A Silicon Valley-Washington DC conversation

Several months ago Andrew Feinberg, founder of the Capitol Valley.net blog, laid down a challenge to me and other tech bloggers: why don’t we ever come to Washington D.C. to get the politicians’ view of the tech industry?

After all, politicians have huge control over our industry.

They can decide things concerning network neutrality, taxation, whether universities get funded so that our industry will have a constant stream of new potential new employees, immigration (one tech-industry CEO recently told me his company is losing its best R&D talent which we educated here, but then are forced to go back home due to immigration laws), wireless bandwidth allocation, and much much more.

These are issues that the “shiny new thing chasers” like me don’t often talk about cause, well, they require doing homework and building partnerships and, well, going to Washington DC. Most of the geeks I hang out with don’t like hanging out with politicians. They would rather watch an hour-long-PowerPoint presentation on some boring enterprise-focused technology than hang out with politicians.

But I saw value in Andrew’s plea. He was right that we need a new conversation about technology and politics, particularly because there will be a regime change in Washington DC in January (even McCain would bring a different approach to the tech industry than Bush had).

So, next week me and the crew from FastCompany.tv is headed to New York for a day to attend the Personal Democracy Forum. Andrew will do some interviews there with me and I’ll be on a panel discussion.

Then on Tuesday we’re headed to Washington DC. Right now we’re tentatively speaking to four congressmen/women including Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the house.

My agenda for the week?

1. Learn about pending or upcoming legislation that will affect the technology industry.
2. Start a dialog between tech journalists and politician’s staffs, so we will have better understanding of what they are thinking and will have a chance to get our audiences feedback on potential legislation.
3. Hear how the regime change (er, Presidential election) will affect what they are thinking and what executives at technology companies should be aware of going into 2009.
4. Listen and bring you into conversations. I hope to do some Qik videos while there, and have some discussions on Twitter and FriendFeed.

Andrew also has us scheduled to interview a few key members of the FCC and we’re still working on our schedules to fit in some other fun stuff.

Plus, on Wednesday night we’re hosting a party which is open to all — wow, 122 are already signed up on the Facebook page for the party. We’re hosting Gary Vaynerchuk, the web superstar behind Wine Library TV and owner of one of the biggest wine stores in the world, along with a few other surprises.

Anyway, I really want to thank Andrew Feinberg. He did all the heavy lifting on this week and it should be an amazing week. He has my deepest respect and can’t wait to see what conversations start.

We’ll publish our calendars as we get them firmed up. Unfortunately in the world of politics even the best planned out calendar can instantly change due to world events, so we probably won’t know for sure we’ll get interviews with specific people until it happens.

Anyway, anything you’d like us to look into while we’re there? Leave suggestions on the comments here.

60 thoughts on “A Silicon Valley-Washington DC conversation

  1. I’ve never hidden my support for Democrats lately. I supported Reagan and Sr. Bush in the 1980s, too, though. Anyway, look at the schedule (just posted) and I don’t see any presidential candidates on it, so this will be interesting. You’ll just have to judge me on my work.

  2. I’ve never hidden my support for Democrats lately. I supported Reagan and Sr. Bush in the 1980s, too, though. Anyway, look at the schedule (just posted) and I don’t see any presidential candidates on it, so this will be interesting. You’ll just have to judge me on my work.

  3. Robert,

    As I’ve said before — which made you block me on Twitter — you need to come clean on this trip. You make it sound as if you are utterly clueless about what politicians are thinking about subjects like “net neutrality” and make it seem as if there is some “disconnect” between Silicon Valley and Washington and tekkies never bother to pay attention.

    Nothing could be sillier nor further from the truth, as Silicon Valley has consistently had a HUGE impact on national politics and issues, not the least of which *is* net neutrality which you all as a concerted lobby have swung your way every time the issue comes up, swaying the FCC even from ceasing to address the underlying issue, *net congestion by a minority of high bandwidth hoggers*. It’s gotten so that you all fakely believe, because of a viral meme-campaign by Cory Doctorow and other copyleftists, that there is some “suppression of free speech” involved in allowing kids to keep downloading giant WoW patches and illegal movies and slow up everybody else’s email. Ridiculous.

    More importantly, I’ve asked you to come clean about which candidate you are supporting. Finally, I notice two days ago you signed up for the “I Support Obama” Facebook group. Of course, that could be for “educational purposes” but I think we can all agree that you, like your Silicon Valley brethren, support Obama. Oh, sure, you can probably find us a CEO of some tech company somewhere that is Republican or for McCain, but please…

    …because here’s where it gets REALLY ridiculous, your theory of the grand “disconnect”. Because Silicon Valley *already owns Obama, and has mainly been the ones to pay for him and account for his stupendous fund-raising success*. Duh?

    The Atlantic has an excellent story on this, which few really seem to have grasped in much of the rest of the country, and even the Twitterati aren’t seeming to admit what’s really the story there — Obama is this year’s hottest start-up, already totally bought and paid for by Silicon Valley:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/obama-finance

    And here’s a good piece in the same issue contemplating the implications for governance of all these $2000 contributions from geeks:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/ambinder-obama

    and I’d put it much, much more critically, given that a) geeks time and again let us know their absolute scorn for representative democracy — you just did that in this piece by talking about “regime change” and b) geeks, as you’ve indicated in this column, aren’t thinking of the interests of the country as a whole, but just the narrow concerns of their industry and what it requires to stay ahead. That means — push net neutrality even by making absurdly fake arguments like “free speech suppression”; that means push the Chinese Olympics and being soft on China just to keep tech market share, and damn the consequences for reforms; that means demonizing Israel for the problems of the Middle East.

    The worst possible consequences of Obama — backed by you all! — coming to power is if you are able to influence him to do all this social media e-governance stuff, and make the real-life country and real-life governance run the way you run your blogs, videocasts, web pages, virtual worlds, and social media platforms — which is with horrible, arbitrary, and capricious policies of “beta-testing” — feting your friends first and making sure only like-minded weld the tools; banning those you hate; culling, filtering, unfriending, blocking, banning…

    That means real-life restrictions of free speech, with culling out of people you don’t like, with favouritism and selectivity to move up a feted inner core you might call the e-lite — tribalistic, narrow-minded, concerned only about the issues of its own industry and flash-mobbing, crowd-sourcing, slashdotting, traffic-camping, Google-bombing to get your way on public issues instead of understanding the need for diversity, pluralism, consensus, respect for people’s votes and for constituencies different than yours. We really have to increasingly ask where the First Amendment is going to really take place when we all live online if you use your Obama vehicle and your fake “netroots” to overthrow real democracy — where?!

  4. Robert,

    As I’ve said before — which made you block me on Twitter — you need to come clean on this trip. You make it sound as if you are utterly clueless about what politicians are thinking about subjects like “net neutrality” and make it seem as if there is some “disconnect” between Silicon Valley and Washington and tekkies never bother to pay attention.

    Nothing could be sillier nor further from the truth, as Silicon Valley has consistently had a HUGE impact on national politics and issues, not the least of which *is* net neutrality which you all as a concerted lobby have swung your way every time the issue comes up, swaying the FCC even from ceasing to address the underlying issue, *net congestion by a minority of high bandwidth hoggers*. It’s gotten so that you all fakely believe, because of a viral meme-campaign by Cory Doctorow and other copyleftists, that there is some “suppression of free speech” involved in allowing kids to keep downloading giant WoW patches and illegal movies and slow up everybody else’s email. Ridiculous.

    More importantly, I’ve asked you to come clean about which candidate you are supporting. Finally, I notice two days ago you signed up for the “I Support Obama” Facebook group. Of course, that could be for “educational purposes” but I think we can all agree that you, like your Silicon Valley brethren, support Obama. Oh, sure, you can probably find us a CEO of some tech company somewhere that is Republican or for McCain, but please…

    …because here’s where it gets REALLY ridiculous, your theory of the grand “disconnect”. Because Silicon Valley *already owns Obama, and has mainly been the ones to pay for him and account for his stupendous fund-raising success*. Duh?

    The Atlantic has an excellent story on this, which few really seem to have grasped in much of the rest of the country, and even the Twitterati aren’t seeming to admit what’s really the story there — Obama is this year’s hottest start-up, already totally bought and paid for by Silicon Valley:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/obama-finance

    And here’s a good piece in the same issue contemplating the implications for governance of all these $2000 contributions from geeks:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/ambinder-obama

    and I’d put it much, much more critically, given that a) geeks time and again let us know their absolute scorn for representative democracy — you just did that in this piece by talking about “regime change” and b) geeks, as you’ve indicated in this column, aren’t thinking of the interests of the country as a whole, but just the narrow concerns of their industry and what it requires to stay ahead. That means — push net neutrality even by making absurdly fake arguments like “free speech suppression”; that means push the Chinese Olympics and being soft on China just to keep tech market share, and damn the consequences for reforms; that means demonizing Israel for the problems of the Middle East.

    The worst possible consequences of Obama — backed by you all! — coming to power is if you are able to influence him to do all this social media e-governance stuff, and make the real-life country and real-life governance run the way you run your blogs, videocasts, web pages, virtual worlds, and social media platforms — which is with horrible, arbitrary, and capricious policies of “beta-testing” — feting your friends first and making sure only like-minded weld the tools; banning those you hate; culling, filtering, unfriending, blocking, banning…

    That means real-life restrictions of free speech, with culling out of people you don’t like, with favouritism and selectivity to move up a feted inner core you might call the e-lite — tribalistic, narrow-minded, concerned only about the issues of its own industry and flash-mobbing, crowd-sourcing, slashdotting, traffic-camping, Google-bombing to get your way on public issues instead of understanding the need for diversity, pluralism, consensus, respect for people’s votes and for constituencies different than yours. We really have to increasingly ask where the First Amendment is going to really take place when we all live online if you use your Obama vehicle and your fake “netroots” to overthrow real democracy — where?!

  5. One last before my flight out to Montana…one question you might want to ask the politicians is why the Chinese Red Army and drive-by contract street hackers find it so easy to penetrate the personal computers of our Congress and Senators…supposedly the “most secure” network in DC.

  6. One last before my flight out to Montana…one question you might want to ask the politicians is why the Chinese Red Army and drive-by contract street hackers find it so easy to penetrate the personal computers of our Congress and Senators…supposedly the “most secure” network in DC.

  7. Robert,
    I still can’t get over that of all weeks for you to be in DC you chose the one when I will be away in Glacier National Park, Montana.
    Justin is correct…there are, I believe, as many startups in the DC area as there are in Silicon Valley. Keep in mind the federal government creates and stores more data than any organization on earth. For example, Westat where my wife works does the statistical work for all those government agencies.
    And there is plenty of creative video work being done (see http://www.metamediausa.com/2006/index2.html where I used to work, for example)
    National Geographic, The Smithsonian, The World Bank, etc. are all doing interesting work in social media.
    Also, biotech is big here due to their need to be close to NIH and FDA (see
    http://www.thehpvtest.com/ which is where I work and we identify HPV before it becomes cervical cancer.
    Anyway…wish I had had a little notice. There are people here I’d love to introduce you to because I think you have mutual interests. The Baltimore/Washington DC/Northern Virginia is one large megalopolis, like Silicon Valley. Hopefully, you’ll visit again when I’m here and I can set you up with some very interesting people.

  8. Robert,
    I still can’t get over that of all weeks for you to be in DC you chose the one when I will be away in Glacier National Park, Montana.
    Justin is correct…there are, I believe, as many startups in the DC area as there are in Silicon Valley. Keep in mind the federal government creates and stores more data than any organization on earth. For example, Westat where my wife works does the statistical work for all those government agencies.
    And there is plenty of creative video work being done (see http://www.metamediausa.com/2006/index2.html where I used to work, for example)
    National Geographic, The Smithsonian, The World Bank, etc. are all doing interesting work in social media.
    Also, biotech is big here due to their need to be close to NIH and FDA (see
    http://www.thehpvtest.com/ which is where I work and we identify HPV before it becomes cervical cancer.
    Anyway…wish I had had a little notice. There are people here I’d love to introduce you to because I think you have mutual interests. The Baltimore/Washington DC/Northern Virginia is one large megalopolis, like Silicon Valley. Hopefully, you’ll visit again when I’m here and I can set you up with some very interesting people.

  9. Robert, I realize that this trip is mainly about digging into tech policy and meeting with folks on the Hill and at the White House.

    Despite popular opinion to the contrary, there is more to DC than just politics. We have a bunch of startups that get quite a bit of attention on the international stage.

    I’d be happy to help make some introductions, if you’re looking to talk to folks.

    Look forward to seeing you at the party on Wed!

  10. Robert, I realize that this trip is mainly about digging into tech policy and meeting with folks on the Hill and at the White House.

    Despite popular opinion to the contrary, there is more to DC than just politics. We have a bunch of startups that get quite a bit of attention on the international stage.

    I’d be happy to help make some introductions, if you’re looking to talk to folks.

    Look forward to seeing you at the party on Wed!

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