For the past several years I've made a couple trips each year to NYC to see folks and to note trends in the internet business world. I got to visit a bunch of friends and tour the places they worked. Some places I visited and takeaways from each:
- Buzzfeed – I got to meet Matt Buchanan and John W. Herrman, the writers behind my favorite new tech blog FWD. It's a technology blog unlike every other that came before. Instead of obessively quoting chip speeds from press releases, the guys behind it post one or two meaty essays about tech culture each day, along with a handful of small blurbs about topics of the day. Where Gizmodo and Engadget are giant firehouses of noise, and this is a quiet thoughtful little blog about technology.
- OKCupid – OKC is a powerhouse in online dating. It's (mostly) free, has a sense of humor, and seems to be a favorite site for all my single friends. It's a huge website doing crazy amounts of traffic but you'd be surprised how small the team was.
- Etsy – I got to join the weekly employee-wide lunch, see friends new and old, and talk shop with the brainy bunch behind Etsy. If you haven't heard, they have an incredible technology team at Etsy, featuring many amazing people that were formerly at Yahoo properties like Brickhouse and Flickr. Keep your eyes on Etsy, they're doing a lot of amazing things behind the scenes.
- CNN – I got to hang out with an old video editor friend that works at the cable news giant and seeing it from behind the scenes was pretty incredible. I saw a director cutting a show live that was very close to a conductor in front of an orchestra, I almost got run over by a CNN anchor late for a live shoot, and I got to see how insanely big every aspect of their operation is. I also got to hear about the insane technology it takes to distribute petabytes of video easily and quickly to any editor in various parts of the country and then on to stations for broadcast.
I also did some shopping and enjoyed my time at the following places:
- Worth and Worth Hats – I've always wanted to get an expert hat guy to figure out what shape suits my head best. I got a nice hat that looks dapper without looking dorky, and it was custom fit to my head. Don't miss Put This On's visit that turned me onto this place.
- CEGO shirts – I've been buying a lot of clothes from Nau and Bonobos online lately and some of the shirts I've bought look good but don't fit my arm length or body quite right. Many of the those online shirt makers sell them for over $100 each and when you get up in that range, it turns out you can go full custom for about the same price. I met with Carl Goldberg, who was hilarious, opinionated, and very knowledgeable about fashion. We figured out what works for me, how to fit it, and I got to pick every last single detail on a few new shirts that I can't wait to see get made and eventually worn. Put This On also visited Carl and if you're wondering if a custom shirt is worth it, watch the first few minutes of this episode from last season of the show.
- Freeman's Sporting Club – Really expensive, but really nice stuff that they will tailor to you. I visited a bunch of major Menswear shops but most are in this weird "preppy 1985 rugby" asthetic right now, but FSC seems to transcend trends and time and offer up a classic American male look that doesn't feel trendy.
Oh, I stopped by NikeTown and bought one of their new Fuelband pedometer things (it's like a fitbit but feels more game-like). On my second day I hit my walking/fitness goals and now I understand why Fuelband owners do a little dance when it lights up and commends you for a job well done. It's fun.
When I go to NYC, I try to make every meal count. I got to enjoy the following cuisines:
- Amazing takeout Indian food, as always
- Steel Cut Oats from the Ace Hotel's Breslin kitchen
- Chicken and Rice with White Sauce from a Halal cart on the street, something I try to do every trip (always tasty)
- Perilla – Harold from season one of Top Chef has a pretty great restaurant in the Village
- Fedora – My first foray into a NYC bar with a bartender so awesome he had a second cocktail of what I was drinking ready exactly when I finished the first, without even having to ask for it.
- Paulie Gee's Pizza in Brooklyn – Super good with a surprising variety of pies
General NYC tips I learned on this trip:
Trains Not Cars: Every time I take a cab or car service from the NYC airports to Manhattan, I get very nearly car sick due to the drivers being crazy with the gas pedal and brake, constantly sprinting or slamming on the brakes. This time I stuck to trains from JFK (usually I fly to Newark and take a NJ train into Manhattan). On the trip out, I did the NYC Subway in to the city, but it took over an hour to get me near where I needed to be. There were too many stops in Brooklyn out by the airport. On the way home, I went from Penn Station to JFK via the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and it was fantastic, just 30 minutes or so between the subway station and the Air Trans station outside of JFK. I made it into a security line 40min after I left Manhattan. Both trips were under ten dollars, with an extra $5 for the Air Trans trip, vastly cheaper than a cab or car. Trains rock, especially during rush hour when all the expressways are blocked up.
Foursquare Explore is better than Yelp in major cities (Matt Buchanan is right): Yelp is great for strange cities and small towns, it never disappoints but in major city centers I've started to have some hit-and-miss results. Foursquare use in NYC is off the charts and everyone leaves tons of tips, photos, and details about almost every business in the area. Their explore feature showed me dozens of options in neighborhoods I didn't know too well and though I still think Yelp is the king of finding good eats while traveling, if you're NYC, try Foursquare instead.
Foursquare was also just simply amazing to use in a vibrant place like NYC where I have dozens of friends constantly checking in. It was also fun to see after a year of me not using the app, people really started to use the commenting feature and many check-ins garnered tips and questions from friends. I also ran into friends because I saw them on foursquare and could message them and track them down.
Maps: The iPhone app iTrans NYC was godsend for getting around on subways. offering train maps overlaying Google Maps as well as the offline standard MTA map with info on all the lines. A perfect way to never get lost in NYC.
Overall, it was a great trip and I can't wait to get back there again. Thanks to everyone that let me stop by, shoot the shit, and share their time in the big apple.