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My friend Heather and I were pod (as in cubicle) neighbours at the same agency for 2 1/2 years. The last time we worked together was almost five years ago. However we have managed to keep in touch over the past five years via email on an irregular basis, the occasional phone call and kept up to speed with the happenings in each others lives.
Heather is a classic example of a loose connection within my network.One which would not have been realistically possible without the benefit of email. This network maintenance with people who I have known through different phases of my life is a key example of how the Internet has altered our social fabric and social networks such as LinkedIn, SoFlow and Orkut have tried to codify this process.
The value of this connection to me is very tangible, Heather met me at San Francisco airport, gave me a tour of Silicon Valley and on my one night off, took me to the Sunnyvale town market and custom car show.
Being in a strange place and being able to kick back with a friend who is a local, but at the same time gets where you are coming from was priceless. Being able to find a bar with a proper Irish fry up with black and white pudding makes her even more valuable!
I got to see a more human personal Silicon Valley than some of my peers who dismiss the place as being dull.
Certainly Sunnyvale felt small, but then why wouldn’t it when most of the major employers provide most of lifes requirements on giant campuses and you can buy everything else at the out-of-town Walmart or Target store. Being a European I was reminded of the small town mythology perpertrated in US films like American Grafitti, Back the Future and ET. Having been to Sunnyvale it all made sense.