Hackers, Hostels, and Floating Hotels

In the few months leading up to my wedding, a number of really fascinating articles and stories piled up that I wasn’t able to address. Digging back into the files, I came across one NYTimes article from July that definitely wants to be shared. It covers the Silicone Valley phenomenon of “Hacker Hostels.”

These hostels offer cheap lodging and nerdy community for the waves of would-be entrepreneurs who flock to tech-mecca each year. And with a spot on a bunk going for $40/night, they’re a pretty savvy piece of entrepreneurship themselves. Overhead is low (wifi and a roof), and the residents – typically techie men in their mid to late 20s – don’t want much more than to be left to their work.

Cramped living conditions aside, these hostels a pretty popular idea. After all, cramming into tiny spaces is a time-honored tradition in the hacking community: HP was famously founded in a 12′ x 18′ rented garage, and early coders at MIT slept in their offices while waiting for time on the mainframe. When it was acquired in 2012, Instagram was still shoveling pizza boxes out from under the employees in a cramped SF office.

Keeping things cozy does two things. Continue reading

Why My Daughter Will Study Computer Science

Let’s say you’ve got a great idea. How do you make something of it?

Chances are, that idea is a few words on a page, or a vague concept with a lot of promise. It needs refining, and clarifying, and improvement. It probably needs some feedback, and it definitely needs money. In short, it needs a lot of work.

The best way to get all of that done is through prototyping. This isn’t a new idea (look for 20.5M+ Google hits), but it’s surprisingly hard to do. Our ideas are precious, and we want to shelter them and improve them until they’re ready to face the harsh light of reality and the cold critiques of our peers. Unfortunately, it turns out that this is exactly the wrong way to go about doing it. Innovators might do well abide to by the slogan “prototype early and often.”

The intuition is that physical prototypes simultaneously reveal the weaknesses and gaps in our thinking while also effectively communicating the idea to others for feedback and extension. Building on that, it’s no surprise that the most effective prototyping is quick and dirty; the drawers at Stanford’s design school are brimming with post-it notes, pipe cleaners, and modeling clay. The emphasis is to convey the idea simply and inexpensively, but not for the reason you might expect. Continue reading