2012 will see the Web 2.0 Summit, that small conference that Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle expertly established to become a kind an annual bellweather of where tech was going. Even as much as Sarah Lacy laments its passing, for some reason, try as I might to cry, as much as I am trying to muster some reason to be sad – I’m not. And it’s for a set of personal, self-serving reasons that speak to a racial divide in some areas of tech, and that I think is slowly fading away because the next generation is thankfully not as stupid as the one before it, and the one before that.
See, Tim O’Reilly and his team made a habit for a time of rejecting my request to cover his event, and for a set of reasons that amounted to “We don’t take you seriously as a blogger.” So, my response, which I’ve blogged before, was essentially “heck with you, too.”
Since then, and as I approach 50, with the curse of looking a lot younger, I’ve realized that all of what’s done in tech, as is true in other walks of life, is tribal, And the fact is, even how we consume our media has become, for all practical purposes, tribal.
I’m not a tribal guy. At Skyline High School, I floated between what others called The Nerd At Building 20, The Athlete’s Lunch Table, and The RA-RA Yearbook Staff, and did so with ease. Before that, I helped start Bret Harte Junior High’s first Star Trek Club. Point is, if you stop and really put your thinking cap on, I wasn’t a black guy who’s world was between the Black Student Union, and all-black friends.
So, as a guy who’s like that, I’ve grown to become more than impatient with anyone who’s friendship base is not diverse and who fails to reach beyond their own tribe. That was the problem I had with the managers, not just of Web 2.0, but people involved in tech, especially in the Bay Area. And if you think about it, Web 2.0 Summit, and the Web 2.0 Expo neatly fit into that World of geek culture, too.
But I’m happy to report, that’s changing. I think it has a ton to do with generational change and the much-waited-for mainstreaming of blacks into geek culture. I can say I’m not the only black person anywhere, at any tech or geek conference. I don’t think anyone outside of me has any idea how happy I am that that’s the case.
(MC Hammer’s a friend of mine, and I know he agrees with this. I mention him because some of the white – and some Asian – tech people I am thinking about have taken up the habit of running to black rappers and getting them to attend tech conferences, and perform, yet bitching about the ‘Zennie Abrahams’ of the World. Not a lot of folks like me.)
It means the era of black geeks being accused of being “white” is over. It means a lot – like perhaps having a Web 2.0 Summit-type conference that has some black faces in it, because they run in a the same “multi-tribe’ circles that I do, and that Michael Arrington should. (Because if he did, he would not have said he didn’t know any black entrepreneurs.)
So that’s why I’m not crying over the “vacation” the Web 2.0 Summit is taking. I think, in a way, it is a signal that the cold, hard, almost racist tribal ways are giving way to a more diverse, less tribal, and truly more innovative platform of social mixing – the first, best way to understand what’s happening in our World is to make sure your inclusive of everyone in it.