On Location

Evan Williams writes about the factors that led him to the Valley and his take on the perceived need to 'be there'. It's an interesting topic for someone who lives thousands of miles away from the supposed epicentre of their chosen profession. One could argue that the Pacific Northwest is really the hub of independent Mac development, but either area is still very far off.

The question is: does it matter?

My own feeling is that the only meaningful distinction is not whether one is in the Bay Area or not, but whether one is in the USA or not. Don't get me wrong, I adore San Francisco and the whole tech scene in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, but I don't feel like I'm unable to be a Mac developer unless I move there. I do sometimes miss the chance to be nearer a major US city and catch some of the road tours that Apple (and others) do around products like Leopard, Aperture and the iPhone.

When I was younger and less sure of myself, I used to depend on chance social interactions to do some professional networking. My default position was that none of these gods of Mac development would deign to answer my email, so I had better coincidentally bump into them at some event in order to get on their radar. In retrospect, that was kind of a stupid assumption.

My experience of the Mac developer community has been that help and encouragement is freely given, but genuine respect is earned through shipping code. In some ways, living far from the centre of the tech/social scene provides a bit of space, time and quietness to get to the point of actually shipping and supporting code.

I'd love to be able to visit the US a few more times each year, just to do the socialising aspect. WWDC is great, but an insanely large and busy event. There's practically no possibility of randomly bumping into the people you know, unless you know the tallest Mac developers out there (and right now I'm wondering whether that's Craig Hockenberry or Blake Seely :-).

In any case, one only has to read TechCrunch for a couple of weeks to see how crazy business has become in the web space around the valley. There was a phase not so long ago where it just seemed to be corporate party after corporate party. As Caterina Fake memorably wrote:

There's too much going on. Every night there's a Mashup get together, or a TechCrunch party, or it's Tag Tuesday, or SuperHappyDevHouse or SXSW or this conference or that conference. And this stuff is fun. It's a real community. But all of these things are great by themselves, but terrible in combination. I see some entrepreneurs in photos from *every single event*. Who's talking to the users, writing the code, tweaking and retweaking the UI? It ain't the Chief Party Officer.

A little distance and perspective from that pressure cooker is probably not a bad thing at all.

The Twitter Angle

It's impossible to write a post like this without mentioning the way in which Twitter has become a social/professional network for the independent Mac developer. Pretty much all the names you would know in the Mac world are on there: Rich Siegel, Dan Wood, Craig Hockenberry, Gus Mueller, Wil Shipley, Daniel Jalkut, Brent Simmons, Chris Liscio and plenty others - I'm just scanning recent tweets in my own list here.

I love Twitter because it has the immediacy of IM but removes the expectation of a prompt reply. I can keep Twitterrific running all day and never feel like I'm locked into being 'on twitter'. It's a beautifully balanced experience of continuous partial attention. Whenever something happens, Twitter lights up with the insightful or humourous thoughts of some of the most important people in Mac development. It's a great place to hang out, and the growth of Twitter has really helped bind the indie community together.