Digerati as media brand: Why Silicon Valley sometimes resembles a reality TV show–or WWE wrestling

As I was working away yesterday, half ignoring the banter on twitter, someone breathlessly reported “Scoble is going to a meet with Arrington!” 

Not
Robert is going to see Mike, not Mike and Scoble are getting together,
but Scoble and Arrington were having a meet, sometime more in the tenor
of the NJ Soprano crime family getting together with the guys from NY. 

Reading
this breathless prose, not only did it strike me that this fella
probably had only the most passing acquaintance with Robert and Mike,
but that thrill of seeing these two larger than life personalities–
21,955 people follow Scoble on
Twitter, 22,935 follow Calcanis, and 15,646  follow Mike–was both
hugely entertaining and made him feel in the know.

It was a
short path from that observation to this one–that the Valley’s most
pugnacious, prolific and promoted entrepreneurs were all—to a man–in
the business of driving page views.

 I mean, take a step back and think about it–what do Mike Arrington and Robert Scoble create? Uh, media. And Calcanis and Winer?

 Aren’t those supremely well-handled personal brands? Ones that drive reputation AND traffic?

You see, on the Internet today, it’s possible to play vicarious thrill reality TV to the max. 

You
might be a little code mouse who’d choke if he had to say hi to Scoble
(and be speechless with Mike), but the transparency of our social media
tools allow you to get a fairly complete vicarious thrill.

Even if you’re not at the TechCrunch IronMan afterparty,
or the “meet” between Scoble and Mike, you can follow these
well-documented activities, feel in the know, and imagine you’re part
of the in-crowd.
 
Only this is, that perspective is bullshit, as authentic as the hi-jinks of the WWE stars of the mid 90s–Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and so on–only now the story is refitted for a more adult crowd (those same kids, all grown up).

On
a certain level, in their Internet personas, Mike and Dave and Jason
and a bunch of the fellas are expert at playing to the crowd, even more
than any of the female wanna-bes in  their wake (yes, we have those,
too.)

Yep, there’s a section of Silicon Valley that’s just one
step to the left of reality TV, with personas as bright and shiny and
one sided as those of any wrestlers of yore. That’s where the media
folk live, the bright shiny page-view drivers, along with the party
people, the marketers and the babes (male and femail) inside the bubble.

But
then, there’s the rest of the Valley–less public, less pretty–where
real stuff is getting made, people are too busy to be out every night,
and innovation solves problems.

Are these two worlds incompatible? No.  But only one of them is a virtual reality show.
And while it’s super-entertaining, if you’re watching it, enjoy– but just don’t think that is all there is.