Only Old People Believe in a Tech Bubble

At the TechCrunch Disrupt confab the kids think just think, "It's electric!"

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At TechCrunch Disrupt, everyone is surely gossiping about Michael Arrington's tumultuous departure from the blog he founded, but it could prove to be a pretty symbolic turning point for the tech industry. Reporting from San Francisco, Nick Bilton at The New York Times says the conference "sometimes felt more like an episode of 'E! True Hollywood Story' than a high-priced technology gathering," but "gossip quickly moved to a more fruitfully economic discussion: the talk of a technology bubble 2.0." The idea of a bubble is not a new theory, but Bilton makes an interesting point. It's only the old people that are griping about the inevitable end of the good days.

People I spoke with who had experienced the first bubble in the late 1990s were convinced that we should be prepared for a large pop of biblical proportion. … But the newbies to the tech scene saw things a little differently.

John Exley, a 22-year-old marketing coordinator, talked about the state of technology with the effervescence of a lottery winner. "It's electric!" Mr. Exley gleefully proclaimed. "I think we're only in the beginning of what's possible with social and mobile and the start-up scene."

Well, good on John Exley; America could use more enthusiasm, though enthusiasm is the gas that's keeping this tech bubble afloat. Although it's a tiresome exercise to debate whether or not the recent bustle of activity in the tech community resembles a bubble at all--not to mention what the consequences could be if it popped--it seems worthwhile to consider the idea that some people (read: old people) just have a bad attitude about start-up fervor.

In this week's New York magazine, Christopher Beam profiles a few of the fire-stokers in Silicon Valley. Unapologetically, he dubs them the "Bubble Boys" and spends less time talking about the actual bubble than he does the tireless, resilient, and inevitably American excitement that this generation of excited tech stars brings to the table. Beam writes about Feross Aboukhadijeh, the creator of YouTube Instant:

YouTube Instant hasn't changed the world--it hasn't even made money. But its story describes the template for Silicon Valley these days, which may be a bubble, but it hasn't popped yet: If you have an idea for an app, do it now. Throw it up online. Find an audience. Worry about quality later. Best-case scenario, you create the next Facebook. Worst-case, you try again.

For ­Feross, the son of a schoolteacher and a Syrian-born electrical engineer, the forecast is bright, though indistinct. He may become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs; he may not. But while most of the country is in economic darkness, the American Dream is beaming bright in Palo Alto.

Their enthusiasm could be dashed. These are trying economic times we're living through, and it remains to be seen whether or not all of the new startups in Silicon Valley will turn into real businesses. In the meantime, young geeks' good attitudes provide a refreshing dose of optimism to offset the cynicism from the old geeks. And at the very least, watching the startup drama unfold and that enthusiasm turn into drama makes for terrific reality TV.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.