Random Thoughts by Fabien Penso

California: love it. San Francisco: even better.

I had the chance to travel to California from last April to July. As any computer geek I had always dreamed about going to California, and mostly around Mountain View. Thanks for my friends, I had the chance to visit Google few times, Yahoo!, Six Apart, Google Android, Apple, some smaller private startups. I’ve got beers with the guys from GitHub (thanks Tom, it was nice meeting you), LightHouse, Twitter, LinkedIn, AfterShock (thanks James!). Orange Lab told me on Twitter I could call 1014 (A French phone number for customer support) to meet them (ahah). I’ve met many more people which I can’t list here, and I’ve also finally met Phil Jeudy (twitter).

I’ve attended the Rails Conf 2009 in Vegas, and the WWDC 09 in SF. The rails conference was very high level, Vegas had the cheapest hotels I could imagine for the room we got. On the other side the WWDC conferences were not as high level as I would imagine, but someone said 60% of the attendees never attended before. I would recommend going to both if it’s you work in those domains, meeting people in real is a big boost for your projects.

Something I did not have in mind, is the good general vibe you have in San Francisco. I had the chance to meet Shane Vitarana (blog), who published DrumKit on the Appstore (it’s featured in Apple ads, on Union Square on top of buildings, etc). He introduced me to many people, and we had a lot of fun together (I have to confess, I don’t go out much while I’m in Paris, but did almost every day in SF). Thanks Shane, you made my trip.

I’ve learned a lot being in San Francisco for that long, on iPhone projects as much as on Rails projects, and on web projects in general. If you work on ideas, make them happen in California. It won’t take longer than anywhere else, but the general impact might be much bigger for you. Raising funds is much easier too. I’ve met so many independent developers in San Francisco making lots of money (>$200K a year) without working much (but worked hard in the past, or had a good idea).

You have two kinds of people in San Francisco, the ones working 20 hours a day, or doing 2 hours commuting a day going from downtown to Mountain View and working for the big players. And you have the ones not working as much and enjoying life. I’d suggest going for the 2nd option if you plan to go to SF.

So would I go back to San Francisco ? Hell yeah ! But surprisingly I would go again not for work, but for the good vibe. Of course there are tons of IT companies there, and even the average level of software developers ain’t better than France (or other countries), you have way more people, way more companies. That operates like a magnet. At the end, you have way more projects happening there. San Francisco makes projects possible. My only concern is time does not run the same way in SF, and a one year stay would pass like a week in other cities.

See you soon San Francisco (my flickr California set).