"Does this bash make my bubble look big?" Expert advice on extravagant tech parties

PaidContent.org founder Rafat Ali threw an NYC media party last night to celebrate his blog's first investment round. The "guys in nametags making pitches" reminded media pundit Jeff Jarvis of the bashes of the dot-com boom. The Gawker Media overlords were bouncing biz-dev people back and forth like Web 2.0 ping-pong. "All the hookups had the blandness of lesbian sex," said one attendee. "Nobody has any money, so there's no penetration."

Not everyone felt the same queasy deja vu. ZDNet writer Donna Bogatin felt the party was, well, too boring and productive to match those "just-for-fun" free-for-alls of the 90s. (Or Bogatin's learned to network since then.) Valleywag asked expert socialites: What makes a party a sign of the tech bubble? It boils down to the food, the drink, the entertainers, the partiers, and the scene.

The food
Spot On editor Chris Nolan (who welcomes Ali and GigaOM blogger Om Malik to the funded-content-site fold, which Spot On entered a year ago), has attended (and thrown) parties since her days as the Valley's gossip columnist. "You need free sushi," says Nolan, "and lots of it. And not veggie sushi, free raw fish. Made before your eyes by real Japanese guys."

"An entire table devoted to cheese, preferably with a cheese sommelier," says Business 2.0 online editor Owen Thomas, who wrote for the snarkzine Suck during the Bubble.

The drink
"It can't be a 90s bubble party without Absolut," says Dot-com marketer David Parmet. "Could we say Stormhoek is the new Absolut?" With marketing blogger Hugh MacLeod pimping this wine in the Valley through branded prints, blogging, and sponsored geek dinners, Stormhoek is the official drink of the Valley alcoholic.

The entertainers
Everyone agrees, the bands have to be cool. "Ask Jeeves had Elvis Costello," says Nolan. "AMD had Bob Dylan and his son's band, the Wallflowers. RSA had RunDMC. So you need some bought-and-paid-for musical talent. Or someone like Courtney Love, who showed up at TED one year."

Judging by that, the five-year party hasn't even started. "The bubble's on the way back," Nolan says. "But until I see Diana Krall cooing to the Flckr kids, I wouldn't get too excited."

Slate and Wired writer Paul Boutin says, "It's not a bubble-era blowout unless The Who's on first."

The partiers
Who shows up in a bubble party? "Hot chicks," says Thomas. "Specifically, hot chicks there to pick up free drinks and Internet billionaires. God, you're giving me flashbacks, STOP!"

Thomas also cites "the presence of anyone whose business card includes the words 'business development.' More than half the crowd works in public relations. The rest is looking for a new job."

Parmet goes glassy-eyed. "When you see Jeff Daschis of [profligate Internet marketer] Razorfish appear with Kyle and Chan of Agency.com on the balcony, kind of like Gatsby...then it's a bubble."

The scene
In the end, it's all about the memories. "The most over-the-top private party I went to," says Nolan, "was the one Amy and Ted Barnett threw at their house on [San Fran's] Dolores Street. Valet parking in the Mission District. Oyster in champagne shooters and everyone getting stoned in the backyard."

"When I'm using a piece of corporate shwag to funnel candy up my nose," says one tipster, "then the bubble is upon us."

Party like it's 1999: LAUNCH PARTY: Betting on One Big Night [Industry Standard]
Photo: Dance floor laugh [Mr. Wright at Flickr]