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Convention Follow-up

Dawn’s in trouble.  Jim blew up some internet yesterday. Must be Tuesday.

Some follow-up thoughts to my post about conventions and membership comp policies.

I screwed up. I wrote that post in part to sort out my own feelings about what was and wasn’t fair before contacting Penguicon about scheduling and money issues. However, I ignored the fact that this is the internet, and of course my post would get back to the Penguicon staff, who would likely feel a bit blind-sided and attacked. It’s not like this is my first time online, and I should have contacted them privately before blogging about that aspect. Mea culpa, and I apologize to the folks at Penguicon.

Two links that came out of yesterday’s discussion:

My thanks to everyone who participated in the conversation. That’s one of the things I love about blogging — I hear different sides of an argument, and get a better understanding of various perspectives, whether I agree with them all or not. A number of factors seem to come into play with reimbursement policies, including the size of the con, the age of the con (startup cons may not have the budget to cover memberships), the location (U.S. and non-U.S. cons seem to have different attitudes … perhaps related to size), and the type of con (relaxacon vs. Big Media Con vs. professional-oriented vs. fan-oriented, and so on.)

The one thing I keep coming back to is the importance of communication. In many of the stories of program participants getting angry over convention policies, one of the biggest problems was people didn’t know they were expected to pay for membership until much later, sometimes when they showed up at the convention. A con has the right to make whatever policies they choose, but I think it’s very important to make sure everyone’s aware of those policies up front so that the participants can decide whether or not it’s worth their time to attend.

Ideally, it seems like it would be helpful for the initial communication between con and participants to include the following:

  • Is this an invitation to be a participant, or just a poll who might want to do programming? (There was discussion and disagreement on what constituted an official invitation to participate at a con.)
  • What is the reimbursement policy for participants?
  • In the case of something like Penguicon, with different tiers of participants, what exactly would the arrangement be for this guest? (Turns out I’m a “nifty” guest, meaning I wouldn’t have to pay the $25 … but I didn’t find that out until yesterday.)

Finally, it occurs to me that it’s easy for me to sit back and tell the con staff what they should do. However, while I feel that these are all valid points and worth discussing, it’s also important to remember that the con staff are volunteers, and they work their asses off. As someone who enjoys the con experience, I want to thank everyone who chips in to make them happen.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 22nd, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
Well, if nothing else, it's only a small corner of the Internets that was affected, and the damage didn't ripple much beyond it. Just remember, as long as you don't see a pic of you on Fox News or CNN (or the Drudge Report), it isn't that bad.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, can you imagine the publicity I'd get from a blow-up big enough to hit Fox or CNN? Hm...
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
To hit Fox News, you'd probably have to blow something up IRL.

Or you say something that can be twisted into being so utterly anti-American you end up on Glenn Beck.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
That implies that there is anything you can say that Glenn Beck can't twist into something anti-American.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'm ahead of most politicians!

Hm. Meeting that particular standard isn't as satisfying as one might have expected...
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
Probably not this year, I'm afraid.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 03:07 pm (UTC)
That means that if you go, I'll have two people to experience GenCon vicariously with: you and my brother-in-law. (He can usually be found running one of the Pathfinder games.)
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
Well, I typically hit him up for information about the con after he gets back; he and his gaming group usually leave Louisville at 4 AM on Thursday to arrive in time for check-in. Since I'll know two people there, that always works.

What usually keeps me back is the cost involved. Okay, that and that I couldn't really justify in other years taking the kids. Although Sunday is typically 'family day', and the kids are old enough to play Talisman and Star Wars Risk...
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, me too. I don't regret the conversation at all, just the timing on that particular aspect.

I wasn't sure how many people would catch the Buffy ref, but I have confidence in the geekiness of my friends :-)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC)
Given my username, you have to expect that I got it.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
It definitely gave me a giggle. And made me want to invest in the DVDs so I can rewatch...
Mar. 22nd, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
Jim, I thought the issues you raised were fair and sensible. But, as you say, the internet...
Communication is key, definitely, but there is also sometimes a question of how things are communicated. I'm Ms Meek online (mostly), but in my Green Room mode, I've been known to tear strips off committee members and other heads of sections over this. In public. It's not one of the more attractive sides of me, alas. Because a con is a big thing with many competing special interests and it's important that that is remembered, along with, as you mention, the fact that the concom and staff are volunteers who are paying for memberships, travel, accommodation and so on.
You are always welcome in my Green Rooms. We will make you extra tea.

Edited at 2011-03-22 03:18 pm (UTC)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Though - and I don't know if I should admit this to you - I don't really drink tea. But if you've got a diet Cherry Coke, I'll be your bestest friend all weekend ;-)

I do agree with you that there are times you have to confront people and issues, and that "politeness" isn't necessarily a priority. But I also wanted to acknowledge that in this case, I think I should have handled things a little differently.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
We can probably find some diet cherry coke, just for you.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, but are you still doing 8 panels?
Mar. 22nd, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
I e-mailed this morning and offered to do up to six. Waiting to hear back.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
Dude. Still crazy :-)
Mar. 23rd, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
When I do cons I pretty much want the program staffers to fit me in as many panels as possible. Just as long as I have break time every now and again. (So don't have 4 back to back panels.) I've had up to 14 panels at one con. I joke about it... but I'm loving it all the time.
Mar. 23rd, 2011 02:14 pm (UTC)
Does that include a reading and a signing?
Mar. 22nd, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
I should do a post on this from all the things I learned from FOGcon. I wonder if there are other pro writers who've also run cons, or if I have a unique perspective.

I think one of the main distinctions is: is the con run for-profit, or as a non-profit? I think those are extremely different situations.
Mar. 22nd, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
"I should do a post on this from all the things I learned from FOGcon."

I support this idea! If you do, let me know so I can link to it? (You're on my flist, but I sometimes miss things.)

I have no idea on the profit/non-profit. It's not even something I would have considered ... which I think reinforces that you have a good perspective to write that post ;-)
Mar. 22nd, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
As someone who is occasionally staff, thanks. It often feels like we're paying more money to spend more time working and less time playing (vs, say, gophers), for little in the way of kudos.

The only reason to do it is (as I see it) affection for the convention and the people attending.
Mar. 23rd, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)

For what it's worth (and as an interested member of Penguicon) I saw little in the way of "damage". We are sorry that the issue came up to start with, but I feel that several things came of your post:

  • A glaring hole in our internal communication was brought to light, in that what used to be common knowledge (number of panels, for example) was lost and no longer communicated.
  • A more minor hole in our external communication was found, in that answering questions in the FAQ might not be sufficient (although, we're still batting around what might *be* sufficient).
  • Concerns about children at con were brought up (and more importantly, there's a chance that an interested volunteer might leap in to help form a solution of sorts).
  • A generally well spirited discussion was had in an Internet forum with a relative minimum of name calling, teeth gnashing, and hair pulling (an amazing feat of Internet strength which I think warrants you a +2 to Internet Custodianship or something)

I'm glad things are settled/settling and that we had the discussion. Also, we greatly appreciate both your apology and thanks. Both are very nice to hear. :)

(edited for formatting and a typo)

Edited at 2011-03-23 12:46 am (UTC)
Mar. 23rd, 2011 04:24 am (UTC)
I don't want this to be construed as speaking in an official capacity. It's just my opinion.

During the time I have been contributing to Penguicon, I have defined "over-scheduling" as scheduling a presenter for a panel they would not have attended as an audience member raising their hand. By this definition, even one panel can be overscheduling.

This is particularly true if they're only going to a panel to "work" in order to get comped. Those panels, no matter which convention they are at, are usually boring. The non-comping policy is intended to prevent the perception of a transaction, in the hope that panelists will complain and ask to be taken off panels they are not excited about. That's the win condition.

But, every year, there is usually a lack of communication on the part of either a literature track head, or some of the presenters, about both compensation for, and interest in, panels. No amount of detailed policies and explanations on our FAQ page and wiki is going to stop a lack of communication.

The bottom line is that a happy and excited convention is a convention as free as possible of tit-for-tat transactions and the resulting boring obligations. All the concom and board of directors pay because we are only doing it out of love for the con. If we got comped, we would do the grudging minimum necessary to get comped, and the quality of our work would suffer. I've seen it happen at other cons.

Your newly-discovered free admission will not put a pep in your step as you drag your weary body and bored mind to your umpteenth panel. Such a large number of panels is just a bad idea, and I am encouraged that you prompted a discussion. I don't want to see a bleary, tattered, low blood sugar Jim Hines limping about the function space any more than you do!
Mar. 23rd, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
The problem with "in the hope that panelists will complain and ask to be taken off panels they are not excited about" is that many are too polite to say so and will stay on the panel.

The programmer has to be aware of the boring the panelist factor in making the initial choice.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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