Nellie Bowles

Staff writer for The Guardian covering silicon valley

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON February 23, 2016

Discussion

Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
Hello there! I'm Nellie Bowles, Silicon Valley reporter for the Guardian. I grew up in San Francisco and have spent now a good part of my young life documenting it, first for the Chronicle, then Recode, then I sold a TV show about it, and now I'm at the Guardian. This city's become a hugely influential town, a site of enormous new fortunes and massive societal changes (for the better and the worse). Ask me anything and I will answer! And give me good story ideas!
Casey Newton@caseynewton · Silicon Valley editor, The Verge
Hi Nellie! As someone who has studied Silicon Valley teens, what would you say about how they see the world? It is much different than the over-30 crowd?
Tiffany Zhong@tzhongg · gen z insights. formerly @ProductHunt
@caseynewton Yeah, Nellie! Tell us 🙃
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@caseynewton oh look it's my ex husband Casey Newton
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@caseynewton Just kidding I stole that joke from him
Casey Newton@caseynewton · Silicon Valley editor, The Verge
@nellie_bowles *bursts into tears*
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@caseynewton As for how teens see the world, it's diverse, of course there's no one perspective. But what first so inspired me about the story was being around people who were seeing San Francisco for the first time and experiencing and reacting to all the insanity of this -- and they just want to dive in. Teens come here with much less baggage than we do (I have two cats, for example) and really want to let their lives be molded by the place, let themselves embody it. There's also an idealism and belief behind their journeys that I think often fades in jaded old hags like you and I. Then looking at the people around them, this city's fascinated with newness and youth, and there's a sense that young people are magic, that they might have some secrets you need.
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
Hello this is Nellie! I am here! Am I doing this right?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@nellie_bowles yes :) Just hit reply under the Q's and we're away 🏃😻
Hunter Walk@hunterwalk · Partner, Homebrew
You've written for tech native sites (Recode), traditional pubs (Guardian) and longer leads (Cal Sunday). Do you find any of the formats suit you better than others or is it a wonderful creative buffet?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@hunterwalk Hi Hunter! I've loved them all, to be honest. Creative buffet. My ideal life is to be doing a mix of fast stories/scenes/rants and deep dives. Probably for me the one thing that doesn't suit is writing alone. When I first started writing book and magazine pieces, I thought I was the kind of writer who could sit at a house in Stinson and write beautiful prose, but I'm just not. I need a newsroom with chatter and movement. I need to be able to make robot noises to annoy Danny Yadron throughout the day. That sort of thing.
Hey Nellie, You were focused on the LA ecosystem way before most... Any thoughts on how it's evolved over last few years? MM
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@mazzeo It's gotten huge! When I first went down there it was still pretty funny and goofy but in the last two years (because of the growth of Snapchat and others) there's a huge scene. I love it down there
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@mazzeo Also Peter Pham has now fully built out his Manhattan Beach empire
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@mazzeo But you'd know best how it's all really changed. I'm just an interloper in for kale shakes
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What story that you've covered has most surprised you?
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What are the three things founders should keep in mind when trying to pitch for press?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
Alright my friends. I love you all very much and this has been wonderful!
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
Ryan thank you for having me!
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, Nellie! You've interviewed hundreds of people. Who was your favorite person to speak with and why? I'll refrain from asking you the inverse of this question. 😉
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@rrhoover Ahaha I've never had a bad interview, really. Probably my favorite ever was when I was just a wee unpaid Chronicle intern. I met Judy Kaminsky who has this cluttered and beautiful vintage cookware shop called Cookin' on Divis. She wanted nothing to do with me but I just slowly won her over and did a little profile
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@rrhoover Bad meaning someone I didn't like. I'm sure I've done BAD interviews
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@rrhoover Elon Musk at a party was also fun because he's just such a great character
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Are there ever stories that you want to share, but don't because of the implications they may have?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@andrewmettinger Fewer than most, since I don't need to play ball with any one company, like it's totally ok with me and my career if company X decides to blackball me. I can't think of any big story I've not done because someone asked me not to. But of course any journalist working a beat (and San Francisco is a beat) has to balance and charm, hold back and then dig in with care and for a goal. You also have to know who you're talking to and how media savvy they are and how much you can have gloves off. When I was first working, I wrote a story about social clubs in San Francisco and interviewed the house manager of a prominent women's club -- I asked him if he'll ever let cell phones be used the club and he said stuff like "I can't stand that shit," and just generally was charming and honest. The story got him fired. I've really never forgiven myself for it. So I've learned, especially when quotes are hot, to always punch up.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What would you tell your 20 year old self?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@bentossell study less, party more
Jackson G Fall@jacksonfall · Uh
@nellie_bowles @bentossell You're my favorite.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@nellie_bowles I did it properly then
Baard O. Hansen@ibaard · Business Manager Digital Communications
Do you use ProductHunt as a reporter?
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi Nellie - great to have you join us today! You are one of those rare people that actually grew up in SF - amazing. So, what is the #1 thing that has changed that you are happy to see change and what is the #1 thing that you miss (or feel nostalgic about)? And finally, is there anything that has totally stayed the same?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@corleyh I am indeed a native! Sixth generation. In terms of in my lifespan, I personally like a lot of the changes I see -- Hayes Valley was under a freeway overpass and generally falling apart when I was a kid and is this booming hub now. Same with the Embarcadero. But my parents own their homes, so for them this is all upside, and I think I'd feel very differently if my mom had been evicted etc. I do feel nostalgic for when creatives lived in San Francisco. My dad's really into the photo scene and had a gallery for a while, and my mom's an academic, so I grew up knowing a community of people in the arts. Now not so much. Wealth can hollow a city out from the inside, in a way. And that's been depressing to see. (If you can't tell, my politics are YIMBY party all the way.)
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What's the most extreme answer you have ever asked in an interview? What's the most extreme answer? 😜
Asis Panda@asispanda · User Experience Designer
Hi Nellie, how do you scout new insider sources for your tech news ? Is the process similar to a covert op ?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@asispanda Not covert at all! I can't really hide much of anything nor do I really look for scoops, per se. I mostly just wander around and chat with whoever seems nice and friendly. I grew up in San Francisco, so I know the community here pretty well and stories just come naturally through life here.
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@asispanda In terms of scouting, I often troll Eventbrite or Meetup groups for ideas -- events to cover but also just to get a sense of trends and interests.
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@asispanda If I had to pick a "sourcing" mechanism it would be to know a bunch of VCs because they're chatty and all have their own agendas, so they often help with things
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@asispanda Also drinking at the Battery. Very useful.
Asis Panda@asispanda · User Experience Designer
@nellie_bowles That makes sense :D
Mike Haedrich@mike_haedrich · Founder, PRracer
Do you track wearables? What's it going to take to keep fitness trackers relevant? In your opinion, what is the next fad in wearable devices?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@mike_haedrich Wearables are a hellscape
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@mike_haedrich I know how much I slept. I know how much I walked. I don't need an attachment device to tell me what even the most basic awareness of my body should
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@mike_haedrich THAT SAID. I'm totally ready for a phone that latches onto my arm as a clasp. Like a full effing phone. That's what I'll get excited for
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Tell me all about this tv show
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@jeffumbro TV! It's fun. I have no idea what it really means. I wrote a story about teens for California Sunday . A production company "optioned" it, as they say. Then we worked on a script over last summer, which was really fun (I'd never done anything in TV land before and so got a kick out of the whole scene -- big fancy sushi spreads for lunch seems to be the MO)
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@jeffumbro So then after the option, the big thing was Fox Network picked it up. This means it's probably getting made but no one really knows
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@jeffumbro So I just went back to my normal life and thought about buying myself a fancy watch with the cash but then decided that was too decadent
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@jeffumbro As for the actual show -- the team behind its background is in saucy shows like Felicity and Grey's Anatomy. It'll be an hour long drama. Lots of sex and fun and intrigue
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@jeffumbro I used to think the sexiness might be unrealistic until I read about Zenefits. Now there is no ceiling!
Alex. Casassovici@alexksso · ceo actvt.com
Hi Nellie, since the amount of daily tech news is pretty overwhelming - what's your strategy to deciding what is worth covering ? Are you following KPIs, your editorial direction ... ?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@alexksso What are KPIs? They sound like something I don't want
Alex. Casassovici@alexksso · ceo actvt.com
@nellie_bowles KPI = Key Performance Indicators i.e. # shares or pageviews or mentions ... :) So I guess you're only following your guts on what's interesting / what's not ?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@alexksso In terms of deciding what's worth it, at the Guardian I'm trying to tell the stories of Silicon Valley for a broader audience, so it's really always just a judgement call. Stepping back and thinking what tells the story of our moment and what, at the end of the year, will I have wanted to write. The news cycle can be distracting from that or it can be useful. With Uber yesterday, I found that to be a compelling news cycle to jump into because I think it's representative of a lot of issues. Sometimes little nightlife scenes can do a lot and explode into this wonderful window into our city, sometimes they fall flat. It's all just judgement and in a lot of cases, luck. But I see my role as trying to paint a picture of this place -- rather than to influence it one way or another or to capture every twist and turn of a product -- so that end image is what I always have in my mind. Of course the painting's never done. (I'm really taking this metaphor far)
Alex. Casassovici@alexksso · ceo actvt.com
@nellie_bowles Great answer thanks !!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What is one of your best stories about living in SF and covering the Tech world? And your worst? (stories that have not been published are preferred!)
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Nellie Bowles@nellie_bowles · reporter for the guardian
@bentossell A writer! Always. I feel incredibly lucky to be doing what I do and hope to do it my whole life, with increasingly eccentric outfits