Last night, I went to megablogger Mike Arrington's Techcrunch party, akin to an open house for nerds, if one can imagine such a locale on tony Atherton's main drag, with free food, drinks, and a TV screen for blasting demos of new products. Instead of paying cash, people brought their new ideas. Everyone I met -- and there were well over 100 people, mostly young and mostly male (like a motorcycle racing meet) -- had a new widget, software program, blog, venture fund, or like Michelle Shutzer of Compumentor's TechSoup division, a new event. I didn't meet a single hardware person or anyone who didn't seem less than enthused and empowered by the oncoming tsunami of the next tech wave. Lots of the young people (like Ramie) looked far older than they were, and lots of the older folk (Gabe) looked far younger. Do software developers reverse age?
After a few demos of software that were too beta for my taste (Raines Cohen and I agreed on the ride home that it reminded us of the early days of BMUG, the Berkeley Macintosh Users Group, meetings), chief wavemaker, Dave Winer, gave a short speech in the tiki-torchlit backyard. He commented on the spirit of openness and sharing that seem to mark so many of the startups, and despite a catcall from Marc Canter, who with wife Lisa, was garbed in full Venetian carnival regalia and who challenged Winer's revenue model, the crowd embraced Winer's remarks and seemed loath to let him finish speaking. I got the feeling he serves as a rudder in this almost overwhelming wave of creativity swelling in the young and talented of Silicon Valley. They want direction, and he's giving it to them, ever so gently.
I'm not a Shakespeare aficionado, but the Techcrunch scene reminded me of the bard's depiction of an imminent transition between kings and their empires. All is poised for the next ride or a wipe out.