Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why the mystery behind geeks is gone (and why SXSW-like conferences are nonsense)

After having borrowed some good news practices from mainstream media, professional bloggers have said 'enough' and have now returned to the old heavy-duty navel gazing again. They know they can't make money by writing about the problems with this world.

The world faces an economic slowdown - stock markets are tanking, joblessness looms, enough has been said about the home loan debacle and even the sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet has said that these are troubling times.

This doesn't trouble the Silicon Valley (one of the twin Capitals of the Blogosphere), which is obsessed about silly conferences where some of their own are worshipped like Gods and if a reporter tries to ask probing questions, the audience gets tough with her.

In this post-industrial, pre-nuclear, knowledge world, we are creating more Gods than ever before. Conferences like SXSW are temples where geeky pastors preach to the converted and then the converted fan out the message through their blogs and Twitter accounts, singing paens in praise of this person or other.

Some blame it on Google. An entire industry of blogs has formed up around covering these geeks and their love life. They are also saying that the Valley Entrepreneur geeks of today are more obsessed with becoming famous that they are falling extremely short of bringing 'revolutionary' changes in the marketplace with their startups.

'Revolution', 'Different' - these were the calling cards for geeks. But, geeks are no more the 'cool' people they used to be before. The mystery is gone. Besides all those silly Facebook profiles, movies from Judd Apatow have also the done the damage.

No longer the lonely kid coding away (or, playing with Light Sabres) in mama's basement, now we know that geeks are normal people just like us - with maybe stranger fetishes. Now we know that the geeks have only read more computer programming and designing books than the rest of us.

Where is the mystery? The average geek (or nerd, of you will) is just as mad for money, girls and recognition as the rest of us. Only the order of these three crucial things may vary.

Result: Kevin Rose of Digg is content letting Digg be a mere niche news player, allowing the cabals a free run on the site. I rarely use Digg anymore. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook boldly shirks away from hard questions from users and reporters, comforted by the cushion of a vociferous bunch of bloggers, API developers, consultants, all of whom have a stake in the growing hype around Facebook.

In the valley itself, there is a gulf. A cousin of mine, who lives in San Francisco, says he has never heard about these bloggers and New Media moguls that I say live and work in his city. When I probe more, he enquires about any web 2.0 startup for helping people who have taken home loans beyond their means, for whom foreclosure is a sure thing.

It used to be that earlier, the news media - TV and the big papers were the ones who held big functions awarding anyone they were pleased with (and who pleased them in return).

In this age of blogging, a new generation of incestuous, self-congratulatory range of events has sprung up, churning up large amounts of link love, which I think is the only reason for these events' success.

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