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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Culture

The Silicon Valley 'high school cafeteria'

Sometimes people agree with me on Silicon Valley.

Ah, a breath of fresh air from a former Financial Times reporter:

We spend way too much time inside our small Silicon Valley worlds. It often feels as if I constantly see the 400 or so people that run this place, and that drive the main conversations here, it is like a high school cafeteria.

I liked it a lot last year, I still like the life here, but increasingly I think the best advice is to get out into the real world occasionally. Yet I know plenty of people that hardly ever, except for family occasions, spend any time outside of the closeted worlds of Silicon Valley.

What do you discover outside the valley and the technology world it venerates?

That Twitter is silly and no one uses it. That the "hottest social networking sites!!!" are...not so hot. That life really doesn't revolve around technology, which is why Microsoft, Google, and Apple are popular among the masses (because each delivers technology that doesn't fetish itself and is instead easy to use--read: nontechnical).

Take a field trip outside the valley. There are real people out there. They have money to spend. But they're not going to spend it on "technology." They, instead, simply want to solve business and personal problems. Things that technology qua technology won't fix for them.

Having said that, I agree with others that it's easier to see what has been done and what needs to be done in the valley, where people eat/drink/sleep technology. But often this translates into Yet Another Social Network or some other me-too incremental change to another's promising business model.

I loved living in the Valley. But it was a revelation to leave it and discover that technology need not be all-consuming to be profitable and fun. It's refreshing to have neighbors bring their computer problems to me (Me!? I'm not an IT administrator by any stretch). It's good to get a feel for lowest-common denominator technology issues. Like finding the "on" button. And learning how to use a photo sharing application.

That's where most people are in the technology adoption curve. They're not "Twittering." They're simply trying to figure out how to sell their goods on eBay. Helping them take the next step beyond this...? That's technology's big opportunity.