If the Google corporate culture is one end of the spectrum, the ever-improving SFGate.com has a perspective on the other end: the "neo-nomad," or "Bedouins:" those that prefer to work out of a coffee shop. Seems unlikely? Add in WiFi (nearly a requirement for San Francisco), an atmosphere designed for small groups to be able to be together, some funky music, and power, and you've got an incubator for small companies and innovators.
While I definitely prefer the comfort and focus of an office, I tend to make use of these while I am on the road. My favorite is Caribou Coffee: free WiFi that you need to renew every hour; makes you buy more coffee. Lodge-like atmosphere. BIG chairs, friendly staff. However, the idea of doing my work at one of these places is...bizarre. Now add in San Francisco's funky culture and passionate commitment to loud music. How the heck can you work?
Suffice it to say, it's not for everyone, but it's a very interesting insight into a world unlike my own. Bonus: check out this GREAT Slideshow with voiceover from the article. This combination of newspaper with NPR-like immersion is exactly what I wanted to see after reading the article. Gives you a sense of the actual people and atmosphere in the article. Kudos to SFGate for this feature.