The Industry of Good Feelings

Google's Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt are on Twitter. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is on Google Plus. And Twitter's Jack Dorsey is on Facebook. 

Isn't that kind of odd?
 
This is one of the things I like best about Silicon Valley: There's an ethos of neighborliness and cross-corporate camaraderie. It's a rare thing. In just about any other industry, competitors are piously abstemious when it comes to one another's products. 
 
Can you imagine the CEO of a car company driving a competitor's vehicle and saying nice things about it? Actually, that sort of happened in 2006. And it was a brouhaha.
 
When Alan Mulally was debuted as the new Ford CEO at a press conference, he quickly found himself under fire for something he had said when he was at Boeing – that the Lexus LS430 he drove was "simply the finest car in the world." 
 
It was a real breath of fresh air in Detroit. But it was minor scandal. And don't expect a repeat anytime soon. Ford's PR staff has since made it known that Mulally now rotates through a selection of Ford vehicles. 
 
By contrast, in the internet/software industry on the West Coast, you get the feeling that people are genuinely happy for one another's triumphs. It's not only reflected in the social media accounts of industry celebrities, it's a vibe you pick up in the coffee houses and brewpubs. What's more, I think the wealth of good feelings is one of the reasons for the tech sector's runaway success. 
 
Yet the spirit I am describing is not universal, and it may be in decline. I worry that the law – particularly intellectual property law – may be playing a role in making Silicon Valley less about hat tipping and more about fist clenching. I'll explain in a follow-up post.

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