‘Silicon Valley is a state of mind, not a place’

Cities, centers of innovation, do matter. Even though we have telecom, internet, tele-presence technologies, people seem to need concentrations of innovation and expertise: look at the international financial centers and the geographical clusters of technological innovation.

The tech blogger and evangelist Robert Scoble brought a round-up of what’s hot in Silicon Valley at the LIFT conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Some companies he discussed are located in Silicon Valley, others in San Francisco… but does it make any sense to make a separation Valley/San Francisco? Of course not, and Scoble said: ‘Silicon Valley is a state of mind, not a place’.

Which is interesting for virtual worlds people. There is a need for those cities and regions where innovation is so important (read also the works of Richard Florida). However, one can take part in this state of mind, even from a distance. I think virtual places such as Second Life can be important here.

It helps to actually talk to innovators (using SL voice for instance) and to share a same virtual space with other tech-minded people. I do know for a fact that my own passion for internet technology got a tremendous boost by meeting internet-minded people from all over the world in virtual environments, and most of the time in Second Life.

Of course virtual environments are part of a wider social media ecosystem (Twitter, Plurk, blogs, video, machinima, wikis, forums, offline meetings etc), but as we speak about changing mentalities and worldviews, meeting other people is of crucial importance – in virtual or physical environments.

So what is hot these days in Silicon Valley? Mark Littlewood has this great post about Scoble’s list on The Business Leaders Network. For the new media Scoble mentioned Flipboard (personalized social mazagines), PostPost (online newspaper based on your Facebook links), The History of Jazz (reinvention of the book on the iPad) and Datasift (screening streams of information).

Other media stuff: Storify (for curating social media), Curated.by (another curating tool), PearlTrees (a way to curate, structure and exchange information) and Prezi (cool alternative for Powerpoint).

What is not mentioned? Well, virtual environments. They are not on the list of hot new developments. So yes, for some people at least virtual environments help to get into a Silicon Valley state of mind, but those environments themselves are no longer perceived as being an important part of the future of the internet. Oh yes, Blue Mars now lets you rate avatars on the iPhone, but you won’t hear comments on that during innovation conferences such as LIFT. More will be needed to make virtual environments ‘hot’ again.

Related (about the innovation conference LIFT):
Digital natives are not the same everywhere
The murmuration in the Arab World

Looking for meaning in social streams using Hootsuite and Storify

I’m working hard covering the crisis in the euro zone (Ireland, Portugal, Spain, etc). It’s a crisis which is not “just financial”, it’s a real social tragedy as well, and I feel it should get more attention on networks such as Twitter. It seems that the newest version of some gadget is incomparably more important to most people on Twitter than developments in the economy which could change the course of history for whole continents.

However, there are great discussions going on about the situations on blogs, on Twitter and Facebook. I’m trying out some tools to monitor and curate that stuff. I read an inspiring post by Tris Hussey about how to build a social media dashboard on TNW Lifehacks. Once concrete result is that I’m trying out Hootsuite now to monitor and organize my social media streams (Twitter, Facebook, I’ll add Foursquare and LinkedIn). Until now I was using Tweetdeck and Seesmic. I’m not sure yet which service I do prefer, but this Hootsuite tutorial (also by Hussey) seems very promising.

Of course, it’s not only a matter of organizing incoming information and engaging in conversations, but also of putting stories back out. I’m using Storify for that, and Robert Scoble had a great video interview with the founders of that service (even talking about game mechanics!):

In the meantime another curation service, curated.by, went into public beta. Other curation services are Keepstream and Bag the Web, I still have to try out those tools but for now I do like the newsy, journalistic approach of Storify as you can see for instance in my euro crisis coverage (in Dutch and English) or in this old post about Second Life in a browser.

Read also my previous post: making sense of our streams, in real time.