Doing it Wrong: What Real Digital Nomad Hostels Would Look Like

By Rich Jones

There's an NY Times article being passed around about a small string of "Hacker Hostels" in Silicon Valley.

Conceptually, it's an awesome idea. was founded in order to provide an economic support structure for those interested in the nomadic hacker lifestyle - hacking and adventuring! Which brings me to my main question: of all places, why the fuck are they building hacker hostels in Silicon Valley?


Why would I want to go to Silicon Valley when I could go skateboarding in a fountain in Shanghai?

I'm probably going to catch a lot of flames for this, but here's my honest opinion: Silicon Valley is a hellhole.

For those who haven't actually been but read tech news, Silicon Valley might seem like a tech Mecca, where developers are nurtured and ideas flourish. The reality is quite different. The valley is a giant corporate parking lot full of overpriced town houses, where programmers are exploited and greasy snake oil salesmen are giving the orders. The 'big ideas' are usually trivial and derivative. Everybody is chasing the dream of a startup jackpot, that a large corporation will make them instantly rich if they just keep A/B testing enough. Nobody seems interested in working on problems which solve anything more the minor inconvenience or providing mild entertainment. The nerd-entitlement is palpable. It's isn't a fun, interesting or inspired place. It pretty much sucks.

Ranting aside, the idea of hacker-cohabitation is fantastic. I live with hackers and I love it. We push each other to work harder, we can get feedback from each other, and we also have a ton of fun. (Lately, this has involved a lot of Tremulous LAN'ing.)

We've traveled together as well, and I think we all share the same idea about why we're in the game at all. We're not hacking so that one day we can buy nice houses in Menlo Park, spending our days 'mentoring' the next stupid startup and generally feeling smug about ourselves - we're hacking so we can buy plane tickets and bed space in far away places, to share in other sights, smells, tastes and ideas. The ideas and perspective gained from immersion in another culture are what takes a project to a higher level. I think that's why the Valley is so saturated with trivial ideas - it's a static monoculture with no real challenges left.

So I don't want to go to Sillicon Valley - I want to go to Quito. I want to go Jakarta. I want to go to Shanghai. I want to go to Berlin. I want to arrive in a new city and pay a reasonable rate for a place where I know I can have a decent internet connection, a desk, maybe a bike to get around, a place to lay my head and some cool hackers to grab beers with.. and I want to do it again in a new city two weeks later.

"AirBnb for Hackers" has been in the skunkworks for a long time, and it's certainly still not ready to go live, but I felt like using this opportunity to share my vision. It's fuzzy and I haven't checked the math yet, but I think at the core, this is something that we should be exploring. I hope somebody takes this idea and runs with it.

There are beautiful new ways of living yet to be discovered. Let's find them!

(Post scriptum: This article was in no way meant to be a diss to Chez JJ. I think they're on to something, I just wish they'd branch out a bit more!)

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Posted by Rich Jones

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