Wednesday, September 03, 1997

The Alley to Valley Rally - a perspective

WELL, PANGS OF post-rally-partum are setting in. The Alley to Valley Rally is over and I'm back safely in New York and gearing up for projects at work, gossip-columning it, and picking up where I left off with all sorts of things.

The Rally ended on Monday with a party in San Francisco at the Cyberworld Cafe on Folsom Street. Edward Perry, one of the partners, was most hospitable and fed us with some cheesy apps while we sipped coffee and beer (but not at the same time). I had a chance to speak with e-publisher Craig Newmark about his mailing list and the scene in SF. He even filled me in on some parties -- oh! if only there were more time. I also met with Rachel Lehmann-Haupt who freelances for Wired as a scene columnist as well.

Non-cyber surfer biker German friends of Uta Knablein, Justin Greene, and Paul Eisenberg showed up to greet them.

It was hard to believe our trip was over. Starting and ending in two of the nation's most wired cities offered an interesting perspective. I realized how much of a technologic ivory tower I exist in, and how basic connectivity is something I've taken for granted. What is encouraging is that the nooks and crannies of the U.S. are catching up to the Alley and Valley. I thought I would be greeted with scepticism and wariness of technology and "that Internet thing." Instead I was met with genuine interest and knowledge of the Web. Most people had AOL accounts, and billboards dotting the roadsides boasted URLs. Lots of folks were eager to mention their personal Web sites and enjoy talking about what they put up, and people they've chatted with.

And like the growth and (some would say) commercialization of Burning Man, this year URLs were painted on breasts, buses, tents, and banners.

Even sleepy towns in Kansas have college-bound youths creating school library Websites and surfing the net for entertainment.

One thing I learned on this trip is that people crave a sense of community. People generally like to talk about their lives, their interests. It gives us a sense of validation, of purpose, that we exist, that we matter, that someone cares. It helps provide a sense of community. Shared experiences bring people together and help provide a sense of validation and purpose as well. The Web can be a wonderful place to explore a personal sense of community. Communities are being developed online, but people are also coming together offline as well. While there isn't an Internet cafe in each town yet, there are libraries, senior centers, Kinkos', small shops, and schools getting wired slowly and steadily. As this trend continues, people's experiences online will become richer.

Now the air is getting crisper and our worlds show no sign of slowing. I for one am looking forward to continued growth through explorations online and off in Silicon Alley.

(Appeared originally in @The Scene in the @NY newsletter)