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Small-town tech hub sneers at you, because it thinks you sneer at it

Technically Incorrect: Champaign-Urbana, Ill., the place that educated Mark Andreessen among others, thinks you associate it with "overweight white people." So it makes an ad to say so and get you to bring your tech skills there.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Judging by this young lady's performance, I'm not sure how welcome you'd be in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. You're Welcome CU/YouTube; screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When you feel you're being ignored, one reaction is to whine about it.

When you feel you're being treated with disdain, one response is to toss that disdain right back at the disdainer.

Some might think this a touch fruitless. The denizens of Champaign-Urbana, Ill., seem not to.

This is the home of the University of Illinois, a place that educated famed venture capitalist Mark Andreessen and YouTube co-founders Steven Chen and Jawed Karim, among other luminaries.

It's also a place that's deep in angst. It believes you think it's merely full of grain elevators and overweight white people.

Please, this isn't my opinion. I have obtained this information from the town itself, or rather from an ad it released a little while ago to trumpet its tech talents.

In it, a young woman explains with something of a sneer -- or perhaps outre Midwestern humor -- that you are a closed-minded, self-important, patronizing windbag who, despite this, should move your business there forthwith.

The presenter elucidates: "You don't need high-rises to be high-tech." Ah, I'd better tell the folks in the Valley who are building low-rise spaceships.

Most -- 95 percent -- of Yahoo employees in Champaign are software engineers, she explains. This is the "highest portion of any Yahoo office in the US." Siri's database is there too.

The presenter asks Siri what is the meaning of life. Siri begins: "Try and be nice to people." The presenter admits that she doesn't do that. Which is all too evident.

And so we follow her as she sneers at us for being us and not there. (Did I mention that the ad is called "You're Welcome"?)

I confess that I'm writing about this now because I was sent it by one or two Fighting Illini alumni from the tech world who expressed themselves concerned, and a touch bellicose, about this video.

They wondered whether this was supposed to be funny and whether it actually is.

I have posed this question to the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation and the University of Illinois Research Park, which appear to be at the forefront of the campaign. I will update, should I hear. (See update note at bottom.)

The Economic Development Corporation touts the campaign on its Web site. It says the aim is to promote Champaign-Urbana as "a destination for tech talent." Some might feel, therefore, that it's aimed at those sneery millennials who might feel at home with an innate sneeriness.

There's one point in the video that I feel sure is supposed to be amusing.

This is at around the 2:08 mark, when the presenter sprays whipped cream into her mouth from a can. This has to be physical humor, right? This is Mr. Bean at his (almost) finest.

She also eats off of a plate without using a knife and fork (or hands) in a fancy restaurant. Well, there you have it. Or perhaps this is some sort of Champaign ritual?

This ad may have been an attempt to allay the notion that the Midwest is full of nice people who are constantly and annoyingly nice to each other. In which case, it surely works.

However, I hand it over to you, the great freshly showered, to decide how you feel about moving your business to, or going to work in, Champaign.

Do you think you'll feel welcomed?

Update, 1:33 p.m. PT: The University of Illinois Research Park got back to me with the following statement:

The video is a teaser to a wider campaign that will launch this summer. The goal is to bring awareness that people are welcome to enjoy the long legacy of innovation that's come out of Champaign-Urbana -- and they're welcome to join our innovative tech community.

You can make good money, work in a great and challenging tech job for a big company or a startup, and afford to have a nice life that doesn't leave you sitting in the car for 3 hours every day in Champaign-Urbana.

And yes, we have some fun too.

Just a friendly tip from the friendly Midwest.

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