February 18, 2016

533 words 3 mins read

My name is Josh, and San Francisco is complicated


Hi there,

My name is Josh Johnson. I’m interested in leasing the property at


A little background about me: I currently work at Okta (www.okta.com), where I’ve been for two years in the Engineering department. I’m a quiet, computer-centric type who is looking for a new place to live as my current roommate has decided to move out-of-state. I’m currently living in the SOMA area with no pets; I am looking to finalize a place to move into on or before March 1st.

Looking forward to hearing back soon,

— Josh J

This has been the paragraph on my clipboard practically all night, two weeks before March 1st. This is my story.

Most people know vaguely the idea of why housing in San Francisco sucks; it is basic economy. The 2013 census reports that 800,000 people live within San Francisco’s 47 square miles. My scribbles resembling math on this napkin says that’s roughly 17,000 people packed into every square mile. I happen to be one of the 17,000 people in this square mile who is hunting for the biggest, most affordable living area in a different square mile dubbed as “San Francisco”. As I am new at this, I applied my OCDorganizational skills to the process to give myself a shot of getting into a relatively comfortable place. It has been dubbed by Jon as, “Agile Appartment[sic] Hunting.”

Trello Kanban at its finest
The process of “Agile Apartment Hunting,” as it’s more properly called, starts with panicking and asking your friends for advice on where to look for apartments. After receiving four links and your brain melts down with all the details, you create a team on

Trello and invite your friends to it. Finally, you realize the Trello board looks like kanban’s “swimlanes,” so you create five states for apartments to exist in. Then you delete a swimlane. (Don’t get too complicated friends! It’s to help you keep track, not to show your boss you’re blocked!)

Your friends on the hunt team drop links into new cards under the “Queued” state for you, the hunter, to reformat, and gather information about the apartment. After your brain is sufficiently fried from trying to read broken Craigslist posts, you make decisions on what apartments you actually liked during information gathering. After you send off an e-mail to the management team for a certain card or dislike a certain new apartment, you whisk it off the “Expressed Interest” or “Rejected” swimlanes, respectively. Rinse and repeat until you’re done with your “Queued” swimlane.

Example of a very ‘interesting’ apartment that made it into the list
In the end, I found that it’s a preferential, organic process that is perfectly suited for Trello’s various workflow abilities. I found myself naturally creating a kanban-like workflow and using tags for “actions” and “reasoning” like “Contact Management” to mark a card requiring a return phone-call. To contrast, I also use a separate Trello board for “Home Stuff” grossly misusing the "

GTD method” of todo-lists for all of my personal projects.

PS: Anyone know of a nice place freeing up in the Bay Area soon? If so, I will offer money in return for quietly living in that place.