Geeking the difference between San Fran and London

San Francisco skyline

Ben's been doing a comparison between London and San Francisco and honestly it sounds like heaven for a geek like myself.

Sure, in London we have geek dinners and there’s lots of opportunities to meet up with other peeps who work at BBC (lunch in the White City canteen, in the local BBC bars, etc). But it’s not every night…

I mean can you imagine hanging out with geeks most of the time when going out? Geez, sounds like good to me, no offense to anyone in London of course but its good to be around like minded people sometimes. Moving on…

The other great thing about San Francisco is the coffee shop culture. It’s 18:30 on a Sunday evening and we’re in Ritual Roasters with our laptops out sipping on large cups of extremely tasty java. And of course there is free WiFi (every coffee shop has wifi). Looking around me there must be at least a third of the café’s cliental using laptops. Having your laptop out in a coffee shop in the UK would not only be slightly unusual but also pretty fruitless – or expensive — as most coffee shops either have no wifi or wifi paid for by the hour.

Wow, if only. Now I hear London has more wireless that anyone else but I swear most of it is owned by BT, McDonalds, Tmobile and the Cloud. Usually if you look around you can find coffee shops near wireless points but its rare. Electricity isn't so much of a problem but yeah connectivity is usual left to your 3G or GPRS phone. On the plus side there is tons of pubs and bars across London, some more laptop friendly than others and they shut about 11pm unlike coffee shops which shut at about 7-8pm (at least in the UK). But Ben's next paragraph strikes a cord with me.

In the UK, we have pub culture – which doesn’t suit me at all. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t particularly like smokey atmospheres. And there’s only so much lemonade you want to drink. Coffee on the other hand is not only my solitary vice but I’m also quite the connoisseur. WiFi in the pub, I don’t think so… Spending the equivilent of £2 on a coffee and being welcome to sit in a cafe for as long as you like using their chair, table and wifi in London… Forget it.

See its so odd, Ben and me are a like in our distaste of alcohol. I don't know what it is but the only drink I will drink if I have to is something soft with vodka. I will drink red wine with a nice meal but usually I much prefer to have a nice can of Redbull over rocks. And honestly I could happily and would much prefer to go to a coffee shop till late. Coffee shop culture maybe thought of as a American thing, but I'm not so sure because going out in Berlin and other large western european cities has always been a coffee shop type experience. Its pretty cool to go out and drink a few cups of strong blended coffee with friends before heading to a club or party. I'll be honest and say I would happily give up pub culture for coffee shop culture.

I'm very interesting to hear what the San Francisco ‘Out of Towner’ with Ben Metcalfe event will be like on March 2nd. Good on you Ben, but I still can not see myself moving to America any time soon. Canada maybe.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.