Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

why live where you live

I am curious about what resources do programmers specifically look for in the city/town they live in.  This may seem like an odd question, but I am currently living in what can only be called a no-tech zone, I miss having a good computer bookstore, a fry's, all-night delivery, easily accessible movie theaters (20 mins away is closest).  What are the things in your city or town that either help with your profession or help you unwind during those rare weekends that you get out of the office?  To put it another way, what if you got a job in a different city, and then found out that city didn't have X - what would X be in order to make you think twice?

wyoming johnson
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

good book stores, a diverse culture, music, a "main street," gathering places, alternative transportation methods...

A book called Funky Towns based quality of life not on statistics like education and health facilities, but on whether or not there was a "third place" (besides work and home) for people to gather, alternative economies, local culture, etc. *that's* what I would look for.

Proximity to a large city would be nice as well.

I know none of this has to do with programming.

Mark W
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I live in the Boulder/ Longmont Colorado area. It has the most computer/programming /IT jobs per capita in the country . I have to brag about this place.
First, the high tech companies spawn more companies, and so on. There are jobs here. And, choices if your job is the hell some have described in this forum.
Second, there is a software bookstore. Not engineer and technical books, we have two of those. Only software. I read reviews on Amazon, then go there to buy because I want them to stay in business.
Third, we have every outdoor activity (mountains, skiing, hiking, lakes, fishing, etc.) except for an ocean ;(. We get winters, but it is sunny 95% of the time. This is a fitness-oriented town. All the suburbs have recreation centers.
Fourth, home prices are higher than the national average, but not totally out of control like in CA or MA. The schools don’t completely suck either.
Fifth, there are two good universities in the neighborhood, CU and CSU. Both have CS and EE programs, so your masters or MBA at night is possible.
There are technical organizations that are active if you want to participate. Enough geeks live in the area to have critical mass.
Finally, if you want to found your startup, there are VC’s in the area. There are a lot of people willing to help, and office space to be had.

If I had to choose one thing to look for when deciding to move to someplace new it would be a good university in the area. Companies will get started from the university, and that starts the high tech ecology.

Doug Withau
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Lots of software companies in the area. Preferably companies that produce software instead of companies in other sectors that also employ programmers.  I hear that places like Vermont, Oregon, and western Massachusetts are beautiful and have a low cost of living. There aren't a lot of software companies, though. What do you do if you move there, discover you hate the job, and it's the only game in town?

Bookstores, for cultural reasons. I like people who read. An area that can't support a bookstore doesn't have a lot of people who read.  Location doesn't affect tech books, though, because I get all mine from .  ( My current location is a bonus, though; being in the same state as Bookpool means deliveries are cheap and fast.)

Housing prices. I wouldn't move anywhere with higher prices than Massachusetts. That rules out California and Seattle.

Cable modems.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I used to check weather reports and consider other factors when thinking about the possibility of a move.  Considering the rarity of good software development jobs now, my only consideration for my next job will be the employer and the job.  Fortunately, most high tech jobs are in areas with enough population for reasonable amenities.

Not that that is always good, e.g., DC area => second worst traffic in US => hour commute to work in the morning.  But I'd take that if the job were good enough.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

1) There have been studies that correlate high-tech concentrations with gay concentrations.  This probably is because young programmers what to live in "happening" places (San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Boston, etc.)-and so do gay men.  If programmers were older than the average worker, you'd get a different distribution

2) Oregon (where I live) has a lot of programmers.  The high-tech industry here is built around two foundations.  Cheap electricity (clean hydro that endangers salmon) and pure water-this leads to a lot of semiconductor firms-and eventually software firms that follow them.  Portland is often rated the most "livable" city in the country.  This is IMHO especially true for young people-the public transport is great, and because of growth boundaries the city is dense.  To give you a sample, I saw a listing of the "best" coffee houses in the country-and Portland had two of them.  As far as books, have you heard of POWELLS?  It is the biggest PHYSICAL bookstore in the world, and they have a seperate "technical" bookstore where you can browse any book you want to buy.

3) I'm looking to change jobs right now-but I'm looking at places that aren't as "hot", like Salt Lake City or Minneapolis.  It seems that a lot of areas have concentrations of programmers beyond the carrying capacities of the economy.  Portland and Seattle for sure.  This I know from personal experience with friends (though my friends who worked for IT temp agencies have been the hardest hit-those that works are developers at Intel for instance are OK).

Razib Khan
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I just wanted to add that I think Boulder is a great town and have thought of moving there more than once in the past few years.

Mark W
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I know I am far, far from the center of the bell curve - but what I looked for was an area with as little human population as possible. I can get all the amenities I need by ordering things over the web. This way we could afford reasonable acreage. Of course I'm limited entirely to long-distance contracts, but it works for me.

Mike Gunderloy
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I live in Boulder, Co and I have to tell you it is great out here!  It really is paradise with a little bit of everything for everyone. 

The job market has seemed to get a little bit nastier out here thought.

But, hell we get over 300 days of sunshine!

Bill Harkless
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I like Boulder, too. I go up there regularly for fun, and I used to work there. Currently, I live in Denver and work in a suburb.

Unless Boulder has changed since I worked there (and it may have; it's been years and I don't have any industry contacts up that way anymore), there were a few drawbacks as well.

Compensation used to be lower than you'd expect ("The great environment and activities available in this location compensate for the lower salary we're offering ...").

I don't know about CSU, but CU Boulder used to be _very_ unfriendly to continuing education. The Boulder campus did not offer any useful evening courses that could be put toward a technical MS or PhD; you had to change your work schedule to be able to attend daytime classes and talk to the professors during _their_ office hours.

The last job I worked in Boulder, one of my coworkers split his time between teaching at CU (prof in the CS department) and working for us. He explained to me once (when I talked about taking some courses at the Denver campus, since they _did_ offer evening classes, and were closer to my home at the time) that I had to take MS & higher courses at the Boulder campus, because you were guaranteed to fail the thesis defence if your courses were taken at the Denver campus, because you had to defend at the Boulder campus, and the professors wouldn't pass you unless you'd taken the courses from them.

One final point is that although much of the younger population of Boulder is pretty liberal (it's often referred to as "The People's Republic of Boulder," and is the only city I know of in Colorado where it's against city law to possess nuclear weapons), the town has some very conservative factions, and the rent laws, among other things, are driven by those factions. Unless you can afford to buy, or are willing to commute from elsewhere, you might  feel put-upon by the lopsidedness of the landlord-tenant relationship.

Steve Wheeler
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I like to live close to the centre of large (more than 3 million people) cities, as I do'nt want to drive to work.

Preferably I can work to work, even come home during the day if I want.

A city this size gives all you need.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

sorry, I meant to say "Preferably I can WALK to work"

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I've heard some bad stuff about Boulder as well... highest date rape of any college in the US, townies hate the CU students and v.v. On the other hand, for me the saying that's carved into one of the sidewalks says it all. "What is a town but it's people."

Ever hear of the People's Republic of Brooklyn?

Mark W
Tuesday, March 26, 2002

With broadband connections and cheaper telco, it's becoming less important - maybe telecommuting will finally gain acceptance. Then maybe I can live somewhere good, rather than where the work is.

Mat Watson
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Yes, Boulder is its own weird warp in the space time continuum.
Mat, I have to ask, where are they selling country estates with fast broadband access? I live in the burbs and can not get anything faster than dialup.

Doug Withau
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

For me the town must have a good jazz venue. On the west coast this means LA, Santa Cruz, Oakland or Seattle.

I live in Scotts Valley, which is Santa Cruz adjacent or as we say " just beyond the event horizon of the official center of the universe ('their' claim NOT mine)". It's in the redwood forest, a few miles from the gorgeous Monterey Bay.

Good local bookstores, resonable airport proximity (30min to SJ), all kinds of live music, day trips to Monterey or San Francisco and you can commute to SV, which unfortunately I have to do almost daily.  This area has an active software development community.

If I left, I would miss the Kuumbwaa jazz center most. I could live in the Seattle area (same annual rainfall as Scotts Valley though they have more grey days) but not LA....been ther, done that...never again. What I like least about Seattle is that for all the water, it's not on the ocean. I love going down to the coast when the surf is up just to watch.

If I'm away from the coast for too long, I freak right out.

Dan Sickles
Wednesday, March 27, 2002

"If I'm away from the coast for too long, I freak right out"

That made me laugh, a little melodramatic maybe but so true, I'm a bit the same.

I've always had a pet wish to work from home in Sausolito in a study overlooking the water to the bridge and SF.
I see myself listening to music and doing really rewarding challenging good work, drinking freshly brewed coffee and walking along the beach for breaks. Maybe I'm wearing an Aran sweater. Its cool, but sunny.

Now all I need is a few million bucks, sigh.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Why is everyone choosing USA places, as an ideal place?

Theres more to the world, you know.!

ideally you'd like to work in a place where the cost of living is miniscule, but still has natural attractions, interesting climate, and friendly natives..

and a bookshop.. (judging by previous responses)..

Thursday, March 28, 2002

I enjoy where I am working from -- the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in a very rural, very old community. I have a beautiful farm with a big old barn, apple and cherry orchard, stocked pond and small vineyard. I find it helpful to be able to work out development conundrums while milking the dairy goats, collecting eggs from my Aracauna chickens, making cheese, fermenting wine, building greenhouses, fishing and tending the crops and herb garden.

I have only dial-up access, but many neighbors take advantage of the cable-modem access which is available everywhere -- even when visiting those in remote areas who have not yet hooked up to electricity and are using wood-burning stoves and living in log cabins, will fire up their generators and use their cable-modems to find out what's going on in the world or stay in touch with far-flung family.

Culturally, there is no obvious central gathering place other than the churches (many but not all of which seem to be more like country clubs or sports team fan groups). However, once you have been here a while you start to find out about harvest festivals and such annual gatherings and also where the remote log cabins and board-and-batten domiciles of interesting people are, which are where the real interesting things are going on -- my wife and I have a small homemade gamelan that we tote about occasionally to give impromptu concerts in unlikely venues.

When it comes to bookstores, there is a great one a 1.5 hr drive from here in a metropolis we visit monthly and of course I can look up things on the internet. There are a few software developers and hardware designers nestled here and there in the mountains (one DSP designer lives in the loft of a large barn nearby). Even so I miss a little bit the ability to talk shop with people face-to-face more, but have established contact with a few good people through email.

The only hitch I can think of is that it's hard to earn a living at software in this way since I work for myself. Even so there are enough jobs for the other local developers to earn a good living here-and-there and even though it's less than one can make most elsewhere, the cost of living in this region is perhaps half that of the cities and a fraction of the cost in the hotbeds.

Another part on the plus side is that I am must more efficient than I was living in the city -- no stress of commute, no time to commute, no cost to commute, also have time and space to care for my ailing mother and the time at home keeps the marital engine humming. The less stress and more slow pace of life contributes greatly to my efficiency and quality as I can think straight and work uninterrupted. Also, I believe that the well water and organic crops, milk and eggs pollute my body less which also helps me think more clearly. Proper nutrition and health is very important in mental work.

X. J. Scott
Saturday, March 30, 2002

X.J You are indeed living the dream!! Well done.

Saturday, March 30, 2002

I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is on the east coast of Canada. It defenitely isn't a bustling metropolis like Montreal or SF, as there are only 350,000 people here. For a city of this size, there is a lot going on here, just in a smaller quantity. 

The thing I like best is that you can live anywhere within the metro area and have a less than 15min drive to work (usually less).  On the weekends, and solid from May to October there are festivals, events galore all over the province. Halifax is right on the coast. Anywhere from 20 mins to a 3 hr radius there is a very diverse scenery, from ocean, to mountain highlands, and woods, lakes, and camping.

The summer is just right, 20-30C, not too roasty.  Winters are no worse than anywhere along the eastern USA.

Since the city is growing at a rapid rate, this is the place to be to start small businesses.  Everything is "just starting up", and the knowledge base here is great (25% of the population have post-secondary ed).  If the resources are not here, they are ready to be created.

I love the music. Pubs everywhere always featuring live folk and traditional, or any genre for that matter. The townspeople are very friendly, and never seem to be in a hurry. Oh, and don't forget the beer!  There's 4 local universities with over 30,000 students.  Plenty of things to keep one busy while not staring at a computer screen.

The quality of life here is excellent, clean air, low-crime and few headaches.  And of course I shouldn't forget, cheap and quality high-speed internet, something I think we take for granted sometimes :)

R. Deveau
Wednesday, April 10, 2002

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