Nestled comfortably amid the crisp-aired, sylvan crags of Colorado's Rocky Mountains, one normally thinks of Boulder as a respite from the rapid-paced day-to-day of modern society.
It's a place of snowboarding, purest tea, meditation, yoga, a fair share of marijuana dispensaries and happy people just glad to be living in the same place many travel to year-round for much-needed vacation.
It may therefore surprise some to learn that the halcyon mountain town known as Boulder, Colorado also boasts a bustling tech community for which it was recently named the Third Techiest City in the U.S., nearly rivaling "Techiest" town San Jose, California where one would find Silicon Valley.
Sporting ever-growing Google and Microsoft campuses, as well as countless tech startups whose goals range from product support to green energy to app development and beyond, it's no wonder iSupportU founder Shaun Oshman decided to plant his tech seeds in Boulder, where his company - specializing in everything from network support to website development, device repair and just about everything else under the sun when it comes to IT - has become a formidable presence in the area's close-knit business community.
We talked with Oshman, who is also CEO of iSupportU, about exactly how the tech community in Boulder is growing, what his visions of the future might be for all things tech, personal feelings about high-profile topics like Apple's Tim Cook, Google's innovations and Facebook as a social tool, and how he manages a prototypical life of tech without spending all his time on a computer or mobile device.
iTechPost: How is it that Boulder has become such an unlikely tech-savvy town over the years?
Oshman: The venture capital community has been in this town for a while and they've done a lot to develop that culture of cultivating startups. Not to mention the outdoor lifestyle. Silicon Valley is pretty saturated with people. There are a lot of amazing companies in Silicon Valley, but it's not the lifestyle that everyone wants necessarily. I think people just want to be in Boulder because they can go hiking and biking so easily. And it's a little more inclusive of a tech culture than what you'd find in the Valley.
i: Why do you think that is?
O: It's strange because you would think as competitors that we wouldn't have a good relationship, but these companies are really open to collaboration. And because it's such a small town - you've only got a population of 100,000 people - you can know pretty quickly who's good and who's not good.
i: What are your feelings about how social media networks like Facebook come into play, especially in such a close-knit community as Boulder?
O: It allows people to have more connections. And each connection is more shallow. Human beings have a capacity of 150-ish connections. Psychologists have known that number for a really long time. It's "Dunbar's number." You have your core of five or six people who would be considered really close friends. Those are the kinds of people you would call if you were in prison. Then it goes to a larger tier like a "friend of a friend"... So the fact that on Facebook people are called "friends," it's a little tricky because they're often not real "friends" in the traditional sense. They're acquaintances. It should be called Acquaintancebook.
i: As a nascent techie, what has your personal experience of Facebook been?
O: I got addicted to it for a period of time. A couple of years where I used it more than I would've liked. I would check it maybe a dozen times a day. Having the app on my phone was bad. I did not have as many deep connections with people I would consider friends as I did before. I made a conscience decision to remove the app from my iPhone and I'm not gonna check it more often than maybe once or twice a day. That's been really, really good for me. More people need to do that because your online persona makes your identity a little blurry, I think.
i: Can you elaborate on difficulties some might have with the Facebook lifestyle?
O: You only see people on Facebook at "their best." Nobody ever posts on Facebook to say, "I'm depressed and I feel really lonely." People only post when it's, "Oh, I'm in the hot tub with three friends sipping wine and it's amazing. I'm so happy about my life." Let's say you're going through a time when you're lonely, you look around at your "friends" on Facebook and you go, "Oh my god, my life sucks." I can see that contributing to depression and all kinds of terrible things. For some people, maybe it doesn't matter.
i: Did cutting back from Facebook affect your company business in a negative way?
O: There was no negative. I'm not necessarily the marketing department. Engaging with people is done primarily through emails and phone calls. It was all positive to cut back on Facebook.
i: Speaking of phones, why do you think it is we've seen some disappointment in the new iPhone 5?
O: Apple as a company, I think, has lost their innovation momentum. And that's really disappointing. I was suspicious whether that would happen or not with the passing of Steve Jobs. And I think that it has happened. I don't think they've released anything groundbreakingly innovative since he's passed. The iPad was the most recent thing they released that was really, truly innovative and that was ages again. They pretty much invented the smartphone, and that was great. The big question is, "What's next?"
i: What are your thoughts on [Apple CEO] Tim Cook's administration?
O: Tim is an operations guy. He's not a visionary. Now they've got an operations guy in the visionary seat and that's not a good thing. The reason Apple was successful was because a visionary was running the place. He might have been crazy and had really high demands, but if it wasn't for him and his visions, that company would not be as big as it is now. Sure, the deployment of the products and sales managed by Tim all went really well, but they haven't filled that creative leader gap. Given enough time, I think they're gonna falter and they're not gonna be on the cutting edge anymore. I'm constantly spending my time untangling iCloud and putting people onto Google-based solutions because Google really has it figured out.
i: Do you feel then we might be seeing Google as the company to be reckoned with more and more in the future?
O: Apple's best at consumer products - laptops, desktops, iPads, iPods. They start looking bad when they go into areas that are not their core competency. Google was born in the Cloud. They were always focused on web architecture and that's the reason why what they've got with Gmail, Android, all of it is solid. These guys have been at the forefront of that technology. Google does use all Apple computers because they have the most stable hardware and the operating system Apple has is very stable.
But, yeah, Google has got it dialed. Microsoft as a company is trying to catch up, too.
i: What is it specifically about Google that has you so excited?
O: This whole Chrome ecosystem that Google has developed? This is where it's going. Chromebooks are amazing. They boot in four seconds, all it is is a Chrome browser, you can install whatever you want on it and it converts to an app ... It's amazing. You can lose it, it's cheap. Companies can deploy a fleet of 200 of these things without having to worry too much about it. And nobody's doing anything close to that.
Really, Google's just gotta kick back and wait until people really understand the power of what they're doing. Then they're good. They're playing the long game and it's going to really work out well for them because they're so far ahead of what people even understand what they need.
i: How much are they paying you to say all of that?
O: This is just observing! They just have the best systems. And they're stable! And it's all about stability. If it's not stable, it sucks. People just joke around about Microsoft instability, but it's true.
i: Considering what Google has been putting together as of late with such things as the forthcoming Google Glass, where do you think we as a society are going when it comes to our interaction with our technology?
O: I think we're kinda at the point of saturation where we're starting to understand how to engage with these things and still remaining human. A lot of it has to do with social rules. Is it okay to check your smartphone at dinner? People are starting to realize it's not okay. We're realizing that having the smartphone in the bedroom is not good because it detracts from whatever intimate time you're having with your partner. We're putting limits on how we allow technology to interfere and control what we're doing when it comes to engaging in social situations.
i: What do you think about the upcoming generations that have never been without this kind of technology, though? Do you think they'll be able to inherit these limitations?
O: Our generation, to a degree, is made up of "digital immigrants." You can tell when someone has an accent and English is not their native tongue. So the people who are being born now are truly "digital natives" because they do have iPhones when they're five-year-olds. That's the New Normal for them. They will have no "accent" when they go out into the world. Until they reach our age because then they'll turn into digital immigrants because the world is going to continue moving along, we're going to create new technology and whoever is used to the older technology will be archaic.
And that's been happening with human beings since the beginning. I don't think that's changing and I just think it's a matter of accepting it and knowing what your limit is. It's going to affect things differently, but not to the detriment of the human race. It's just going to be a change.
Do you know someone in the tech community who would want to speak with us about his or her feelings about, well, the tech community? Feel free to connect with us, or email m.klickstein [@] itechpost.com.
Like what you're reading? Follow @profklickberg.