Chang's "23 Things about Capitalism" has a great chapter on capital not being that international (that is, interchangeable) as people typically think.

Developers are especially susceptible to groupthink, and living in places like San Francisco is trendy.

Job security (and availability), not groupthink. Groupthink is the side effect.

Surprised this is so far down. I'm here in the Bay Area because that's where the jobs are. I also don't particularly enjoy remote work, but I do like to take advantage of the occasional WFH day.

I'm not a developer, but after doing (remote) independent consulting for a year, here are my $0.02

-Human interactions: as mentioned, we are social animals and (mostly) enjoy being around others. You might not think this applies to you, but try staring at a computer and not speaking to anyone for a day. It can get old. -Similarly, being in the expensive cities means you also get to be around smart people like yourself, who are also flocking there. Sure, you could live somewhere super cheap, but then who would you share your v intelligent thoughts with? There's value in being able to bounce ideas, compare notes, etc. with real people in real life. -I've worked at companies who have employees in other geographies, but they pay these people less than they would in-house developers. If you're good at what you do and have the right connections, it can be lucrative to work remotely - but companies value face-time and might not be willing to pay as much if they know your living expenses are less. -Motivation: It can be tough to be motivated to get work done if you're living outside the confines of an office. If you can master the remote lifestyle, it offers a ton of flexibility, but a lot of people need more structure in order to be productive.

Working remotely and getting paid the same as you would in an expensive city works for some people, to be sure - and they crush it in terms of $$. But it comes down to a lot more than money - it's a certain personality type that can excel with this type of work, and without the right disposition it's not really worth the extra change.

So poor cities are all filled with dumb people? At least we're not overflowing with massive pretension. I'll stay here and leave SF for the rest of you geniuses.

Which leads me to learn that the 6 “Alpha Regions” of the world are SF, LA, NYC, Boston, Toronto, London, Paris. Even if it’s not perceived to be at the center of the technological metamorphose, Paris is still being seen as a place where you can get stuff done.

It’s also one of the places in the world where you will get the most infrastructure, meaning technological infrastructure but also political, democratic, social, medical, legal, education and even cognitive infrastructure.

Yes, you get what you pay for.

Berlin and Barcelona are way better places than Paris. Unless you're into old cities filled with pretiensious people.

Paris is also good if you're into smog. +1 for Berlin.

Like yourself?

Is not the developers, is the business that attracts developers there.

You cannot run a business from everywhere and have all the connections totally non personal. Is not working. So you must have the business in that locations, or you don't succeed. Then the developers come. And later they want to have their own businesses too. And need the connection, have a dinner with an investor, etc.

It feels like a fission reaction out of control, start-up acceleration programs made it into a real explosion.

There is an assumption that developers could work anywhere. This isn't generally true, except in the sense that it's possible to do so in a way it hasn't been in previous decades thanks to the internet speeds and collaboration technology we enjoy today. In reality remote work opportunities are still very much a rarity and they tend to offer lower compensation.

I've had two jobs (including my current one) where I've been what you might call an "industrial analyst programmer". That is, I'm on site at a place that isn't service oriented or financial, the IT team is tiny, and I have to be the BA and the Programmer all in one. One involved me working at the maintenance department of an international airport, and the current one I am attached to a small factory and distribution centre.

It's a lifestyle I quite like, though I'm not sure how common such opportunities are. With the incredible wealth of information and communication options on the web I really don't feel like I'm some isolated backward village person who can't possibly know the same stuff someone in a city can.

101 urban economics.

Economies of agglomeration is a powerful thing. Expensive cities are expensive because productivity and value generation there is much higher than elsewhere.

The concentration of tech into few places is not a negative by itself. It's essential for better productivity and economic growth. Negative effects like expensive housing are failures in urban development.

Economic activity is concentrating on large cities. This is global development. Cities have better productivity than, small towns. Bigger cities have even better productivity than normal cities. High-tech industry feels the need to concentrate even more. Just handful of cities become significant technology hubs.

Currently the only way people can build a hivemind is to get together around best universities.

I know someone who was a remote worker from the early 1990s until a year or two ago. He was working from home in the Bay Area for a while, and moved somewhere else to get a lower cost of living.

Well, he pulled that off for a long time, but eventually he got laid off and couldn't find remote work. It's actually harder to find remote work now than it used to be.

So, he settled for a local job with a lower salary than he was used to, because the alternative was moving at least 100 miles away.

The bottom line is that living in an area with a high concentration of tech companies gives you a much better chance of finding work (both on-premise and remote) when your current job is no longer viable. If you work remotely, you need to be aware of the risks.

I'd say the situation is quite the opposite - it's now easier to find remote work than ever before. With numerous known companies embracing remote work, it's becoming both a lot more common to work remotely and also a lot more acceptable to inquire whether remote work would be an option.

Here in Europe, it pretty hard, because companies considering remote work will rather do it with eastern or asian companies, not local people.

If you are on the same country, the expectation is that remote work is to be done occasionally, mostly between one to two days per week, if at all.

I think American Tech industry's failure to invest in various American and foreign cities is what is going to eventually make a Detroit of Silicon Valley. I am not sure why Facebook or Google do not have full fledged development centers in San Antonio or Phoenix or Singapore. Facebook still does not have a development center in India.

Sooner or later the Trump driven protectionism will be make other countries like India reciprocate in similar fashion where American tech companies will be denied access to say Indian market.

I've been working remote for four years in Toronto. I'm here for a few reasons:

* My partner's work is based here * It's easy to visit both of our family's from here * If the company I work for goes belly up, there's an abundance of work available here (though I'd strongly prefer to stay remote)

We've toyed with the idea of moving, but remain here for now due to combinations of the above. I can virtually assure you that we'll move if and when we decide to purchase a home.

I work from home but I meet some of my customers in person at least once per month, one of them at least once per week. Living in a distant place wouldn't be as good for business.

A customer of mine is a less than ten people company. A couple of developers work from remote almost all the time, in different cities. They come to the office a few consecutive days every few months. They are employees so their relationship with the company is stronger than mine.

Ok. Let's look at Mark Zuck. He and his facebook plan were going to succeed anyway. If he had said, I need 10 000 devs working right next to me in Managua, Nicaragua, that is where they would be today. He didn't do it, but Zuck could have. Doing Facebook out of Managua would have worked, just like doing Skype out of Talinn, Estonia today works perfectly-well too.

No he couldn't have. He needed Bay Area investor money, he needed Bay Area connections and he needed the Bay Area press echo chamber. That's why he moved as a college kid out west to Palo Alto and not Nicaragua.

Exactly. I'm from Cambridge, MA and as much as it pains me, I'm not convinced he could have Facebook into what it is today from here.

There was a time not that long ago when it wasn't obvious who the social winner was going to be.

My boss asked me the other day what my long term career goals are. I said I do not aspire to move up into management. I just want to move to a cheaper city or maybe live on the road and work from somewhere not so expensive. I used to want to live in a nice tech city but, then I had kids.

you can work remote as long as it's from the bay area...

What on earth is the point in working hard and earning a large salary if there is sod all to spend it on?

If I were living in a small country town I'd be choosing a far more chilled job than I currently have because there isn't anything to spend the extra income on in a small town.

I have focused so hard on income as one leg of the financial security stool.


I'm in a position to retire now at 45 if I chose (or was somehow forced to). Big income, reasonable (though far from Spartan) expenses, and regular long-term investments lead to a secure financial position for my family.

I happen to (mostly) really enjoy my work, so I expect to keep doing it until our kids are off to college, at which point we should have well more than enough to retire in style. THAT is what (and when) there is to spend it on in my case.

Nicer house (or just a house, period), vacations, toys, earlier retirement, children...

I think it depends where you are in you life. I spent my 20s in an expensive city earning good money and 'wasting' it all on good old hedonistic fun and adventures. I'm now spending my 30s living in the suburbs as a dull respectable member the (upper)middle class. There is no way I would have wanted to live my 20s like I'm living my 30s, nor would I particularly want to live my 30s like I lived my 20s (even though I sometimes do miss it).

Nothing worse than drinking like you're in your 20s and waking up again in your 30s with your two kids crawling on you demanding breakfast.

I think the answer is that you have to be close to the money. The VCs in the case of SF. Hedge funds and finance HFT in the case of London and NYC (speed of light limitation). Then you get a local network effect of consolidated industries.

Expensive cities are where the jobs are. The grand majority of companies want their employees to work in their offices.

I really think the "developers can work anywhere" adage is way overstated. We're still tied to location like anyone else.

The best jobs positions often do not allow for remote.

Here is a map showing average tech wages in a nice way: https://jobsquery.it/map

You can spot cities with highest salaries quite easy

Because that's where the jobs are. I'm always wondering why the most interesting and best paid sofware openings in EU are in the shithole cities cities like London, Paris, Zurich, Munich etc (I'm not talking about these "best cities to live" rankings). Try renting anything livable there - it's not only extortionate but can be very difficult in terms of required documentation, try to eat out or use any services (prices), hanging out is difficult (Germany is simply old in terms of demographics, Switzerland boring and formal), etc. Don't make me relocate there.

"No one goes there anymore; it's too crowded..."

I don't think "shithole" is a reasonable description of the concern that's in your head about those cities. Overly expensive and cramped to live in, sure. Shithole? No way...

I would guess that something close to 97% of the available jobs for developers in my country are NOT remote.

So where you live counts A LOT for your career.

I live in NYC, but have also lived in Boston, London, Paris, Tel Aviv during my professional life. These are fun cities with lots of young professionals with many things to do. There is lots of networking and international communities. Lots of Jazz, Blues, and other cultural attractions.

The cause of the high cost of housing is not that many want to live in these cities, but rather the "rent-seeking", a market failure or market inefficiency which is caused by a politically induced scarcity of housing through the use of zoning density restrictions. The inefficient markets interfere with wealth creation and instead the use of politics transfers wealth to special interest groups, in this case wealthy landlords like President Trump from people who rent and are buying housing.

Economist David Ricardo first developed the concept in the mid-19th century and joined British Parliament just to overturn the rent-seeking which harmed the British economy. In his particular case it was the "Corn Laws" which taxed imported grains of all types with the result that bread and basic food cost more for consumers. Farmers would receive more money for their grain, but ultimately the landlords who leased the farmland to farmers simply charged the farmers more money as a result. Thus, there was a politically induced transfer of wealth (ultimately) from (often lower class) consumers to wealthy landowners.

This is analogous to what is happening in the housing market today.

Japan fixed the problem in 2002 when it passed a federal law taking zoning authority away from local municipalities. The result: in 2014 Tokyo built 140,000 housing units compared with 20,000 for all of NYC and less than 90,000 for the entire state of California.

Interested readers should consult writers of Harvard Economist Edward Glaeser, Economist and Financial Times Columnist Tim Harford (book, "The Undercover Economist"), and articles by Steve Beyer

Edward Glaeser: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/build-big-bill-article-1....

Tokyo's Affordable Housing Strategy: Build, Build, Build https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottbeyer/2016/08/12/tokyos-af...

What Liberals Don't Get About Affordable Housing: Filtering. https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottbeyer/2016/02/19/what-libe...

See also "Green Belt"

This is because some of the developers have children. And it is not guaranteed that their children will take the same career path.

Dunno. Come move to Kansas. We love our civil liberties and we have a metric crap ton of open space.

Because the expensive cities is where the work is. How can that be such a big question?

I like public transport and hate driving myself.

So I'm bound to big cities

(Please forgive the side-story, I believe this comment eventually forms a cohesive story.)

Once upon a time I had 7 years experience doing web development and a young friend of mine came to me and asked "Would you please teach me web development?" So I did. This was in 2006. Then she moved to New York City, and she started job hopping. She worked at Huge, she worked at Blue Ocean, she worked at Alexander Interactive. I visited New York in 2008 and had lunch with her. I was surprised that her knowledge of project management techniques was now ahead of mine, even though she had less experience. What she did have was perspective -- she'd seen the strengths and weaknesses at Huge, and she was able to compare them to the strengths of weaknesses at Alexander Interactive, and other places. I had worked at my own company for 6 years, so I had much less perspective. I realized that if I was ever going to become a technology consultant, I would need to gain her broad overview of the strengths and weaknesses of multiple companies.

I spent 5 years living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and then 10 more years living in a Richmond, Virginia and Charlottesville, Virginia. Those were very comfortable places to live, but also a bit boring. My friends who had children described them as good places to raise children, but I had no interest in kids so I had no use for what might be the #1 best attribute of those places. If you know the joke by that NFL player "You can't do nothin in Charlotte, except live" -- that really applies to quite a few places. I was hoping I would eventually get to a more interesting place, like New York or London or Berlin.

In 2009 I moved to New York. I really, truly love New York. I've been working as a contractor and since I've moved here I've worked with 20 different companies. I've gotten to see a great diversity of what works and what fails. I've collected a lot of stories, some of which I've written about, and some of which I am still planning to write about. There are very few places in the world that offer as exciting a scene as New York. These mega cities, that combine culture and technology and funding and startups -- there are only perhaps 100 in a the world, and of the ones where English is the dominant language there are only perhaps 10.

It was in New York that I gained that broad overview that my friend had demonstrated in 2008. Therefore, New York has been fundamental to me becoming the kind of technology consultant that I was hoping to be.

I've spent a few months in San Francisco and I love that city, but to live I would prefer New York or London, because they are so much bigger and there are so many other offerings aside from the companies that work there.

For what I want to do, offer high level technology advice, having seen what works and what fails at dozens of different companies, there are only a few places where it makes sense for me to live and work.

I've visited Costa Rica and I love it. I hope to go back many more times. But only to visit. I'm still open to someday moving to London or Berlin, but I'm not considering "move to Costa Rica and live on the beach". It's simply not the career path that I'm interested in.

For my retirement, if I'm looking for some place cheap, I will consider Krakow. That assumes that Poland some day elects a sane government and therefore remains in Europe. I certainly hope to buy real estate in Krakow, as I think investing there is a bit like investing in New York in 1982, back when everyone thought that New York was dead and without a future.

> it was always a country to keep offshore companies/accounts, so every rich developer in ex-USSR already been there and knew the place, but since 2014 it started to make sense to move physically as well

I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that since 3 years ago Cyprus (among others) 'sells' EU permanent residency permits to rich foreigners. You can imagin that an EU permanent residency permit, allowing you to live and work in all of the EU is worth more than gold for rich people in Putin's Russia, KGB Belarus and war-thorn Ukraine.

Let's not pretend Cyprus is an international tech hub for developers and start ups...


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14029690 and marked it off-topic.

That is not a EU permanent residency permit. It is just for Cyprus. Cyprus is not even in Schengen, and this permit doesn't even allow free travel, you still need a visa to go even to Greece. It also gives no right to work or do any kind of business (even in Cyprus), i.e. it is against the goals of these people, it is mostly for retirees.

A 2-year residence permit which becomes permanent in 5 years is easy to get in any Baltic country, and it is a lot less restricting. That is, if you are too rich to work, but not rich enough to buy a passport. Otherwise you can get a permanent permit in Germany after 2 years of work which will give you full rights similar to U.S. green card, in all of the EU.

Just as an aside, Cyprus is in the process of joining Schengen "soon", along with Romania, Bulgaria, & Croatia.

Romania and Bulgaria have been about to join Schengen any moment now for about a decade, and Cyprus is in a much less stable situation than either of them.

And Romania actually fulfilled all conditions for Schengen membership a few years ago... And it's still blocked from joining out of sheer spite, I guess?

I think Cyprus will resist entering Schengen with all means available, and Greeks are known for their skill of protracting any negotiations indefinitely. So, not any time soon.

Why? Cyprus has nothing but to gain from joining Schengen. Where does Greece come in? EU citizens can already travel freely in Cyprus [1], so why would you say GR doesn't want Cyprus in Schengen?

[1] http://www.cyprusembassy.fi/main/index.php?p=Consular_Sectio...

Schengen is for free movement. It does not give you work permit.

I don't think I implied otherwise.

Do you need a visa to go to Greece? Cypriot citizens can definitely travel to Greece with just their ID cards, but I'm not sure about immigrants.

Of course, because they are EU citizens. All EU citizens can travel freely. But immigrants need a visa since Cyprus is not in Schengen. This is the case with all non-Schengen EU countries, like, immigrants living in London need a visa to go to Paris, but a Romanian doesn't need visa to go to London. An immigrant in a Schengen country can travel to any other Schengen country plus new non-Schengen entrants: Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia. For example, i am an immigrant in Lithuania (Schengen) and i travelled to Cyprus and Romania with no visa (i can't even technically apply for one), plus many Schengen states.

This situation is not uncommon. [Reunion Island][0] is a French province, but it is not in Schengen neither. Any European can go to live and work to Reunion Island, but a foreigner with a Schengen Permit cannot.

[0]: https://goo.gl/maps/TAJoEYLp7m32

Immigrants in the UK (right to remain, not just permanent resident) can travel freely in the EU (and CTA without even a passport).

Ah, I see, thanks. So immigrants aren't yet full citizens. In retrospect, that makes sense.

It is relatively easy to get a software engineer job in Germany and couple of years later get a residency, so no, residencies are not the only reason people moved to Cyprus.

If a person theoretically spoke French and English but had not yet studied German, would that make such a leap more difficult?

From my experience, people get along pretty well in Germany even if they know only English. Especially in large cities like Berlin, where they are likely to get such a job. So many people speak good English here, that it is actually hard to learn German, because the natives don't want to speak German with you :-). I'm in research, and half of my institute here in Berlin are foreigners.

Of course, it still helps a lot to learn German - and I think you miss out on a lot if you don't learn the language of a country. Also, you'll need a friend or colleague to help you with administrative stuff in the beginning (which may be in German only).

Going through the whoishiring.io job offers, Germany has a comparatively high number of job ads written in German (even for remote positions).

This is very interesting, as it may point to a less international work culture (although this is in the process of changing), which this translates to a "possibly yes" answer to your question. Of course, whoishiring.io may not reflect accurately real world, still, I don't think it's random.

Answer of the type "N people work here in Germany without speaking german" are not correct answers, since they don't imply a comparison (the question is comparative).

I know about 6 American software engineers who don't speak a lick of German working in Berlin.

Everyone sells residency and citizenship. The list of desirable countries that don't is probably shorter than the list that do.

Latvia, for instance, is much cheaper and gets you into Schengen with an investor visa followed up by investor citizenship.

In Latvia you either have to buy a property worth more than 250kEUR, invest more than 35kEUR in a business or deposit more than 280k.

From my standpoint, the biggest risk is a certain neighbour country with historical appetite for "preserving it's territorial interests".

Yep. Want to become resident in the UK? Agree to invest £1m and a "Tier 1" visa is yours: https://www.gov.uk/tier-1-investor. The US has a similar programme to sell Immigrant Investor Visas: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/Immigran....

2m for a limited time visa. 5m if you want to settle

And I personally there is nothing wrong with being able to buy a visa. Many people in a country don't pay few taxes in their life. So when someone comes and invests a good amount, it is ok to honor this with visa or passport. Would just be cool if every country would allow easier immigration for ordinary people, too.

No, it's not okay, it reduces citizenship and community to a dollar value, which is just more neoliberalism. It doesn't pay the government anything either - for eb5 investor commonly makes a profit, and only has to employ ten Americans at full time minimum wage (not much tax there). The immigrants income is usually left back home (mainly China) and they don't declare it in the US since it's out of reach of the IRS. Mainly they send the spouse and kids to use top public schools and down the line they get social security and Medicare too. It's a complete scam

I suspect that there's some potential for abuse under both the UK and US systems, but there are some safeguards:

1) US citizens are taxed on global income forever. (Perhaps it's hard for the IRS to enforce for people whose assets are in countries that don't share information with the US, but it's not impossible.)

2) UK tier-1 investor visa holders must be outside the UK for fewer than 180 days per year, which means they must be in the UK for 185 or 186 days per year, which means they would be subject to tax on their global income during that period. (But of course once they become British Citizens, they could ensure they stay in the UK for fewer than 183 days per year, meaning they'd only pay tax on their local income (which could be zero)).

So you would rather not let them create the 10 jobs (which, compared to many other countries, is quite much)? I mean, they do not only have to "create" them and leave empty, they have to find real working people for them. So even if they were minimum wage, I guess American software architects would not take them. At least in the job market, those "evil" investors have to be somehow competitive (you get what you pay for). And what about those who create a bigger business with bigger salaries? Should they all stay in the home country?

I think Singapore gives you permanent resident status just for buying a house there! Of course, buying property in Singapore is no small feat for most people.

There is always an old trick of setting up a company and hiring yourself as qualified worker, then getting PR status in few years.

In Singapore that still requires large capital investment in your company.

Malta's still selling passports if you want in on EU and Schengen :)


Just as a clarification, it does not mean anything to have citizenship of a country that is in the Schengen agreement, which simply covers border enforcement when traveling between signatory countries, not immigration status. These rules in theory apply equally to all citizens, with some special provisions for EU (+ CH, etc.) citizens covering things such as required ID.

> I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that since 3 years ago Cyprus (among others) 'sells' EU permanent residency permits to rich foreigners.

You know, the solution to "problems" like that is to abolish visas altogether.

A visa is essentially a permission to exist in a certain geographical area. Why exactly do you need one?

Yes I know governments won't let you in/out without one, but what sense does it make?

What possible moral justification is there, for preventing you from moving freely when you're not harming anyone else?

You've heard of people "misusing" their visas, right? But how crazy is the idea of "misusing" your permission to exist in an area?

How crazy is it that visas come with a list of activities you're allowed to engage in?

For example, if you're on a tourist visa, you're not allowed to work in exchange for money, nor sell your company's product to someone.

You might think it's because governments need to keep track of who owes them taxes and how much, but um.. what sense does that make?

Say you were born in England and lived there all your life. Then you fly over to Thailand on a tourist visa, and you fix someone's bicycle in exchange for a small fee.

How/why is Thailand's government entitled to a cut of the money you made in doing that? If you believe in the Social Contract, does that get temporarily passed from England to Thailand, for the duration of your stay?

Or did you perhaps unwittingly sign a new one with Thailand, by entering their territory?

Would sitting on a plane that happens to cross some specific unseen line on a map constitute agreeing to a binding obligation to hand over some of your income to the organization "in charge" of the area you entered?

Of course not, but that's what The Rules say. But why/how are we bound by The Rules?

Well, we're not. Not in any objective, moral sense at all. But we all obey the rules anyway.

Why is that, besides to avoid being punished for disobedience?

Visas exist because a group of people with self-determination, i.e., a country, have decided that it's in their best interest to require certain conditions to allow others to travel.

The moral justification is very simple - the people of Thailand (I hope the Thai people will pardon me from using them as an example, going on from the parent post ) get to make the rules of what happens in Thailand (e.g. they have sovereignty) and you don't. There can be international agreements where countries agree to give up part of sovereignty and agree to be limit their actions, but the default situation is that they literally get to make up laws in their borders, and existing in their borders means that you'll be held to these laws, by force if necessary, no matter if you agree or not.

They don't have to let you across the border if they don't want to, and they don't need a justification to do so - that is their inherent right. If they want to let anyone in, no questions asked, that is their right too. And if they choose to allow some people under some conditions - same thing. You're not part of their social contract, whatever that is, and you have no right to be treated equally unless they choose to - they can and will have preferential treatment for themselves.

From your comment "Or did you perhaps unwittingly sign a new one with Thailand, by entering their territory?" is probably the closest one to truth, but it's not unwittingly - the tourist visa explicitly has a number of terms and conditions; and you either intentionally accept them or don't get the visa. With this visa, they are offering a very particular social contract for you, and it's up to you to take it or leave it.

I could take your argument and say I'm moving into your house, I'm moving around freely and I won't harm you but thanks for the free rent. I don't think you'd like me coming into your house and not following your rules and not paying rent.

>Why exactly do you need one?

This is one of primary functions of any (democratic) government - to protect its people.

People don't want anyone to be able to come and settle as their neighbour - for both rational and irrational reasons.

And governments must listen to their people, because if they don't (like in case of EU/mainly Germany during last migrant crisis) people start having feelings that the government doesn't care about them, which in turn creates room for extreme populist and extremist parties.

Familiarize yourself with Chesterton's fence. It might give you some insight into one of the reasons why your rhetoric finds no traction.

Nah. I know exactly what I'm talking about.

Well that does it. I wasn't convinced before, but now I am.

I bet you found it convincing when someone evoked some Academic bullshit to hand-wavily discredit me?

Do you care whether anyone else does? Or does it simply please you to scream pointlessly, publicly, into a great big hole in the ground?

Have I been shadowbanned or something? Either something is wrong with the way my browser renders this page, or my comment was deleted from this page. My comment was here, I thought it was a good one:


I think maybe Hacker News is suffering some kind of glitch. I am not able to see any of my comments getting posted, but someone was able to downvote this previous comment, so I have to assume that this previous comment was being posted somewhere, even if I can't see it. It's a confusing situation where other people can see my comments, but I can not see them.

> people with self-determination, i.e., a country, have decided

You know that's just flat out false, especially considering you've personally never been asked about it.

> countries agree to give up part of sovereignty

Again, you were not asked. Neither was any other ordinary person affected.

> the tourist visa explicitly has a number of terms and conditions

I brought up the idea of the Social Contract. You're talking about something completely unrelated, and thus not addressing my point.

But whatever. You're most likely just yet another psychopath spewing your bullshit, and this account is probably shadow-banned already, because I'm.. wrong?

We've banned this account for violating the HN guidelines. Would you please stop creating accounts to do this with?

We detached this flagged subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14031121.

What difference does it make if someone has been asked or not? The rules apply anyway, consent or consensus is not required.

Sovereignty works not only for full democracies, but also for monarchies, dictatorships, and various kinds of representative decisionmaking.

But the main point I was trying to make is that if "you were born in England and lived there all your life. Then you fly over to Thailand on a tourist visa" then whatever social contract Thailand people have established in Thailand doesn't matter - you are not entitled to its benefits, you are not part of their social group (yet?), you don't have an inherent right to be part of that group, and it's up to them whether they will extend their social contract to you at all and if so, on what conditions. In this regard it doesn't make a meaningful difference how Thailand decides it and who gets asked. Self-determination of countries is a thing even if those countries are internally governed very unfairly - coming from outside it doesn't matter, you anyway wouldn't get a say on how they're governed.

Again, it doesn't matter of all or most people there were asked on that - if they don't like their system, they're free to change it, but until then whoever or whatever rules there gets to make the rules how Thailand will handle travel across it's borders.

Unrestricted travel is not a core human right, the right of national/regional self-determination is considered more important and overrides it. There is a right to decide who visits in your territory, and there is no inherent right for a visitor to come if they're not invited.


Again, for the scenario you yourself mentioned "you were born in England and lived there all your life. Then you fly over to Thailand on a tourist visa" you either consent to their rules or don't go there. You certainly don't get to coerce them to change their rules to fit your wishes, unless you come with a large number of gunboats and troops.

In general, coercion is unavoidable - either you have no rules and then de facto anybody can (and will!) coerce others to arbitrary things up to their ability; or you have rules and someone/something needs to coerce that these rules are followed. You can't simply have a consensus that everybody will never coerce anybody else, well, not if the society is made of people like us, it might be an option for a nonhuman/posthuman society. So starting from a premise that all coercion must be removed is counterproductive and futile. Where a system with more suffering can be replaced with a system with less suffering (for example, replacing anarchy with strict rule of law) I definitely am cheering for the coercion required to do so.

>> people with self-determination, i.e., a country, have decided

> You know that's just flat out false, especially considering you've personally never been asked about it.

Assuming the country in question is democratic, and you are of legal voting age, then yes, you have been asked about it.

If you don't agree with certain laws you are free to vote for somebody who follows your views or stand yourself.


We've banned this account for trolling. Commenting like this will eventually get your main account banned as well, so please don't.

Because developers are social animals too?

Did I say something wrong?

I mean that it is only natural that like minded people seeks one another, and group up in clusters.

It is human nature.

Yes, it's expensive, but there are also opportunity, and humans are opportunistic creatures.

Cuz, I love you all.

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