June 12, 2008 |
Steven Hodson has an excellent post today that talks about the financial divide in technology, something that a lot of the Web 2.0 crowd forgets is even there.
Posts pop up from time to time discussion the Web 2.0 bubble, but it's really a word with a double meaning. One is the reference to the false economy of inflated valuations of companies that don't even have a black pen in their accounting departments, but the other meaning that Hodson refers to is the insulated bubble that protects the Web 2.0 crowd from the realities of the rest of the world.
Silicon Valley has long been driving the bus when it comes to technology. Those of us who live outside the Valley talk about it every once in a while, but are usually stuffed down. Until this year, I had never even been to San Francisco, and it was shocking to me. Not the amazing amount of tech there (virtually every person had a Crackberry or iPhone, texting away), but what appeared to be a vacuum where the middle class should be. You'd see high-end cars parked next to shopping carts belonging to a homeless person, and iPhone owners stepping over people sleeping on the street as they texted. Whether appearances are true or not, the insane number of the latest and greatest gadgets and late model cars was so evident that I wanted to hide my poor little RAZR.
There are entrepreneurs who've never worked for "The Man" building apps for people who can't imagine not working two jobs. They are launching location apps and mobile apps when a lot of people don't have a device to run them on. And while the Valley elite debate whether or not to upgrade last year's $400 phone for this year's model, there are people hoping their hard drive holds out until a tax stimulus comes.
There are many of us who live in a totally different existence. My recent ruminations over the iPhone issue were because this is a phone my husband and I were only going to be able to buy with a gift certificate he won in a contest, and the monthly difference in plans is a straw on a camel already straining. My husband currently has a RAZR that's four years old. Mine is newer, since I was forced to replace my original that my kids dumped in a cup of water. A month's blogging pay went toward that replacement. I don't have the luxury of blogger burnout, because blogging pays the bills, and if I take a mental health break, something's not getting paid. I saved months of pay to afford my MacBook Pro, and it's going to have to last a good number of years for the investment.
When people complain about a Web 2.0 app or service, the response is often "build it yourself." The problem is that most of us in the world can't afford to start up a company, because the jobs that pay the bills take up too much time. There's a luxury in having enough money put away that you can start a company, and a luxury in being able to start one while you keep a day job that doesn't take up too much time and energy on top of family.
I don't pretend to understand the Valley culture or economy. My visit there was less like being in a different city than a different planet, and I've assumed that my reaction was that of a country bumpkin going to the big city of tech. But Steven Hodson is a reminder that I'm not the country bumpkin, and maybe I'm just Jane Average, part of a population that not everyone is thinking about as they are designing apps and anointing them something everyone needs or wants.