We went in to SMOFcon with minimal responsibilities: Organize the distillery tour for Thursday, turn over excess WFC 2009 supplies still in our hands to SMOFcon.
Both went well. We had 15 tour participants, spent 3 hours at the distillery, and had a great time. Several cases of supplies were turned over to SMOFcon hospitality.
The rest of the weekend?
Thursday night we met up with a bunch of folks in hospitality.
On Friday we hung out with folks in hospitality, mostly. We peeked in at the "Bid Boot Camp" mega-panel. The notes on the board for the portion we missed were interesting, but the discussion going on when we went in was a bit odd. People were arguing that if you didn't sell pre-supports/memberships during your party, you weren't getting anything out of it. Yeah. Not so much. We also went over to Singlebarrel (on the back side of the block) for a cocktail; between 5pm and 6pm you can get a Ramos Gin Fizz there (we did, they were fantastic).
Friday night was the "Open Space Programming Mixer" (though we referred to it as "Open Source Programming Mixer"). The idea was to generate the convention's program during the mixer, but it was logistically challenged. The major pitfalls were:
- One program track should have been scheduled in advance, because all open-source resulted in no prep time and no program to promote the convention on
- Idea forms should have been available all day; the rush to write down forms made my (and others') penmanship worse than usual (online advance submissions would have been cool too)
- The program team should have sorted and grouped similar panel ideas before the "vote" to make it easier on voters and on the team themselves during collation/counting
- Titles, descriptions and participants should have been listed on the "pocket program"
- there should have been a participants roster where people could see if they were scheduled to present and when
Saturday morning I skipped out (more on this elsewhere). Saturday afternoon programming wasn't that interesting to me, so we hung out in hospitality more, and went back to Singlebarrel again for cocktails at 5. Afterward, we went to Maceio Brazilian Steakhouse for meat on swords, and were only an hour late for the Fannish Inquisition. FI is where Worldcons and Worldcon bids present in-person progress reports and answer questions. Some questions were great, some questions were pointless, some were repeats. Consuite was a blast after.
Sunday morning I had a 10am panel with Laurie Mann on using social media in your convention, it was well-attended (and live-tweeted). The 11am "Reno Open Committee Meeting" was less of a committee meeting and more of an extension of the Fannish Inquisition. There was little useful to me there, but since I'm on the committee I went.
We checked out of the hotel and checked luggage, and then did our 3pm party panel with Marah Searle-Kovacevic, Sandra Childress, Gary Blog and Sharon Sbarsky. It started out with more panelists than audience, but quickly collected people. All in all, it went well and we covered a lot of ground.
The post-mortem was at 4pm, we stayed for a bit, got sick of people making the same complaints about open-source programming and went home. We didn't stay for the dead dog party, because in many ways the whole convention was a dead dog party from the moment people walked in the door.
I'm not going to go out of my way to go back to SMOFcon, but if it's close again, I would enjoy attending.
We spent a year
in purgatory on the Baycon 25 (and Westercon 60, yes, the year of two cons) staff. It's disappointing to see what's gone down, but not surprising.
For my Baycon staff peeps who left:
You're going to hear a lot of "this happened before." You're going to hear a lot of "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
This has happened before, and over the same issues. Leaving, though, isn't the insane choice. Banging your head against the wall over and over when problems aren't fixed over and over is the insane choice.
I don't blame any of you for deciding that reassurances things would be fixed weren't reassuring enough. There comes a time when only results are reassuring enough.
Don't let this ruin your fun. Go to the con. Don't go to fiddle while Rome burns. Don't go to show off your "Not my con, monkeyboy" button. Go to spend time with your friends, some who are still on committee, some who aren't on committee, some who never were on committee. You'll be surprised.
For my Baycon staff peeps who stayed:
Robert has it right. You've got 4 months to rebuild the departments that left and put together a con.
That said, don't lose track of the message that the folks who left gave y'all. You've worked with them for many years. They aren't a bunch of malcontents and drama queens. There are problems inside Baycon, and ignoring them doesn't help anybody.
For the Artistic Solutions Board:
You blew it. Big time.
You lost the trust and support of over a dozen key people, people who have done great work for Baycon, people who have dedicated years of their lives to make Baycon a great event.
You can focus on the drama. You can focus on the tone. You can rail against communications failures. You can blame people for not being patient enough. It doesn't matter.
Suck it up. You lost the trust and support of many senior staffers. You lost it over some piddly paperwork.
This has happened before. It's Baycon's cycle. The board has to step up and break the cycle unless you want this to happen again in another 5 years.
Artistic Solutions has to acknowledge its mistakes. It has to correct those mistakes. It has to show how those mistakes will be avoided in the future. It has to, on a regular basis, show the remaining committee members that business is being attended to.
It has to rebuild trust with Baycon's staff and volunteers. Without that trust, Baycon's attendees are going to stop trusting in the event too, and that's the end.
Oh, and see if you can do this without all the bitterness and recriminations that followed previous walk-outs.
It's hard to write a WFC report without sounding like I'm dropping a lot of names, but then again, it's WFC. Well, there's also "running hospitality" so dropping names is all I've got left.
Jetse de Vries is a total blast. Jim Minz and I got some time to sit down, drink chipotle vodka, and tell stories from back when we were both total nobodies. Drinking with Jeremy Lassen may be good for the soul, but it's not good for the liver. Jeff and Ann Vandermeer are a total runaway train, you never know where things are going to end up with them. Garth Nix is just incredibly nice and fun to talk with. Nora Jemisin... kind of like Minz, I knew her (online) before she was published and we had a nice time chatting about the old days. I don't think Tempest Bradford's brain ever stops running, or even slows down for that matter. Victoria Blake isn't nearly cynical enough to be in publishing, but it looks like she's going to succeed at it in the long term. Neil Clarke is just amazing. Liz Gorinsky is really cool.
The rest is a blur.
Wednesday we moved in the stuff at our house. 4 car-loads, I believe.
Thursday we decorated and opened. Yvette and I did the "perishables" run. Costco came through with our business delivery, barely on-time. Spike and one of her friends did our first ice run. We provided support and space for the Vandermeers' most excellent party.
Friday we opened again. Well, Rich, Spike and Yvette opened (this was the pattern). There was a slight miscommunication on when lunch should come out and when breakfast should end, but that was solved for the next day. I did a giant Costco restock run; it's a miracle the car survived.
Saturday we opened again. I did the BevMo run for Amontillado, and Edgar's birthday cake was delivered.
Sunday we opened again. Coffee was a bit late because we ran out and had to get more at Safeway. We didn't close at 1:00, but started taking down and packing decorations. K picked up the Rug Doctor to do the carpets, and we did our second room. Around 5:00pm we brought out all the left-overs and dead dog party started.
Monday morning (after way too little sleep) we cleared out the suite and did the rest of the carpets. Moved out all of hospitality, only 2 car-loads going out.
Big thanks to:
- Cindy, for keeping track of our dollars; come Friday morning I knew I had to trust the receipts and not my personal spreadsheet
- Aaron, for getting the logistics runs that we really needed done done.
- Ann and Jeff Vandermeer and their crew (Victoria and Neil particularly), for keeping the ideas flowing and inspiring us to take the theme places we never expected
- Rich, for sound advice, even when in some cases we knew already because it helped us adjust our priorities, and for getting up every morning to open things
- LaMont, for always being there, and taking the job he was worried he wasn't experienced enough for
- Radar and Lisa H, for all the help moving in, and all the help keeping things going
- Spike, for repeatedly coming up with process improvements that made things run better (and for offering her help at the last minute when we hadn't even really thought of asking)
- Johno and Chriso, for getting the food processes organized enough we could just carry through on them
- España, for being her cheery self and pouring a lot of drinks
- Jo and Krys for always keeping up with the restock demands
- Henry and Letha for finding the time in their busy schedules and Letha's help with move-out
- Mark & Yvette for decor, haulage, and a lot of work
- Mo, for the most amazing Poe portrait and those wacky tikis (and a lot of work)
Seriously, we had the best crew and a great committee. I'm not sure I'm interested in working on another WFC (but ask again in a decade when someone out here feels like doing it again), but it was a great time working with everybody.
Wednesday: Flew non-stop from SFO to YUL. Departure was delayed by a FAA-enforced sleep-in for the crew. We were a bit late getting to the Delta, and eventually caught up with steverogerson's BritFan Pub Crawl. It was a blast. Highly recommended, Steve puts a lot of work into doing recon a few days before. We should have taken the Metro to get to the Latin Quarter, but we walked. Live and learn.
Thursday: We got registered. K installed his space suit in the costume exhibit. We looked at the dealers' room. It was tiny (not unusual for a Canadian Worldcon). We checked out the Fanzine lounge. It wasn't the best location or space (Noreascon 4 still had the best "in exhibit space" fanzine lounge).We met a bunch of folks (hi, fringefaan) and caught the Metro (having learned a lesson) to the Latin Quarter again for dinner at Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon. This place is what a Bistro is supposed to be, casual space, lots of people, fabulous food. The Foie Gras Cromesquis were to die for. We were there for hours (Worldcon sent the restaurant a lot of business on Thursday). When we got back to the hotel, the Reno in 2011 party had already closed, so we adjourned to the Fanzine Lounge After Dark and stayed until oh-godawful in the morning.
Friday: We slept. K did a panel. We ate. We went to parties. Once again, we ended up in the Fanzine Lounge After Dark, but didn't stay up quite as late. The hotel night manager and hotel security had a meltdown over parties and the elevators were overloaded, so we used the stairs to get around.
Saturday: K had 2 panels and masquerade stuff. I slept late. We ate. I went to the masquerade. It was pretty good, and there were a lot of new faces (not unusual for a Canadian Worldcon). K had a great time working with Julie Czerneda, she's a total sweetie. We went to parties. (Say it with me!) Once again, we ended up in the Fanzine Lounge After Dark and stayed up too late.
Sunday: K had a panel. I slept late. We ate. Reno was announced the winner of the 2011 Worldcon bid. Raleigh was announced the winner of the 2010 NASFiC bid. We went to the Hugos. We cheered when Cheryl won. We cheered when Scalzi won. We cheered when Weird Tales won. We cheered when Girl Genius won. We cheered when Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog won. It was a good awards ceremony, and a lot of fun. We went to parties. (Say it with me!) Once again, we ended up in the Fanzine Lounge After Dark and stayed up too late.
Monday: K had a panel. I slept late. We ate. We went to closing ceremonies. I wish we had the time and money to go to Australia next year, but it's not in the cards. For dead dog, we ended up in the Fanzine Lounge After Dark and stayed up too late.
Tuesday: We got up, got breakfast, packed, and went to the airport. Somehow we weren't affected by the crazy-ass weather going around the Northeast.
So, all in all?
There was a significant level of programming failure in scheduling, rescheduling and ensuring that panelist tech needs were fulfilled. The tabloid-sized pocket program (that was significantly wrong) didn't help. At least the infamous pink sheets were better than Anaheim's dumping program corrections on the newsletter where they would only fit at 4.5pt type.
There was a significant level of hotel failure on the part of the Delta regarding the party floors.
I've been reading complaints about hotel distances, and have to say, for the most part, they were within the realm of reasonable for a Worldcon. No, they weren't Anaheim (nobody is Anaheim). They were a bit longer than San Jose and Philly, probably equivalent to Boston and much shorter than Toronto, Denver or Glasgow.
Otherwise, the con was pretty damned good. Major events started nearly on time. They ran smoothly. Tech did the best job they were allowed to do (and for events they did very well). Info desk was staffed by cheerful and helpful people. Attendees had fun at the convention. I'm not going to saddle Anticipation with the review that Denver got. It wasn't a better con than it deserved to be, it was just a good con.
And, you know?
I had a great time.
It's a write-in bid (the filing deadline has passed) against Raleigh in 2010. No, it's not a hoax, it's a serious bid, they already have all their contracts in place, because they already have a convention in the works.
aramintamd, I just got to the girls' entry. They're too cute for words.
Flight was uneventful and on-time. We got to the hotel, the lovely recently remodeled Crown Plaza Baltimore North (kind of like the Crown Plaza Oakland South in Union City... what's with CP naming hotels after cities they're not in?) a bit before dark. It's an odd little atrium hotel with a large open area where once the indoor pool resided. Ricky was sitting at the reg desk, and a bunch of people were already there. We got checked in, picked up badges, got into our room and got dinner at the hotel restaurant. We ate there over and over, but it was pretty good.
When we finished dinner, quite a few more people had showed up in the lobby. Bruce and Nora and others were folding tri-folds to promote the ICG Archives. Carol and Stephanie were drinking champagne-like substance. We brought down the bottle of Agua Azul Añejo, and ended up staying up until 1-ish. The Agua Azul was almost (but not quite finished) that night.
Friday we got up early-ish. Tech was moving in, building the stages at the far end of the atrium. It looked less than promising; the stage position was limited by the bar/restaurant entrance, the risers provided by the hotel were crap and the available area for seating looked way too small. On the other hand, Technofandom is an amazing co-op of highly skilled folks who have made silk purses out of bigger sow's ears in the past.
The ICG meeting was relatively painless. There were really no reports that were surprising. There were only two items of "new business" and both could be referred to the appropriate officers and did not require votes of the membership. A new slate of officers was elected, and the previous administration will be missed.
Consuite was the main lobby (outside the area that was being changed into a stage) and a conference room off to the side (where the food and drink was). It was successful because it was a great public space for meeting and talking, but it was flawed because it wasn't immediately obvious that snackies could be found in the Timonium room.
Dealers' Room (or rooms in this case) was, well, mixed. There were several interesting dealers whom we don't see much (not getting out to the east coast very often) including Kass McGann (Reconstructing History), Devra (Poison Pen) and some interesting fabric dealers. There were also some prop and weapons dealers (odd, as someone noted, because east coast conventions tend to have very strict weapons policies).
Programming seemed to run well, and panels were generally well-attended.
There was a lot of experimentation because of the nature of the space. CC28 tried an experiment, hosting the spies' cocktail hour at the bar (since officially serving alcohol in the Timonium room or out in the lobby wasn't going to fly), bringing in several unique bottles of gin and vodka. It was a little out of the way because of where backstage started, but it was well-attended.
One of the other experiments was moving the Single Pattern Contest to the consuite on Friday night (instead of co-running with the Fashion Show on Sunday). This was a mixed success. Its location was changed at the last minute (well, earlier in the day; but the night before I had seen the BEOs for the lobby set-up that was canceled) to one of the ballrooms. I missed it. From what I heard, the day change was a reasonable success. Still, I would have liked to see it run in the social as a "cafe style" fashion show.
The social itself was well attended, with music and silly trophies provided by Thomas Atkinson. It ran very late.
Saturday, ah, Saturday. We slept in late-ish, got up in time for breakfast and K's panel. I hung out and chatted with people. Tech finished building the stage, and it started looking like a real serious operation. Tech rehearsals for F&SF ran. Tech rehearsals for Historical were rescheduled for Sunday afternoon. When things settled down, I confirmed with Larry Schroeder that I could sit up on one of the spotlight platforms to shoot pictures of the masquerade. Best seat in the house.
In the afternoon, we went to Donna's Kentucky Derby party. It was a blast. We heckled bad celebrity fashion, drank mint juleps and chatted about all sorts of costume silliness.
When it was time for the F&SF Masquerade to start, I climbed up the spot platform and talked with Talis until it was time for the show to start. Seating was a bit short, but not as bad as I expected. It wouldn't have been nearly as short if there had been a "voice of god" call asking people to scooch over and fill the empty seats between them (best seat in the house, as I said). The show ran very smoothly. Unfortunately, with an 8:30 start time, we got to see how, even when everything goes well, awards can still wrap up after midnight. I shot around 700 frames.
After masquerade, we went up to the Pretty, Pretty Princess party. It had kind of a shaky start, but eventually got rolling. Pear vodka in little tiny slippers was very popular.
Sunday morning we almost got another experiment. There was a plan to reset the stage and have the fashion show in the consuite side of the lobby, but this didn't happen; it wasn't logistically feasible. Instead we got the fashion show on the main stage (with a quickly-assembled runway). Once again, I arranged with the stage manager to sit up on the spot platform. Since single pattern ran on Friday night, after the fashion show entries ran we got a preview of Andrea Schewe's new patterns on real bodies. This worked out very nicely. I shot around 700 frames.
Sense a pattern? Yeah, the 8gb card I'm running can fit about 770 RAW files.
Sunday afternoon historical tech rehearsals ran. Again, I hung out with folks and chatted, and confirmed that I could return to the spot platform for the last show. The Historical masquerade started a little late, but not horribly late. I shot around 700 frames.
There was an "incident" on Sunday night that I'm not going to go into. It was, at the time, rather low-profile if incendiary. It's been referred to the proper folks for action. Do not ask about or comment on it here (this is your only warning). There were also drunk obnoxious mundanes (and I use that term intentionally) at the bar; one threw a drink on the bartender and they were ejected from the hotel.
Around midnight we went to the tech party. The crew was taking a well-deserved drink after making it through so many shows.
Monday we were thinking of going to the Smithsonian, but we decided to sleep in and went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore (inner harbor) instead. We packed a bit when we got back, and went down the Ridgley room for the dead dog party. I sorted pics and ran a slide show of some of the best while we sat around and chatted.
Tuesday we moved out, headed to the airport, and flew back. It was not a good day to fly; we had turbulence for most of the flight from Baltimore to Vegas. I spent a lot of time cropping photos. Vegas to SJ was much better. Got in at a reasonable hour.
So in the end?
The hotel was quirky and charming, perfectly sized for the event.
Timonium wasn't thrilling, but it would have been better if not for the rain (which made leaving the site for near-by restaurants inconvenient).
The new experiments were a qualified success, but still for the most part a success. A few that had to be aborted/modified still came off well. Some were even wildly successful in spite of execution errors.
Kudos to Technofandom. They are a well-oiled machine, and made the show directors look very good (I know about how the tech crew makes show directors look good). Big thanks to Larry, Syd and Joel for giving me the space to work during their shows.
Hall costumes were great. The competition entries were, to a one, stunning. Even the trashy ones.
Several of the Milwaukee and New Jersey folks were there, taking notes. They've got a lot of new information to work with.
All in all, a great time.
Twitter is still new to everybody. It's still evolving. Most twitter users don't see it as anything other than another over-sharing tool. A few months ago I would have classified it as a stupid novelty, but I've seen what it can do, particularly for conferences. Peter Anghelides and Paul Cornell made great use of it at Gallifrey. Eastercon attendees this year were very active on twitter.
A twitter account for the organization is a great way to get reminders and updates out to members. That's something Anticipation is doing well.
A defined "hashtag" (like #amazonfail) allows both attendees and staff keep tabs on public discussion (much like a google alert; y'all do have a google alert on "XYZXYZ," don't you?). There's no formal process to create a hashtag, just pick one (preferrably one that's not going to be used for other stuff by other people) and start using it.
At-con I would put up posters publicizing the hashtag. I would also put a workstation in ops and/or security offices with a client that could monitor the account for replies and direct messages and also monitor member posts that have the XYZXYZ hashtag. Maybe program ops too, there is likely to be a fair amount of chatter about how program items are going. Twitter makes for a very effective back-channel without needing extensive internal IT support or even wi-fi in the conference facilities.
It's not something to really depend on (don't even suggest that it's an emergency contact system in any pubs), but it's a great supporting tool.
Go to http://search.twitter.com/ and search on #gally and #eastercon for examples.
If you want a room for FC2010, you're better off calling the reservations desk and doing it over the phone. The numbers are (408) 998-1900 and (866) 540-4493. The event code is FURCON.