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Conclave 2010 Report

After last year's convention, and my subsquent vow not to finance a con with such aggressive “security,” I had quite the internal struggle with what was the right thing to do this year. On the one hand, I felt as though I—personally—would be entirely okay with throwing a party membership meeting in a suite for ConFusion and not purchasing a membership. I did not feel that it was acceptable for the ConFusion organization to do the same, though, so I relaxed my outrage enough to allow ConFusion to purchase a membership so that it could throw a party. So, like I do, here is my report of the convention.

The Dorsai Irregulars

As it turns out, most of my problems with last year had been addressed in a big way. After last year's post, I was contacted rather a lot about the Dorsai Irregulars' shenanigans. Many of those were con-goers that shared their stories of ill treatment or frustration; many others were representatives of the DI or convention concom that wished to get more details and ask permission to pass my words on to various members of the senior membership and board for action. Oh, and certainly there were a few that were passing on their version of how much I should go fuck myself, but that comes with the territory.

This year, the Dorsai's presence was completely different. Gone were the army of black polo shirts giving way, instead, to the same shirts in a variety of colors—all still bearing the name of the organization on the breast. This deftly avoided the “us-vs-them” uniform problem of years past; they remained just as visible, but seemed less a pack of ne'er-do-wells. It seems a small thing, but it made a huge difference, especially in thin crowds where last year it seemed like every third person was a DI, this year they blended slightly. Add to that the fact that few members wore their trademark insignia-laden beanies on their heads—most opted to tuck them into the front of their belts—and suddenly, the pseudo-militaristic crew of “jack-booted thugs” was gone. Just folks enlisted by the convention to help it run smoothly. Most importantly, I saw almost no occurances of members clumping up and creating chokepoints, laying hands on patrons, or acting in the superior and aloof manner I had come to expect. In fact, with the exception of one person working the art room with a bit too much vigor, everyone acted admirably. Even the individual that came to the ConFusion party meeting with news of noise complaints was pleasant and friendly, even in the face of some good natured ribbing.

I have to give credit where credit is due: well done, DI. I don't think I've seen a turnaround like that since…well, Judas, 30ish AD.

The Programming

I don't go here for programming, so the only thing I saw was the Space Time Improv, which had its highs and lows (I'll never grasp why this group lets a bit go on so long without a single laugh, but will squash a bit that is clearly amusing the audience, but it is a recurring theme) but generally was a hit. I heard there were other panels. I heard that some were entertaining. I couldn't speak to that, other than to say I didn't really see anything up my alley.

The Elephant in the Room

My alternate title for this section was Hey, Where are all of the People? but that seemed more snarky that necessary (but not too snarky to mention one sentence into the section, mind you.) I don't know what past years' attendances looked like, but their Wikipedia entry shows them as a 600+ person convention, and I'd be shocked if there were 350 badges issued this weekend. If you assume a normal amount of comps (and I would wager I'm low by a lot here) then something less than 315 folks paid for their ticket. (This quickly started a joke on Twitter in which we pointed out how good low membership was in snark.) Everywhere I turned online, I saw people indicating that they felt their $50 would be best spent elsewhere. The talk of the con was, necessarily, how much longer it will go on before it either turns around or disappears.

Of course, everyone had their piece to say about what would repair the convention: bring in fresh blood in leadership roles, different GoHs, new programming, any advertising whatsoever, or other ways both myriad and diverse. Not to be outdone, I will give you my opinion. I feel that there is one pair of things that would be minimally invasive to how they do business, cost effective, and relatively simple…it involves creating nightlife.

  1. Badger the hotel into allowing some non-ground-floor parties, especially those in suites
  2. Subsidize those suites to make them cost effective for parties (something sub $200, even if not by much)

Even if only two or three additional suites are picked up, and rooms near to those suites on those floors, parties could take hold—and the social event of early October could really be a social event.

Let's face it, ConFusion's marginally funded (over 80% of the expense of the event was in the cost of the room) party meeting was consistently packed, a hub of convention activity for much of both evenings, and the recipient of the “Best Party” prize, and we didn't even do anything. We brought some pretzles, some chocolate, some energy drinks, damned little booze (I think it was gone in less than two hours), and a handful of entertaining people (a number in which I'll humbly include myself, along with Amy, Limey, Ger, Dawn, Greg, and Matt…with late additions Bill and Misha), and we were all that was happening. If there were a few more such parties, people would be eager to come down for the party (and many of those would purchase memberships).

Sure, there are probably other fixes; being in almost any other hotel in the state would probably be something of an attendance boost in and of itself, but simply adding something cost efficient and labor simple would make a tremendous difference.

…otherwise, a bunch of us are already planning what new and interesting thing we can do in early October when a hole opens up.