‘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

Reading: network theory, vernacular video, Kindle publishing and web of flow

This is an overview of interesting stuff I found online. I’ll publish this on a regular basis (but not on a daily basis, I think).

  • Even though some people think tools such as RSS feeds Google Reader are no longer relevant in this era of Twitter-based information streams, I still use my Google Reader a lot. It still is very much my social media dashboard. Today I discovered yet another gem via Google Reader in my Delicious-network, where choconancy (Nancy White) pointed to Howard Rheingold’s Posterous and more in particular to this minicourse on network and social network literacy. In fact, the minicourse is not that very mini, especially not if you go deeper and take the suggested reading seriously.
  • The author Bruce Sterling talks about vernacular video. The video is much longer than your average viral vernacular video. It’s also sardonic and very insightful (via Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing). Maybe it’s interesting to compare this with Howard Rheingold’s thing about vernacular video.
  • Author, blogger and economist Tyler Cowen was a guest on the Metanomics show in Second Life. He’s publishing a new book, The Great Stagnation. It’s available on Kindle and not on bookstore shelves, NiemanJournalismLab talked with Cowen about this publishing strategy. Also interesting is the importance of his blog Marginal Revolution as part of that strategy.
  • PostPost.com is a new way to organize the media shared by your social graph on Facebook. There is of course also FlipBoard but that only works on the iPad and is more like a magazine. PostPost is part of the ‘iPadification of the web’. Another service which comes to mind is Paper.li, but here the difference is PostPost’s more glossy interface and the realtime aspect of the service. Robert Scoble has this video about PostPost:
  • Which reminds me of Stowe Boyd who talks about “liquid email” and the “web of flow“. He says: “Paradoxically, the places with the strongest flow will seem the most calm, because we won’t be jumping from the stream to the browser and back again a hundred times a day: we will stay in the stream: media content will be harvested, and pulled into context for us.”