Monday, March 10, 2008

And say, children - what does it all mean?

It's always interesting to read about SXSW , go to mixers/events in San Francisco, and listen to the people talk.

And, then go outside and walk around the City, and look at the graffiti that's creeping into my neighborhood, and see the homeless people on the streets.

This came to me last week, when I was walking to Supernova Mixer, and listening to Jeremiah Owyang speak on social networks. As usual, Jeremiah had a great presentation and interesting points.

And, he engaged the audience and had them interact on what people think the future is going to bring, and had good discourse and disagreement: is the Valley too male and old to think of what the kids are doing? How big is mobile going to be? What are the future aspects of social networks going to be? Is it air, as his colleague, Charlene Li says?

And, for us in technology and social media ... this is relatively important stuff. But, it also shows that the digital divide is probably worse in the Valley/Bay Area than other parts of the country when someone in the session says "No one shops at Walmart".

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No, just no one you know ... and you should expand your social universe to find out what real people are doing, or what they are like. An elitist position like that is the big difference between success and failure, IMO.

As we are entering a slow-down in the economy (or correction, or whatever you want to call it), it's a good idea to take a step back and see what the real world is doing, and how it is doing, and how will what we are talking about have a real impact on the real world. And, by the real world, I mean every day people that DO shop at Walmart. Or, the people that are worried about money to the point that they are sharing a meal when they go out to dinner, as I saw last week (and this was a middle-class looking older couple). Yes, I like to go to the mall and watch people - it's my own way to focus group, and see what people are doing / thinking / reacting. Plus, the fact that the mall isn't that busy says a lot also.

Now, we can all have fun in our world discussing the Sarah Lacy / Mark Zuckerberg interview at SXSW ... but it just doesn't matter.

Now, we can all have fun in our world discussing what is going on on Twitter, or what the latest app you gotta have is on TechCrunch, and what is launching and why it might be better than X or Y ... but it just doesn't matter.

What does matter? Well, to the general public, the fact that the Young and the Restless just celebrated its 1000th week win ... that is big news. And, well, as a PR person, I'd love to get a win like that and get a client's product on the show (product placement rocks).

What does matter? The work that people and groups like Beth Kanter, Britt Bravo, TechSoup / Netsquared, Geeks Doing Good, BlogHer (among a lot others) are doing - this is work that might have a larger affect on our world, and is admirable. Heck, even Facebook is pushing people to give blood because of the crisis in the US right now.

What does matter? Well, opening our eyes and seeing what is going on in the world, and not so much in our own bubble. And, no, I'm not talking about the presidential race (because, well, that sure is spun and not real), but the neighborhood or the city you live in.

And why should this matter? If we continue to live in our social media worlds, we might be leading in some technology way, but we are also in danger of missing what is happening in the rest of the world - the real world - that might have more of an affect on our products, our clients, our jobs than we want to admit.

Go outside and watch how real people interact with one another, not just how geeks/techies interact. Learn about how what we do in social media can and should have an impact on the digital divide, and if we are making the world a better place.

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