I never lived and never will live in MySpace. I do not like the MySpacians message (Hey lets try to see who has more friends and hookups).
I sometimes spend time at Facebook. I lived there for a little while until I realized I am not so much into keeping in touch and I had no friends in the few hours I spent in college. When they open their borders, that's when I found that I do not like the Facebookies message (You should throw more pies and send more kisses)
I vacationed at Twitter, but it is not really my cup of tea. I still dont get their message (Life is a popularity contest).
So Where do I live? Well, I live mostly in HN. Although I sometimes get into arguments with the habitants, I have yet to find another city that beats the intelligence, vibe, energy and support I witness here. I take a daily ride to Techcrunch City and NYT, but I make sure I come back home to HN and mingle with the people who live here.
Nice observation, the virtual city. The result of choice, not circumstance.
There seems to be this popular belief that admitting you are influenced by your environment is a sign of weakness. I just gave a presentation for my ethics class was on why the "trolley problem" is a logical fallacy. My argument was that you could create a system to flip the switch that completely circumvented the individual as a moral agent. For example, you could create a system whereby the individuals on the track could bid ebay-style on which direction the switch should be flipped. Or, alternatively, you could create a system whereby the direction of the switch was determined by a dice, with a 5/6 chance of the single individual being killed and a 1/6 chance of the other five individuals being killed. I then argued that A) social systems, not only individuals, should be considered to be moral agents and B) the morality of a system should be judged based on the behaviors it promotes via its extrinsic rewards. So, for example, the ebay-style system would be a universe that encouraged its inhabitants to create things of value for others so that they could bid their way out their predicament, whereas the dice-toss universe would be completely amoral as it would neither encourage nor discourage any set of behaviors. To me the lesson of the Milgram experiments, the Asch conformity tests, the Stanford Prison Experiment, etc. is that moral decisions are the result of both the individual's intrinsic nature and their external environment (inc. extrinsic rewards). So the trolley problem has always struck me as a false dichotomy because it assumes that the only two options are for a single individual to flip the switch either left or right, which implies that morality is completely intrinsic within the individual and the external environment plays no role, even though this is completely counter to what social psych teaches us.
Anyway, this was sort of a very long was of saying that I like the idea that people should consciously choose their environment because they realize that their environment does have a very real effect on their actions.
What if, say, your spouse is really into acting and loves the Los Angeles area... it might be very hard for them to find the same happiness in Cambridge, just as you might be harder-pressed to be as academic as you want to be in L.A.
I think a fair question is, if, for whatever reason, you can't move to an area that would well-support your ambitions, what can you do to improve your environment? Surely the best answer isn't "nothing, just resign yourself to live your life in obscurity and failure"...
Any suggestions about how to make better online environments for people who care about similar things?
add me I'm "smoothboom" and I just started a time line about memetics if you're interested.
You sound like a bitter Bostonian who was priced out of New York because you couldn't afford to pay rent on your studio in Alphabet City.
And as a Bostonian, I'd expect you to have enough cerebral instinct to be less transparent with your intuitive writing style. But alas, you all to easily portray your hometown's sad trace of pragmatism by holding ideology over realistic execution, hence why you were probably priced out of NY to begin with.
Another down year on Wall St., yet my bonus alone still affords the Cambridge flat you so wish you could afford to purchase. Hope you grow up some day, and find yourself, cities aside pal.
Boston, in large, give the message of "old money rules". Where you were born, where is your summer house (Martha Vineyard, Cape Cod, or Maine?), seems to the most important thing.
And coorporates rule, so you have to play by their game: meaning you have to be one of them, in the boys club, have some gray hair, be decent at golf (or pretend to like it), in order to be considered good at busniness.
Boston/Cambridge is great if you are in academia, or doing research, but doing anything practical, or startup it is not that place to be.
Young ambitious people move somewhere else, the rest is stuck in academia, or living the 9-5 life clinging to the coorporate life, maybe they will manage up in the ladder (or rat race).
Adding, I also have met very smart people in Cambridge, but talk is cheap, and there is a lot of it in there. Everybody has an opinion about everything, but when it comes to action, there isn't much.
Johann Sebastian Bach lived around there.
What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. You really should get around to reading all those books you've been meaning to."
From two years ago here: http://web.archive.org/web/20070102025129/http://paulgraham.... :
"I find every ambitious town sends you a message. New York tells you "you should make more money." LA tells you "you should be better looking." Rome tells you "you should dress better." London tells you "you should be hipper." The Bay Area tells you "you should live better." And Cambridge tells you "you should read some of those books you've been meaning to.""
"San Francisco is definitely a great area, and you should at least visit some day. There's a vibe there that's completely different from anywhere else I've ever been. It is hard to explain. You just go there and you feel it. Things seem possible out there that would be laughed at here. That's the best way I can put it.
Every city that I've been to has a certain feel to it. New York is rude and busy. Portland is relaxed and thoughtful. San Francisco is ambitious and free-spirited. Atlanta is comfortable and complacent. Atlanta's feel was good for growing up, and it is one that's good for growing old if you're willing to play it conservatively and live a life of moderate wealth and complacency. But if you're not, you should go to a city that has a better feel for what your goals are at that stage in your life.
Does that make sense? I'm by no means trying to convince you to go to San Francisco, but for me it was important that I travelled around and discovered the city that had the right feel for me. Portland was very close, and San Francisco is nearly spot on. I have no doubt you'll be somewhat different. Give it a try though, eh?"
Its like PG read my email and decided to write an essay on it.
New York is just busy -- if you are as busy as everyone else, wasting time with "Please" and "Thank you" would strike you as rude.
Here's a dismal example by hacking standards, but it's still indicative of the attitude. Someone from a financial firm, known for its rating system and price indexes, had a data conversion problem. They were using Matlab--a dismal language with a bastard semantics. One of the functions they were using was Datenum(), which converts dates and times to the number of days since the year zero, in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.
The specification of this function should have been to return a floating point number equal to 1+1/86,400 (in units of days) for a date argument equal to one second after year zero. And in fact, the open source equivalent function in Octave does exactly that. However, Matlab's function differs from this in the 11th decimal place. Their technical support has been silent on the issue.
When I informed the person at the financial firm about this discrepancy, they thanked me for "my comments." In the next sentence, I was informed that that they were redoing their calculations using another method. It was stated as if the decision to do this was an entirely independent judgment, not at all informed by my observations, and completely unrelated to any problems they might have encountered using the previous method. They simply decided to change the way they were doing things, without explanation.
Finding a numerical bug that could complicate the analysis of code that depends on it is not earthshaking. But not stating what informed a decision to avoid the problem altogether is a typical New York attitude. Or perhaps the reluctance to credit others is typically corporate. Correct me if I am mistaken.
I have to agree with Paul Graham's essay on the relative lifelessness of employees: if I were an employee, I simply would have accepted the decision as a completely independent judgment, internalized it and defended it.
If you live in New York, in some sense you aren't a citizen of the United States: your residency means that you have a passport to enter the "real" United States.
Another thing about New York: it clearly isn't known for science. The Science Museum in Oakland California would be impossibly out of place in New York. The two main categories of industry in New York are finance and media, broadly conceived (including the arts, television, publishing, fashion, advertising and so on).
And I can't really say that Science and Oakland go together all that way in my mind either.
I associate the Hall of Science with cranky aging amateur radio operators on account of the annual hamfests they hold in the vicinity. Those hams seem as if their wives ordered them not to come home until they sell off their old equipment. That's the impression of science and technology you get from the Hall of Science. That impression might be a little hard to convey, so try comparing the discussions on eHam with those on hacker news.
You should be younger and hipper and enjoy indie music.
In personals ads in Austin, "musician" is code for "unemployed", because everybody is a musician. You only mention it if you don't have anything better to say about your career.
College football is king in the Bus, and the players and coaches are our royalty.
It's kind of a scary thought, but I'm as big a Buckeye fan as anyone else, so I'm partly to blame. But I also admit that I don't want to live in a place where this is the best thing we have to offer.
The truth is, I love Columbus for all many reasons: close friends, a great job, the Wexner Center, and of course, Buckeye football. It's a scary thought to pick up and move to SV. I often think about Spielberg, Lucas, Kaufman, and Coppola all hanging out together in the 70s. I desperately want to be a part of a group like that, but for startups.
Brewery district: You should drink better beer.
Short north: You should be more artistic (in terms of both art and "sophisticated" things like wine-tasting).
Anywhere near High Street: You should hear more live music.
Honestly, Columbus has a thriving music, art, and gay community, and I think that makes it kind of a cool city. There's this very strange dynamic of party-going OSU students, diverse foreign-exchange OSU students, sports-crazy Ohioans, business-minded corporate-types, and aesthetic art aficionados.
Maybe, most of all, the message of Columbus is that diversity is good.
Perhaps Columbus could find it's own specific niche within high-tech? I've been impressed by the Tech Columbus initiative.
And trust me...the valley isn't scary. It's nothing but a gigantic suburb, punctuated with office parks. Sure, the housing is hideously expensive, and there are freakishly rich people everywhere, but otherwise, the place won't present a challenge to you. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a different world....
The thought of moving to SV is scary exactly because of the expense, especially when I have a decent paying job here that I love. It would be foolish to abandon that, right? (I guess this illustrates the differences again between the two areas: Columbus would answer "Yes!" and SV would answer "No!")
I should mention that Columbus does have industries other than Buckeye Football. If you're passionate about insurance, this is the place to be. Of course, who is really passionate about insurance?
As far as deciding a city's worth based on personal experiences, it's always going to be just that: personal. But I can't deny the influences of cities on my individual life.
Interestingly, Moleskine (which is totally "stuff white people like") recently created a Los Angeles City Notebook including a map of "selected" parts of LA. Metropolitan LA is 4,850 square miles, so one wonders where they selected. Answer:
And furthermore, I take offense at the suggestion that American universities produce the best students. In general, the American engineers I have met have been less skilled than their German counterparts.
American universities produce people with ambition, but that probably has to do more with the American culture than any particular school policy.
Cities do not mould people. People of a certain sort hear about the reputation of a city and they flock there. It's like people hear of china town and go there for chinese food, and pretty soon lots of people are selling chinese food there, because it is where people go for chinese food.
A city influences people, but in a very complex manner. It's an animal ecosystem, and there are hundreds of factors at work that modify and regulate pull and push of a city.
You are seeing cambridge from your peculiar focus. That's not the real cambridge. Imagine some black bum you drive by, imagine how he sees cambridge. For him its not a place of ideas. There is no push towards reading.
What you term the 'city' is the social circle you are in. That's not the city, the city is much more diverse than that. There are crackheads and hos, bums and pimps, bus drivers and lower class korean immigrants. Its not an idea place for those people, it's just home.
A city can gain a reputation, and this reputation can cause a crust of a certain type of person to form in the city, but beneath this layer, every city is made up of normal people.
Sooner or later, the trend will change and the flavour of the crust will change, but beneath it all, life and death of these normal people will continue.
You are mistaking the icing for the cake.
I'm not sure why you felt the need to bring the hypothetical bum's race into it, but I disagree. A bum on the street in Cambridge sits around resenting the fact that all the successful people around him are better educated than he is. A bum on the street in Hollywood, on the other hand, sits around resenting the fact that all the successful people around him are better-looking than he is.
SF bums are not that pleasant.
It is nearly impossible because humanity is more complex than being reduced to the experiences of one person, but if someone was holding a gun to your head and saying you had to name the world's intellectual capital, what would you name it? There really doesn't seem to be a better one than Cambridge.
I daresay your reading comprehension skills are subpar if you're troubled to detect a subjective declaration in a subjective essay about subjective experience.
"I daresay your reading comprehension skills are subpar if you're troubled to detect a subjective declaration in a subjective essay about subjective experience."
Well sadly your reading comprehension skills are subpar because I have been responding to the thread, not the content of the essay. The use of the quote from the essay was used to make the point that the individuals here seem to so easily accept Cambridge as the capital without any mention or rebuttal with criteria or evidence to support.
There seems to be blind support to these claims and no defense for them. Why is it wrong for me to reject a claim but alright for you all to accept it? I seem to be the only one that is attempting to dissect the criteria or claim subjectivity while you give none.
Rather than downmod me and tell me I am wrong, propose reasons why your argument is valid.
It's like saying "Chicago is the best city in the world to get a hot dog" -- it may not be backed by objective criteria but that does not render it meaningless, and you can find plenty of people ready to make or agree with that claim without a formal argument.
The burden is on you to explain why it makes a difference in the context of the essay, as it's unclear how you distinguish between it and people in the comments agreeing with it -- in neither case is it presented as an objective determination, and yet you're treating it as if it is. (see also:"tilting at windmills")
In other news, an immigrant will always feel as second class citizen in most of europe, and Germany has a bad reputation about it. In some parts of East germany there is some Neo-Nazi resurrection, and there is lots of xenophobia.
The states it is a total different thing. It depends where you are. In SF i just don't feel foreign at all, as most people I meet actually speak at home another language, or have traveled a lot. There is no visible discrimination, and I feel I could be an american one day.
Living in the south, it is a total different thing. You feel foreign, no matter how good your english skills are, BUT, you can actually score points with girls thou (if you are white, of course), as there are not that many europeans around.
In germany, they give you this thing called the blue card, so you could slave working on some company, then they kick you out when the time is up, with no path to citizenship. Hmmmm.... No thanks, I just don't feel being used as a disposable thing.
I met a German guy in the states, who was born and raised there, considered himself German, but didn't get citizenship until 18 or 19 because his parents were from Turkey.
First, the fact that cities beneath everything else are all comprised of ordinary people means nothing. It has always been the top that detemines the direction everyone else goes. It doesn't change anything PG wrote. How many in Padua, or say, Florence, were anything else but ordinary when the Renaissance unfolded? It has always been the top that makes history and changes things for everyone else.
Your comment is a little like saying there is no difference between Honda and Ford, since they are both composed largely of steel and aluminum and plastic. And this is the reason there is an enormous distance between Germany and America. In Germany there is no top, just droids coming and going. In America there is very decidely a top. About everyone else, PG was not making any remark.
America has a serious Middle Education problem, but American Universities are indeed, second to none.
Also, don't talk ecosystem. It means so much to so many people these days, it has come to have no meaning.
You are also incorrect in stating that most any city has the circle someone would want to belong to, that someone just needs to look for it. This is far from the truth. There are many cities in which you could not find certain circles in which to exchange ideas, if your life depended on it.
If your "logic" were accurate, Los Angeles would be no different than Tijuana, for example, considering that most of the "normal" people there are lower class Mexican immigrants.
Allow me to inform you of something essential about PG's essays: they require intelligence to truly understand, to the point that his core arguments will simply sail over the heads of those who lack it.
Evidence of not having the required intelligence includes attempting to refute the core arguments with a myriad of minor points that appear to point out logical flaws, when they only manage to address comparatively minor items of negligible consequence.
Mr. Graham's essays are valuable owing to their QUALITATIVE aspects, not to their total QUANTITATIVE sum . . .
If a person trying to communicate cannot make his point understood by any but the most intelligent, then he has failed in communicating.
Indeed, the best way to write something that lasts for ages is to write something that ordinary people reject, bright people don't really understand, and the smart fall head over heels in love with. That's what keeps Plato in business. No one knows what he was saying exactly, but the really smart guys running the universe can't help but be charmed by it.
That Feynman could explain fairly abstract physical concepts such that laypeople could understand them may imply that one needs to understand the 'complex point' better before trying to explain it.
With all due respect to Feynman, if at the end of his lectures lay people couldn't do the math behind the physics he described, they didn't really "understand" it. They understood a simplified picture of it that captured most of the important details in a really vivid way. But they were still missing something important.
That said, you're right. In the general case, we shouldn't allow ourselves the "out" of "oh, this is soooo complex that I can't speak clearly" without some pretty damn strong motivation. It's just that in this particular case, I didn't think the essay was especially jargon laden, so the OP's comment seemed misplaced. How much more simply can one explain that cities affect how you think?
Gary, IN: Lock the doors. Do not stop.
Macon, GA: You know, Atlanta is just up the road, right?
Elko, NV: The only winners are the house and the mine owners.
Milwaukee, WI: Fourth place is just fine, given enough beer.
Clearly, I need to hang out in better cities.
Wolfeboro, NH (smalltown New England summer resort): You should pretend it's 1962 like all the retirees do.
Waltham, MA (Brandeis University): Go back to NYC when you graduate.
Cambridge, MA: You should be more educated.
I chose "educated" over "intelligent" largely because I lived closer to Harvard. When I go to the MIT side of Cambridge I would switch the two. In and around Harvard you see a strong vein of people who aim for the prestige of higher education over the knowledge it brings.
The middle-aged people dream of sitting in a musky study debating high-falutin mish-mash over a nice port. The college-aged kids dream of sitting in a coffee shop debating their PHIL101 papers. They seek _established_ education.
I know this doesn't speak for every aspect of Cambridge, which I did love living in for a few years, but the too-strong emphasis on the appearance of education as opposed to the knowledge you gain helped me move to take a job in San Mateo (shameless plug: RockYou.com).
Disclaimer: I am not your average anything. My move to San Mateo from Cambridge is via Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. I speak Mandarin but I'm English/German. Take what I said with a healthy grain of wacky salt.
There are two strains of culture in Cambridge, "you should be smarter" which is why I love living here. And "you should have two PHDs" -- which is very different and unfortunate message. It's almost the opposite of the Valley, which speaks so reverently of the Harvard drop-out.
The best thing that those of us who live in Cambridge could do is keep the culture focused on ideas and less on diplomas.
Columbia SC: Uh, the culture is pretty much centered around it's mid-tier University of South Carolina, which is a party-hardy Frat/Sorority vibe. So, I guess it says "YEEE-HAAAAW! More beer, Bo!"
Hartford, CT: Unless you can calculate the death of a 55 year old smoker with no major medical history within a margin of error, the city says "There's NY below and Boston above, take your pick, pay your toll, and have a nice day."
Raleigh-Durham, NC: Duke University, UNC, Wake Forrest, North Carolina State, Shaw, and various other colleges all within around 20 interstate exits of each other. I guess it would say "study hard, and find job at IBM, Sony-Ericsson, or Cisco." Not too much entreprenurial spirit here, I guess because the tech giants gobble them up with nice offers right out of college.
I live in Honolulu. It's a miracle that I make it out of bed in the afternoon.
Columbia, SC doesn't really send any strong messages. Only the young people in the area have anything to do with USC, normally, so not even the frattiness comes across that strong.
College football tailgating, however, is a state-wide sport.
The message in Charleston definitely has something about aristocracy and the value of old money, while the message in the rest of the coastal towns generally involves fishing. Except Myrtle Beach, where the message is, "Y'all come on down for a visit, and leave your money when you head back up north."
Visited Bob Jones as a kid -- "You know you're going to hell, right?"
Speaking of Bob Jones, no one ever believes me when I explain that it has a "date room", wherein couples sit together in a chaperoned room, with a Bible-width space in between. Which explains why Bob Jones girls are such a terror when they do manage to escape the watchful eyes of the school.
I have, and here's what they've said to me:
Pittsburgh: You should be nice.
New Jersey: You should be in New York.
Los Angeles: You should go outside.
Phoenix: You should go inside.
Detroit: You should be glad you have a good job.
Tampa: You should buy a new pair of flip flops for dinner Saturday night.
Being a native Western Pennsylvania, and living more of my adult life in Pittsburgh than anywhere else, I'll take that as a compliment :).
I moved to NYC with my wife right after we were married, and loved every minute of it. But decided to return here to raise our kids after they were born.
An interesting thing about Pittsburgh is the number of large non-profits of every kind, especially considering the reduced population. The major industrial titans that made their fortunes here in decades past (Carnegie, Mellon, Heinz, etc.) have left behind many cultural institutions like libraries, museums, universities, parks, hospitals, etc. that are still well funded and high quality.
You'll find some of that in NYC (even from some of the same benefactors) but Pittsburgh I think has a higher cultural dollars/resident ratio. This is a wonderful thing in terms of raising children. My kids think hanging out at the zoo, library, conservatory, kids' museum, etc. is a perfectly common thing to do. I think in NYC (and other cities?) you could find many of the same things, but it would not be possible to enjoy them in a leisurely manner, or afford family yearly membership passes.
The "under attended" part isn't all bad. Our boys can run around a little bit in Phipps Conservatory, for example, without many negative glances.
We do live in a city neighborhood, so that might account for some of the difference.
(The day after a Steeler's loss, of course, all bets are off.)
Perhaps it's even more noticeable because I live in SF now, especially in the Marina filled with mostly pretentious folks.
Sydney: You should spend more money on real estate.
Melbourne: You should spend more money on clothes.
London: You should have been here 150 years ago.
Davis, CA: You should leave Davis, CA.
brooklyn: you should be hipper
cambridge: you should be smarter
berkeley: you should only eat organically grown vegetables
tokyo: you should be japanese
san francisco: you should become as crazy as most everyone else, but not quite as crazy as the homeless people
Mountain View, CA: We're not the Barrio (any more).
Toledo, OH: We're close to Detroit.
Bowling Green, OH: Attend a real university with your real high school friends!
Columbus, OH: Love Ohio State football (and basketball, if the season's wrong).
London: "You should have been here 150 years ago" is essentially "you should be more aristocratic". I think that signal is strong in London. I have been at dinner with friends who started arguing about how far they had to commute on the tube (as a proxy for social class.) The English pretend to the world that it doesn't matter but it seems to matter deeply to them. This seems to be an English hidden rule; that is how the discussion started.
If you are merely rich, your money can be easily taken from you by more powerful person in Moscow.
And if you didn't know, Russian is a second class citizen in Russia.
All in all, one message per city is insufficient. It all depends on the people around you.
No it's more like...
Melbourne: You live in the sports capital of a sports crazed country. You should go to the footy, the cricket, tennis and don't forget some new duds on cup day.
Portland, Oregon: Be alternative just like everyone else.
San Francisco: We're so hip and important.
Padova, Italy: That was a long, hard work week, let's have a drink in the piazza and get a pizza afterwards.
Innsbruck, Austria: ... something in the Tirolean dialect that I completely failed to grasp, involving skiing ...
Minneapolis: You should be nice
Providence, RI: You will eat well.
LA: You should look better or be more famous, preferably both.
Chicago: You went to the wrong fraternity
Barcelona: Party naked but watch your backpack.
Toronto: Buy land north of here.
Amsterdam: There's no work done here at all.
London: Next time, bring more money.
Also, I believe it's the only country in Europe except for the UK where everyone speaks good English. In most big cities in Europe you will eventually find someone who speaks English, but in Amsterdam the odds that it will be the first person you approach are no worse than in London or California.
Stockholm is similar -- most people speak good English.
Amsterdam is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Europe, no wonder about the quality of their English (although this applies to the whole of Netherlands, not just Amsterdam).
I hear the Danes speak excellent English too, but I haven't been to Denmark myself.
Logan, UT: You should be one of us.
Denver, CO: You should be healthier.
Chicago: There's nothing wrong with second place.
Stockholm, Sweden: You're not clean enough!
Orlando, FL: Subprime.
Space Coast, FL: God's Waiting Room
Rio Grande Valley, TX: Play your cards right and some day you could be middle class!
Terre Haute, IN: South side of Chicago, without the rest of it.
San Antonio, TX: To the newly minted soldiers/airmen/sailors/marines- welcome back to the real world!
Las Vegas, NV: Be at least 21 and on vacation.
I went to MIT for undergrad and grad, and then lived around there for several years thereafter. I do not think that Cambridge tells all its’ residents that they should be smarter. But it does send that message the average person within the MIT (and presumably Harvard, which I know less about) community.
My first company was in educational software and I interacted some with the Cambridge public school system. Some schools were pretty connected to the ambitious community, and others were almost completely separate. In other words, there are pockets of people, perhaps a majority, that are not in the ambitious community and do not perceive the ambitious community message. I would bet that in these pockets, there are sub-pockets, each with their own messages.
Now Cambridge is a weird place with an unusually concentrated group of the same type of people, and I agree that I haven’t at least found any place else like it. But it is just a pocket of Boston, albeit a bigger pocket than some of the other ambitious communities in other cities. And as Paul pointed out, Cambridge is not Boston. So he is really not talking about cities.
Again, he is talking about specific communities within cities. There are probably even other ambitious communities in Boston (in its financial district, for example), where the message is not you should be smarter, but something more along the lines of you should be richer. And I’m pretty sure there is another, separate, local politics community, where the message is more like the DC message described (on a smaller scale). (My wife worked in a state agency, and we have friends who were in the legal community there. I myself was the treasurer of a city council campaign.)
So, in sum, I agree there are messages within communities. But I wouldn’t generalize to entire cities. The reason I think people get confused is because particular types of these communities only exist in certain cities, and in sometimes just one. The messages Paul describes are in the communities he is more likely to happen upon given his network and interests, within those cities. Yet there are certainly other communities within those cities with other messages. These other communities, in the aggregate, probably account for the vast majority of people in a given city.
As a programmer I heard "you should get a security clearance" many times. The amount of people aspiring to government sloth in DC is astounding. DC is not a place to be if you want to build things.
I guess in New York I feel "You should be an investment banker". It is still amazing to me that lawyers aren't all that impressive in New York, they are also rans compared to financial workers.
Yes the finance industry is huge in New York, but so is media. Media people are mostly young and paid very little. I think I read that the average starting salary for someone with a college degree in New York is $36,000.
I never thought before about the importance of place where you live and work. After this article I see that St. Petersbourg is a far better place to start something new than Moscow. Startups are "second class citizens" here just like in New York. I thought about moving before, now I have made a decision. Thank you, Paul.
That is, people who come there(and many different people do, the turnover is high) also tote along some baggage of what they think the city is about. Vision meets and gradually becomes reality as the newcomers act out their desires, to varying degrees of success. So there is a sort of flow at work. Realization of all the various lifestyles present is a multi-decade process. Plus it changes quickly and incrementally, so as to become nearly unrecognizable. I'm still nowhere near a full comprehension of my hometown.
The broad strokes pg paints in this essay seem more reminiscent of college lifestyle than the character of entire cities. A four-year college is able to concentrate those kinds of ambitions precisely: everyone is at roughly the same few stages of life and so can quickly find common ground.
But in a city, things quickly collide.
The Japanese got kicked out, and the Chinese and African Americans moved in.... etc. etc.
Than the 60s and the hippes came, then the 90s and the dot commers came.
SF has always been a city in a huge flux, as a place of great opportunities, and attracted many people with the "gold rush' mentality
Your grandparents propably were some of these people that came to SF for these opporunities.
"You should live better." Hmm, I have to think about that. Indeed, my time in SF has been the best living I have ever done. The city has "spoken" to me, and it has resonated.
Now I'm deciding if I really want to leave for a Ph.D., or just spend the rest of my life drinking up this wonderful San Francisco vibe.
There seems to be a lot of ambition in Ithaca, but the focus is on the collective rather than the individual. The messages that Ithaca sends are "make the community a better place, help the less fortunate, buy local food from the farmers market and co-ops, support local artists and musicians, attend community festivals and events, bond with your neighbors, and support the local schools and public transportation. Also, distrust authority."
This is reflected by the fact that the two most popular bumper stickers are Coexist (spelled out of religious symbols) and "Ithaca, NY: Ten square miles surrounded by reality." And despite the fact that if you drive ten miles in any direction (except along the lake) you'll run into people living in trailer parks, the town itself is actually a surprisingly nice place to live.
The town support individuality, but only to the extent that your individuality helps bring out the individuality in others. The message seems to be that you can start a startup and we'll support your efforts to become successful, but not so successful that you drown out the voice of the rest of us.
We'll see how it goes. I'm psyched.
This has discouraged me for years here in my small part of Ohio. It became so discouraging that when I learned I'd be moving to Boston for YC and, hopefully, never live here again in my life I essentially cut all my ties overnight. These were people I'd spent the last 7 years of my life with; mostly friends from high school. I don't know what we had in common 5 years ago that made us such great friends, but we certainly don't have it in common anymore.
It was both a very difficult and very liberating experience. I'm 23 and feel like I'm about to live for the first time. I hadn't realized until recently how important it is to me to be around people who care about the things I do; who are as motivated to gain knowledge and be successful, but it's... everything.
The New York you're talking about is also a minority. From the outside, Wall Street and Madison Avenue may seem to dominate. From the inside, they're barely noticeable unless you're in that world. Wall Street and Madison Avenue are swept up in the endless current of people just like the gay Puerto Rican teens who hang out above Pier 40 on Friday nights in the summer.
The depth and breadth of "New York" is what makes it truly great. New York has so many worlds swirling around you that you'll never fully understand -- it's humbling and exhilarating to the core. New York's "ambition" is the endless hope of all of those minorities from countless directions -- the ambition you're talking about is much more one dimensional.
Overall, I would say that New York has an abundance of different ambitions, but most of them are permeated by a vaguely corporate insistence on caring about getting richer.
there really is no one new york when you live in manhattan. if i didn't have a family who loves living out west right by the beach, i would be back in a heartbeat.
While we're throwing out city memes, here's what I'd peg my beloved Berlin: Break the rules.
I started writing a list, but it doesn't do it any justice. Just like listing 10 big companies won't circumscribe the feel of Silicon Valley, a list of goofiness won't peg Berlin. But hang out in Kreuzberg for a weekend and you'll get it. :-)
Berlin is still living on the energy from the wall coming down almost 20 years ago. The west side was long a quirky occupied island hundreds of kilometers behind the iron curtain and the east was the first place where people rebelled and started down the path that reunited the city.
(Note: I've visited 28 countries and lived in 8 cities, so this isn't just cheering for the home team.)
It might seem like I'm being contentious just for its own sake, but I'm not. It's precisely the thing that most irks me about Western Europe: the attitude of "don't break the rules". Europeans seem to like to break rules that are obsolete or largely inconsequential (e.g. about drugs and sexuality). And they're very proud of that. But the big and important rules, like those of business and broad social order, are universally accepted to the point where they are seen as morals.
Maybe it's different in Berlin?
- "Living in a big cultural center is expensive." It's cheap here. I don't know of any other western cultural center where that's true. 3.5 million people and there's a housing surplus. This has a huge effect on the city.
- "You need a lot of money." A side-effect of the above, there's a real de-emphasis on having cash here.
- "You should have a normal job." For good and bad, there's not much big industry in Berlin. Most of my friends either work independently or in relatively small companies. Most of those companies aren't startups in the sense that we use the word here, but small businesses that do well enough.
- "You need to grow up." You can still go out here when you're 30. Or 40. And it's not weird. And it doesn't mean you're not professional. Similarly, there doesn't seem to be the taboo against founding a startup over 30 (I'm 27 and one of the younger guys at the meetups I've been going to.).
Here's an article from 6 years ago that's somewhat dated, but still gives you a feel for things good and bad:
For example, I went to college at the University of Virginia, where the career prospects of most graduates reside in DC. As a programmer destined for DC, the message was loud and clear: "Be a defense contractor." For my friends who were not in engineering, the message was equally clear to them: "Be a lawyer."
But personally I never really cared much for success as defined through local conventions, mostly because I got bored too easily, so I spent half my college years as a cartoonist. Around the drawing board, the message I got was : "Be funny." Granted, our school is mostly known for successful lawyers and politicians, but we do have Tina Fey as well.
When I did hang out with the CS kids, it was almost exclusively with the computer graphics guys, and from them the message was: "Make photorealistic real-time applications." (As opposed to "Be a defense contractor.")
After graduation I moved to New York as a software engineer at a very large financial firm, and again I mostly managed to avoid the "Get rich" attitude prevalent in NYC by working with a small group of engaged CS folks some of whom were also start-up founders.
In none of the above situations was my local sub-group larger than a dozen individuals tops. Majority ambition can rarely ever suffocate sub-communities. The real danger is that a small community is vulnerable from disintegrating at any time. For example, all the previously mentioned clusters eventually dispersed, from graduation and corporate turnover and they are never immediately replaceable. In a place like Cambridge or Palo Alto, I suspect this would not be such a major risk.
I guess what I'm trying to say is: if your city's message as listed by pg is incompatible with what you want in life, don't freak out.
I can totally relate to that, as an acquaintance of mine from Boston and I echoed very similar sentiments about where I live (Atlanta). There are some great universities and brilliant people here, but you really have to actively seek them out. I'm still amazed how drastically the average quality of my interactions with people dropped when I first moved off campus. It seems to be almost a win or lose situation in regards to motivation: seeing other people involved in their projects, even if they are not in the same field, helps me to stay focused, but if I find myself surrounded by vapid conversation all day long, it actually has a negative effect.
I think that should tell you quite a bit about the nature of ambition (and lack thereof) at both those Universities.
In Orange County you may have areas that are dominated by unemployed housewives with lots of money. But you may have areas around a University that have a completely different flavor. Comparing Westwood (UCLA) to Boyle Heights (Ghetto) is a pretty stark contrast.
But I understand your meaning - similar to what Richard Florida and others are saying about self selecting societies.
At least people like me who live in the middle west can a) put themselves near an academic setting and b) can feed as much off of digital connectedness as possible to offset the effect.
I'm picking on you, but several people have made similar points. I think we all know that any given city has different communities within it with different values, levels of affluence or lack thereof, etc. Did it really need to be made explicit?
I lived in Japan for a year, and mostly agree with shiro's summary. I guess I would only add that Japan's identity is far more tied up in Tokyo (and vice versa) than any one U.S. city is indicative of the U.S. as a whole. Generally, when people cite Japanese culture, it is Tokyo culture they are referring to (and given the emphasis the Japanese themselves put on Tokyo, not inaccurately).
What about cities in China and India (must be some natives or expats lurking here, no)? Africa? South America? Middle East?
(Some cities from these regions have been mentioned, but very few compared to U.S. and Europe.)
First off I naively went there hoping to get a piece of the action by introducing our web app to local companies. Result? Zilch...too much misunderstanding led to deals that either took way too long to process or have fizzled out.
What I discovered though and almost by accident, is that it's the foreign companies who operate there, became our primary customers. Which was a relief cuz I would hate to translate our web app to formal mandarin(actually people on shanghai speak a different kind of mandarin note the distinction.)
Xiamen OTOH lacked the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. It seem more laid back and the people and their customs reflect that attitude. The highlight of Xiamen is the Gulangyu University in Gulangyu island and it's deep history of producing some of China's most talend pianist and musicians.
From that, you get common worries about encroaching suburbs (the "everyone else" pushing us out). The "we" varies, from small funky communal pockets, and of course religious groups desperate to be their own thing, to the dying breed (but still generally dominant in rural life) of farmers.
Portland, Oregon: Welcome to the Garden of Urban Eden. Don't tell anyone though. Just lay low and work on that novel.
Seattle: What? You thought I was hip and happening? Go inside and code something, ya bum. Buy a sea kayak for those "sun breaks" if you're feeling feisty.
Florence, Italy: Walk in the footsteps of creative genius. Just don't forget to keep on walking. Seriously, I'm just a dapper old man now, not worth more than a summer abroad.
Bologna, Italy: (just translate Portland, Oregon into Italian)
Milan: Forget about sunflowers. Get industrial, Italian style. You might want to ditch those sneakers though, capsici?
Rome: I am the the warm, blood-soaked bosom of Western history. You just might get lost and waste your entire life here. Worse things could happen, though.
Montreal: Savor the moment, live life to the fullest and create something beautiful, because Winter is coming. And it's nothing nice, yo.
Tokyo: Get to work and get moving, because we're WAY ahead of you. After work, it's totally OK to indulge your pervy self though.
Los Angeles: YOU could be so great. THIS TOWN could be so great. Where is everyone anyway? No worries, just do your own thing.
Miami: Forget about LA. I'm the real sexy deal. Unless you're looking for work, then get lost.
New York: I'm the biggest poser in the World. Deal with it.
The subsequent "effect you have on the world" is a far better description of the bay area than "power". I think that in terms of actual "power", as in Washington DC power, the bay area is underrepresented for the amount of money there.
</poorly disguised contempt>
Fame, hipness, insider knowledge? All either means to an end or cultural by-products. LA is run on power and money - studio execs are the most powerful, and basically run the entertainment biz, but they generally stay out of the limelight. DC runs on political power, plain and simple. Hipness is a by-product of having a very large concentration of young, single people in one place. You'll find brands of hip in every major city.
Ideas as Cambridge's main "industry" is also somewhat of a dubious distinction. Ideas are cheap. Talented people (i.e., the execution of ideas) is the bottleneck.
Nearly, but not quite. For example, Linus Torvalds isn't rich by New York or Silicon Valley standards, but he's quite powerful nevertheless. And Barack Obama isn't particularly rich either, but he's on the brink of being perhaps the most powerful man in the world.
I imagine she did. I'm not exactly sure what "external affairs" entails, but it sounds like the kind of position that would benefit greatly from being politically well connected.
Ex-presidents make a boatload of money, though. Books, speaking engagements, etc. That's a direct result of their power.
If the Boston area wants to get ahead in startups, it's going to need to attract more talent than SF. Sadly, I've seen plenty of MIT grads head to Google and Facebook...and some of those kids are going to be starting the next wave of companies...
I feel a little bit like a tree: if I move I'll probably die; besides, what's the point of traveling if you don't come back to your friends to tell them about what you've seen?
The "virtual city", however, changed everything; I check Reddit everyday (or more accurately, every minute! damn addiction), watch The Daily Show, read Slate; the problem is I have a hard time finding people to talk about it.
Each of the areas you pointed out each has its own status game rolling already. In my limited experience, San Francisco generally appreciates for “doing good”; my friends and I seem to treasure “creating value,” building things, and being constructive, but we all love our buddy who runs a nonprofit that works with inner city youth. He’s the man. My friends in NYC, on the other hand, don’t even try to justify shaving basis points with talk of serving the greater good by making markets more efficient.
One of the positive perspectives I draw from the status game is that if or when it’s incentivized correctly, things can (could?) get noble in a hurry. Lifeguards in San Diego and Hawaii get respect, as do firefighters and cops in New York and professors in Cambridge. The social esteem that these jobs convey helps to make up for the shitty hard currency they’re worth. Now we just have to translate the social currency of nobility into beachfront property for teachers.
Jerusalem, where I live, has a message, "Pray". The biggest industry in Jerusalem is the Israeli government (analogous to DC). The second biggest is tourism. The Arabs and the Jews actually quit fighting and cooperate in business to sell trinkets to the tourists.
So the other messages of Jerusalem are "Survive", "Fight", "Sell", and actually, "Leave". A lot of the Israelis are moving to Tel Aviv for business/employment reasons. But apartments are hard to get in Jerusalem because the religious rich keep on buying up the snazziest spots. There are a lot of very expensive apartments that are used maybe half the year. So another message is "Visit". And people do. If you're into real estate, the message is "Build Luxury". The luxury apartments are crowding out the poor.
The only ambitious people I've met in Jerusalem are the newly arrived, and some business folk. Actually, the Torah Scholars are very ambitious in a way that is about academics but also about power. They want to master their subject, but also want their religiosity to change history through a sort of Divine Intervention. That's pretty ambitious.
The reason you saw TV's was because the kids were watching. Mom and Dad were online working or studying. Were the offices of Via Web lined with dead-tree books up to the ceiling?
And the books you saw in Cambridge might have been from decades past, but the scholars in the residences might have been online. Even sociology is hard.
I know what you mean though about cities sending a message. I used to ignore what groups of people think, for reasons of principle, because human nature doesn't scale. But then I got the naivete cauterized out of me, and so now I pay attention to these messages, even though I don't entirely like being tuned into them. I'm not sure if I go along with the messages, maybe I'm neutral or slightly against (for reasons of principle).
In any case, I think ambition is good, because the human condition can be improved. (If it couldn't then ambition would be harmful, because it would be a zero sum game.) It's too bad the word has a connotation of money, because it would otherwise be a decent word, and I don't believe in money.
1) There is a more pedestrian reason why birds of a feather flock to a particular city, and that is fungible jobs. People in high tech, for example, change jobs very often, and knowing that one can do so with impunity because there are so many others like you and therefore so many companies is a major draw all in itself, and thus the community quickly becomes entrenched and self-perpetuating in some cases for that reason alone.
2) Aubergine in L'Auberge Carmel says "jacket preferred", by which they really mean "jacket required".
That said, and in defense of your article, the yahoo sitting next to us there a couple of weeks ago would probably have been lucky to be seated right next to the kitchen or bathroom door in New York. Collar undone, searingly bright yellow tie half-knotted, and he held an unlit cigar in his hand during the entire meal as he regaled his date (90% sure from an escort service) about his racing speed boats and such. It was some tragically failed attempt to revive the ring-a-ding-ding days of Hef hip, and it was painful to watch.
Lest you get the wrong impression, I'd rather have to see that sort of thing occasionally here in Silicon Valley and chew my own arm off than live in NYC or DC.
Lastly, a city with a great vibe, IMO, is Portland Oregon. The vibe seems to be: "This is a square hole for those of you who are not round like everyone else, and are tired of beating yourself bloody trying to fit into a round hole. Come here and be yourself and we'll hang together and appreciate each other's ingenuity. First round is on me."
Online world on the other hand can never be a substitute, it really doesnt matter at all, simply because the crowd there is too much for you to be able to identify yourself with anyone, and it is difficult to identify the true identity of the people there. I have spent a lot of my time on an Algorith community on Orkut and made a few friends there. A lot of the people seem to be genuinely interested in Algorithms and a lot of the people pretent they are, it is not surprising to see that these imposters vanish away when they find a job with a Google or Microsoft..
So wish you luck.. Keep searching till you find the one :-)
One thing I think that PG missed is that some cities have a blend of ambitions that lean on each other. NYC differs from LA or the Bay Area in that it is a power center for many different fields (Finance, Arts, Literature, Media, Political (UN based there)) while the Bay Area is technology, LA is entertainment and Washington DC, political power. That mix leads to better eavesdropping. London is about the only other place where I get the mixed vibe. Cambridge is interesting in that MIT and Harvard shape different spectrums of thought leading to an almost NYC kind of diversity Whereas Stanford and Berkeley compete on the same spectrum of fields, but on different levels of social class.
I wonder if PG forwarded this to Joel Spolsky who is about creating a different kind of start up in a NYC mold instead of SV mold.
Also, reading the comments below about going outside in LA and flip flops in Tampa Bay, these are spot-on assessments of the culture of many average Joes. Knowing this, one wonders how do extraordinary things happen in average places.
New question: How big is the environment we are analyzing? Paul decided to analyze the city, but we all have many environments of many sizes.
Example: My Digital Design professor asked, "Is the world digital or analog?" His answer, "It depends how close you are to it." An alarm clock is digital from across the room, but get close, open it up, measure the voltage across the timer, and you realize it is actually analog. The environments? The circuit board, the whole clock, the room.
So the city is one measure of an environment. The corporation another. The home yet another. Personally, I am an extremely creative individual who formed an web corporation with two friends who are excellent programmers. We're developing the business in an extremely progressive fashion, in some ways very different from Silicon Valley even. What is our environment? Our day jobs are with a big, old, rust belt corporation that does many things wrong all day long. This is in Cleveland, a city which is literally dying. So where did we get our drive? From being in the environment that continually tries to teach us bad lessons. Thus, when the environmental analysis is over, we realize one can fall in line with their environment, or they can learn from it, and go in a different direction using the lessons at hand.
President of some garage group three-man web corp in MBA run Rust Belt Cleveland
(Feel stuck? Nope, you’ve got the best lessons available.)
I rather like John T. Reed as well:
"You should live more soulfully?"
Now that doesn't (always) mean acting like a drunken idiot in the French Quarter. It basically means enjoy yourself. If that means getting drunk, fine. But it may also mean hanging out on the porch and watching the sunset, having a fine meal with friends at your favorite restaurant, going to mass on Sunday, fishing for nothing in particular in Bayou St. John, or visiting the lakefront with your dog. But don't take anything too seriously, don't work too hard, and don't sweat the small stuff.
New Orleans tells you that by far the most important thing in life is not whether you're rich, attractive, skinny, or powerful. It's how much you enjoy the path you're on. New Orleans admires poor and happy far more than any other place I've ever lived. Rich and happy is good too, but not all that different by the standards of the place.
Hmm, maybe that's why I'm not all that rich or successful despite living in New York for the other half of my life. :-)
The lesson being that if you want to enjoy oysters, you're going to have to let go and accept that there's a bit or risk in any real pleasure.
To me, that's always been the message of new orleans. True pleasure requires some risk, and you have to embrace it, rather than merely tolerate it.
Seriously. In an Internet age it's less important.
I know many people depend on others to give them ideas, encourage their thinking and drive them in whatever direction. There are other kinds of people in the world. You may not hear of them but they're there. Maslow's self actualisers, the prophet in his desert cave... Often times their thoughts and interests are so different from those around them that they are in an intellectual wilderness with no option to escape. For them Cambridge or LaLa land are pretty irrelevent, no place is going to help them.
Now in that case the net may ultimately have a real impact.
If they can get a filtered group devoid of trolls, newbies and all the things that destroy and dilute real thinking they might be better off in a virtual community.
Your message is meaningful for many but it ignores an important sub set.
If a city as a culture (not just a political entity) does not value something, then it provides no guidance to the immigrant ("new hire"). The resources to be successful are not visible nor readily available.
In SV, I would say the message is not "power" but action. Specifically, "Great idea. Have you built it yet?" This is why Cambridge as an "idea" center will not overtake SV. SV is about doing - and more importantly accepting failure as a step toward success.
Just two nitpicks about the essay. First, I think that, in the London of Oscar Wilde, you would have seen "hipness" as being important. Plenty of hip dandies of the time, Wilde included, did not descend from the aristocracy of the time. Second, I'm not so sure about the required jackets for men metric. For one thing, some of the nicest restaurants in New York wouldn't bat an eyelash about a patron in jeans, for precisely the reasons you discuss. I would trust what Zagat has to say on the matter. I think a better metric would be how many men choose to wear a jacket and tie, and on that score, I suspect that New York still loses out as a startup hub.
Perhaps the blue glow of monitors instead?
> So far the complete list of messages I've picked up from cities is: wealth, style, hipness, physical attractiveness, fame, political power, economic power, intelligence, social class, and quality of life.
Interesting to see that "you should be more religious" is not on the list. That's closer to the message of Berkeley and SF: be more progressive, more virtuous, destroy those close minded right wingers.
> It's in fields like the arts or writing or technology that the larger environment matters. In these the best practitioners aren't conveniently collected in a few top university departments and research labs—partly because talent is harder to judge
Methinks that MIT and Stanford do a pretty good job of assembling the best technologists.
I’ve been trying to learn to use online communities to replace the live contact the we used to get from working for big corporations with large campuses. I’ve been at it for the last 9 months or so and I’m not finding the same kinds of feedback or support that I got from lunch with colleagues.
As a kid growing up in the 50’s we were told that if you built a better mouse trap, the world would beat a path to your door. Your essay confirms my life experience, that the world will only show up at your door if you live in the right neighborhood!
At a critical time, when I was contemplating leaving Harvard as a faculty member and going to Utah, he, being familiar with my self-sufficiency, counseled me that I could do good science anywhere. The move turned out to be a good decision. In Utah I had the luxury to pursue long-term projects that were not readily possible at Harvard, which, in too many cases had become a bastion of short-term gratification.
I'm biased, of course. I was lucky enough to be a student at the other Cambridge. My old college (Trinity) boasts more Nobel Prize winners than the whole of France.
Cambridge, England, like Cambridge Mass, is blessed with a climate bad enough that no-one would go there for the weather.
The English Cambridge is a delightfully compact city, with the University at its heart. You can go almost anywhere on foot or bicycle. It's also cool to wander through a courtyard unchanged since Isaac Newton knew it.
What message does the city send? Perhaps that you are mortal, but that learning is eternal.
Atlanta: if you can't avoid being pathetic, uneducated, dumb or from the boonies, you should at least try to hide that fact.
San Francisco's message is, like PG said, you should live better.
Marin County (just north of San Francisco): a lot like SF, a little like Silicon Valley, but what is distinctive about Marin is that many of its influential citizens give off the message that you should use spiritual practices to learn never to become angry or hateful and always feel love and compassion for everyone all the time.
Atlanta, so far as I can tell, doesn't have much of a message at all.
Having visited Cambridge over spring break, I'm definitely enamored with the intellectual climate there, and will be moving to a nearby city in a few days (with the intention of moving to Cambridge proper when I can afford it). Getting to live in Cambridge is important enough to me that I'm hesitant to even consider applying to YC's winter round. San Francisco, to me, is essentially a laid back, less dense, more confusing, poorer, sleepier, cobbled-together, more hipster version of New York.
MIT is a sanitarium for masturbating nerds who can't get real jobs, it is not "intellectual".
SF is not about "power". It's about making cool toys that make money. HP set the tone for Silicon Valley. You should try reading the HP Way before making statements about what other people think.
LA, SF, and Seattle don't require jackets in restaurants because A) we're mostly descended from cowboys; B) the weather doesn't suck ass.
I live in Denver, and I've been increasingly aware that it doesn't feel like a very ambitious place, at least in the ways that I care about.
I'm considering Boulder... could somebody with a lot of time spent there speak to what messages Boulder sends? And how well it (really truly) lines up with the ambitions of tech entrepreneurship, intelligence, and living well?
I've always thought Cambridge's message was "You're not a student. Go away."
One of the most distinctive things about Cambridge MA is the concentration of large numbers of people stay in the area who are intellectuals but are not working closely with the colleges -- instead they're at IT startups and biotechs & pharmas of all sizes.
In a New York their numbers would be swamped - and there are loads of intellectuals in Manhattan & Brooklyn, just less than financiers, fashionistas, and hipsters -- but greater Boston is just not that big.
On the other hand, Cambridge, England is, despite being arguably a better place to study (quieter, and more supportive institutionally) just too small for this -- almost everyone moves away from the city once they are not formally a member of the university, most commonly to London.
Of course I could be biased by seeing the job ads in Lisp on the Red Line :)
I guess we dont have a say in where we are born, but most of us do end up "belong"ing somewhere, like, i will feel completely at home at SF.
You should write about the other cities too.
It's funny how little has changed in more than a century...?
Being picky about the grammar here, but shouldn't it be 'Or would you?' ?
It seems like it should be:
"Or would you?" - so that what follows 'or' is the converse of what was said.
"Wouldn't you?" - without the 'or' to denote skepticism.
And while we're on it, nix the first 'a' in "wearing a jeans and a t-shirt..."
Please understand that this isn't said out of pedantry, but out of love for this essay. We should all be taught to understand the implications of what a place says to us, on us. It should be part of any formal education.
Quibbling over grammar in our casual posts is lame, but this essay deserves to be in a book one day, printed and in wide circulation, so please understand my intention.