I had a great conversation with Skimbit the other day, a company wanting to position itself as the leader in “social decision making.” The site is a unique merging of social bookmarking and social shopping. It’s relatively new and needs a little more cash to move forward (wink wink nudge) but I expect strong innovation out of Skimbit in the coming months. What’s especially interesting to me is that, rather than trying to slap the word “social” onto another online community, Skimbit is actually aiming to create a not-so-social community. CEO and founder Alicia Navarro recognizes that the majority of consumers out there aren’t interested in sharing every detail of their lives with strangers. That most people don’t spend the majority of their days online and instead turn to the Internet as a – wait for it – resource for information. I know – shocking!
But seriously folks. Alicia hit on one of my personal bugaboos in the technology world and one that few Valley insiders acknowledge much. Were I to venture onto Digg, Facebook, Delicious or the like and dare to type, “I don’t get it” in the comments, I’d be flamed out of online existence. Yet that is the prevailing sentiment I hear from friends and associates outside Silicon Valley. You should have heard the reaction when I tried to explain Twitter to a stay-at-home-mom with three boys. Sitting at a computer for more than 10 minutes – heck, sitting anywhere – is a luxury for her. Text messaging every action of your day to a Web site – that doesn’t even register.
It can be lonely for a technologist in the burbs. I find myself wishing for a few uber-geek cocktail parties to attend or flashy launches of companies with vowel-less names. But most of the time, I’m enormously grateful to live outside the hub of all things tech. It gives me, and therefore Guidewire, a desperately needed perspective on the viability of companies and products. We’re striving to be Outside Insiders, if you will.
We can create micro-blogging services and social networks for each other till the cows come home. But until we recognize and strive to understand the real computing needs of everyday consumers, we can’t truly effect a change in people’s lives. And isn’t that what technology is supposed to do in the end?