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More Silicon Valley Mythology

Posted by: Rob Hof on August 05, 2007

I don’t blame Gary Rivlin at the New York Times for writing an article that’s true as far as it goes, showing how people who would look wealthy anywhere else still work like dogs here in Silicon Valley to make even more money. (Though I would think New Yorkers could well understand why people with million-dollar net worth in a place where starter homes can cost $1 million wouldn’t feel rich.) Likewise, I can understand Dave Winer for being so weary or disgusted with the attitude of some people here that he moved to Berkeley instead.

But I get a little weary myself of me, my friends, and my home having to carry the baggage of carpetbaggers who come here to get rich, and of people who assume everyone here is just out for the bucks. In Dave’s words:

I left because, even though its climate is ideal, the place lacks heart, the patient is dead, there is no pulse. A friend from New Orleans said it well. “It doesn’t feel homey.”

You might as well live somewhere else and create, the network effect of being in the valley is negative. At least it was when I left, in 2003. It seems from the Times article that it’s getting worse. It’s great to see people on the east coast getting the message. Don’t live in the shadow of this place. There’s nothing there but people trying to make money, without a good idea why.


Maybe Dave’s right about SILICON VALLEY, the mythological place. But the real place does have a soul. You just have to look and listen, and stick around for awhile. It’s not in Web 2.0 hangout Coupa Cafe or the Apple stores, or the in crowd at Buck’s, and certainly not in the hearts of people in the Times article who work seemingly just to keep up with the Jobses. It’s in the Obon festival at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple, which carries decades of charming tradition for community involvement (and great food). It’s in the dozen or more farmer’s markets where neighbors gather like people have for millennia around the world. It’s in the relationships of people who have set down roots here because, well, it’s home, not a cash register.

I agree with Dave that the atmosphere here can sometimes get insufferable. Maybe more all the time. But it’s also good to remember that one of the paradoxical reasons the place endures is because not everybody is here just to make a fast buck.

(Photo by Matthias Zeller)

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Reader Comments

Mike Masnick

August 6, 2007 04:19 AM

I think it's all in what each individual gets out of it. Last night, I went to a wonderful dinner at a friend's house, with fantastic home made Indian food, and about 25 friends. And, while there were certainly some techies in the crowd, what I was realizing was how little the dinner conversation had to do with what typical a-list blog talk is about. It was just a bunch of friends getting together. Some of the group have been successful, some not, but many of us have known each other for over a decade and the question of getting richer doesn't seem to be the key of anyone's focus. Most of us enjoy what we do, but the reason I love living in Silicon Valley isn't for the opportunity to get rich. It's because I can get together with this group of people every so often, enjoy a great meal, swap stories and have fun.

So, sure, there may be some people in this area (perhaps more than in other areas) who are focused on getting more and more money, but it's ridiculous to lump the entire Valley into that category.

Even though I certainly know a few people who are around solely to get rich, it's pretty easy to avoid them. They don't make very good company anyway.


August 8, 2007 03:01 AM

You forgot to mention the annual Los Altos pet parade :) Quite cultural, maybe if you wrote for cat fancy magazine. I grew up in "the valley" and my dad grew up in Los Altos in the 50s, when it was more orchards than $4 mil houses on 50ft lots. The area has changed, but many of the people haven't. There are still plenty of us who live here to be close to the waves, slopes and sun, even if it's just to balance out how hard we work to stay here. My parents can be spotted at Bucks, but I know it's because my dad like the potato skins after a long horseback ride. :)

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