Back in February of 2006, when nextNY started, there weren't a lot of social events going on in the NY Tech scene. Now, it seems like there's a party going on every other day--and not parties for specific user groups or industries, where the chances of you making a connection to someone relevant are pretty good--just these big generalized "tech community" parties with sponsors no one really cares about.
It's fun if most of your friends are tech and digital media folks, but mine aren't. I grew up here in NYC and was a finance guy long before I was a tech guy--not that all my friends are finance people either. My best friends work in publishing, law, and television production.
That's not to say I haven't made really good friends in the tech community. I have, but I don't only see them at "industry" events. I try to see the people in the tech community that I'm actually friends with in smaller settings like at the Shake Shack or for 1:1 lunches. I play on sports teams with them and invite them to go out with me and my non-tech friends.
So when I bounce from these bigger, generalized, noisy parties early, it's often because there's someone I know for years, maybe since junior high, waiting somewhere for coffee--or I just have a ton of work to do and can't go out every night if I ever expect to see my parents and other family.
I think because I don't necessarily take part in the "scene" as much as others, I get a little bit of a reputation of being standoffish, or not sociable. In actuality, I'm very social--just not necessarily with 300 random strangers who also have websites.
Sometimes, I think that people think this is what is meant by "participation" when entrepreneurs out looking for money or deals for their startups attend these parties. I don't know about you, but I never quite feel like these big things are my community and I always wind up hanging out with the same people anyway.
I think entrepreneurs are better off spending as much 1:1 time with people who's opinions they respect and admire, who actually know their space a bit, and also creating communities around them. No matter what the industry or interest, there's a smaller community of people that you should be gathering together to leverage and exchange ideas.
Hey, if you wanna drink on someone else's tab, these big parties are great... but don't mistake them for or let them replace the more authentic, true relationship (and dare I say friendship) building that needs to be part of your networking.