Sunday, January 25, 2009

Final Valley Visits

Thursday was our final day in the Valley. Our day included visits to Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Facebook and a happy hour with Robert Scoble.


At PARC we meet with Ed Chi who is an area manager and research scientist who helps people in understanding how the Internet and social computing systems help groups of people to remember, think and reason. We had a great talk about how systems are developed and the innovations that have occurred at PARC. Ed helped us realize that many inventions are great, but do not serve all people. For instance, most would assume that the iPhone is a great product and would sell all over the world....right? Well in Japan, they would sell close to none because for their culture everything must be accessed with one hand because the other is generally occupied by grabbing onto something (rails on subways for instance). Something as small as that can lead to the success or failure of a product and at PARC they look for ways to eliminate these blunders.

Another interesting part of our talk was about how with the Internet, a small number of people can make a huge difference. When Wikipedia first started, it was 10 people who had raised 1 million dollars to start their website. Their user content generated site has grown to become the fourth most trafficked website in the world. As a college student I can say that my life would be much more difficult without their website. The amount of information on their site is incomprehensible and their site has grown because people can contribute to it whenever they want. How can so few people make such an impact on the world? What is something that you could do to affect so many people? They started with something small, an idea and believed in it. More than their idea though, they believed in the people to make it great and that is was gets me.


For those who don't know what Facebook is, it is a social networking site with over 150 million users online and are currently getting 450,000 new users each day! It was started in 2001 at Harvard University, initially for Harvard students only, by college dropout Mark Zucherberg. Our conversation took place in the conference room that was filled with couches (wish our classrooms were like this). We talked about entrepreneurship, innovation and why we use Facebook.

It was cool to see the work environment at Facebook because it was different from anything we had seen on our trip. There are no cubicles at their offices, just open desks places next to each other and people wandering around the office on skateboards. People show up to work in jeans and t-shirts and nerds are normal in their offices. It was somewhat of an eyeopener even after being at Google.

Robert Scoble

Scoble is a tech geek, blogger and tech evangelist. He gets to go around to all of the tech companies in the valley, see their products months before they are introduced, and writes powerful reviews online. He talked with us about creating an image online along with why he believes certain products are more successful than others. He was an interesting guy to talk with for the short time we had with him.

Thanks to all those who have been following my trip to the valley! I plan on continuing my blog with writeups about all of my interests from technology, health, biking and anything else that crosses my mind. I have some great ideas for my blog from this trip so be aware that there may be some changes happening on my blog. Stay tuned!

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