Does The Web 2.0 Crowd Care About Public Policy Issues?

from the perhaps-more-than-you-think dept

Sean Garrett has a thought-provoking post asking why there doesn't seem to be any "leadership 2.0" on policy issues. His complaint is that most of the folks involved in public policy issues that impact the tech industry are the same folks who were doing public policy issues 10 years ago -- and that it's all coming from the big companies, who mostly have set up offices in DC and keep policy questions away from Silicon Valley. It's an interesting question -- and I tend to agree with Garrett on a lot of things, but I don't see this as much of a worry.

First, Silicon Valley companies historically have never been interested in public policy questions until they reach a certain size. That's why you always hear stories about tech companies reacting late to policy issues and then having to ramp up their lobbying efforts. So this doesn't seem any different than it's been in the past. When companies are in high growth mode, there are only so many things they can worry about, and most of them are focused on growth, not government. If anything, while there are downsides to this, I tend to think this is one of the advantages of Silicon Valley. Once you have young companies looking at policy questions, inevitably, they start focusing on how policy can be twisted to their advantage -- and that's not helpful to anyone.

Second, I partially disagree with the premise. While it may be true that among the web 2.0 San Francisco party crowd you don't see much interest in public policy issues, from my standpoint, it seems like technology-interested folks are much more in tune with public policy issues than a decade ago. You hear more people today who understand various public policy issues than in the past, and there's been a rapid growth of policy-focused blogs, often from young technology-focused individuals. So, while it may be true that the latest generation of Y-Combinator founders are more interested in the next party or getting coverage on hot blogs, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of folks paying attention to what happens in DC -- and when things get troublesome, they have no problem raising the alarm in a way that gets noticed.

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  • identicon
    Nicolas Jondet, 23 May 2008 @ 11:43am

    In France, they do, they even have a trade association

    Last December, AOL, Dailymotion, Google, PriceMinister and Yahoo founded the ASIC to promote the interests of Web 2.0 companies. The trade group, later joined by Microsoft, Yahoo and Wikimedia, has been very active in fighting the French Government projects to introduce "three strikes and you're out" legislation and an internet tax to finance public television.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mike (profile), 23 May 2008 @ 3:05pm

    and then again...

    Perhaps the low number of comments on this post speaks volumes about the interest people have in public policy in general. :)

    People seem interested in specific things that they think effects them. Policy issues, in general, sound boring.

    Sean, I think "public policy" needs a new brand campaign.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sean garrett, 23 May 2008 @ 6:44pm

    that branding campaign

    public policy ---> Ultimate Lawmaking!

    public policy ---> Twitter, but with mouths, handshakes, paper and stuff

    am I getting closer?

    and, actually, not all my questions posed in my post were rhetorical. I do agree that "the kids these days" are more savvy about issues than ever before, too.

    but, does it matter that no one in the last seven years or so has emerged as a policy torch bearer from the Web 2.0 crowd? Or is merely a symptom of the distributedness of the culture?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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