?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Transitions

I've deliberately avoided giving a recap of Anime Detour, because so much of it would be intertwined with critiques of staff members and I want to save those critiques (positive and negative) for the post-mortem. Aside from that, it would be really boring reading for most people since I saw absolutely none of the programming or videos and only got to talk to the guests very briefly on Friday and Saturday night*. Well, I did get to say goodbye to Phade on Monday morning. Yeah. Too busy putting the chair in chairman and managing to keep things running somewhat smoothly. Fortunately for me, I enjoy doing that kind of stuff, otherwise the weekend would have completely sucked.

That having been said, people across the fannish landscape are more than a little croggled by the attendance we racked up this year, none more than Yr. Humble Author. Then again, I was only expecting 600 in 2004 and was wrong again in 2005 when I estimated 2000. So going into this year all I knew was that we weren't going to sign up any more than 2500 people, and I was wrong again. Not by much, though; the warm body count was less than that so we didn't have people exploding out of the windows or anything like that.

So where do we go from here? Well, I think we need to look back to our beginnings to get some perspective.

Staff turnover began even before the first year of the convention. We lost our dealers' room person for reasons I still don't understand, and of course the departure of our first chairman is a story all of our department heads know by now. Sometimes I think we were damned lucky to have the seventeen people we did have, most of them organizing departments practically single-handedly and running them with the help of a platoon's worth of volunteers, many of whom wound up on staff for the 2005 convention.

The staff grew faster than the attendance in 2005; we had a little over 40 staff members for our second year, and the number of volunteers tripled. That convention ran fairly well in spite of truly awful communication between different parts of staff, and again we lost some staff over the succeeding months, mostly due to burnout or real life getting in the way of the convention. We replaced them with volunteers, motored on, and grew the staff to nearly 70 for this year's convention. Overall, we were better organized and better at talking to each other, although there were a few gaffes, screwups, errors, faux pas...mistakes were made, as the saying goes.

Now, with the exception of a handful of people like tjstriker and myself, most of us had little experience running conventions, and what little we did have was mostly with SF conventions, which tend to skew older in age and predominantly male besides - a very different crowd than anime conventions. Sure, some of us had worked at Anime Iowa as volunteers, but by and large we were n00bs at this convention thing so we asked for advice from everyone who was willing to stand still for a couple of minutes, read up on whatever we could get from AI and CONvergence, and did a lot of improvised ad-hockery.



Well, here we are. I don't think stuckintraffik has to worry about losing an entire department, which happened last year, and we have a solid framework of people who are looking forward to next year, thinking about the tweaks they need to make on systems that already run pretty well, if not to the total satisfaction of all concerned. This isn't to say that there won't be changes, but they'll be more along the lines of making departments work better rather than tearing down and rebuilding them from the ground up.



cajones asked me Saturday night at the Uptown Diner about the dynamics of Detour, and I'm not really sure the answer I gave him was what he was looking for. I honestly don't have a good grip on the people who make up our membership, because I only see them in snapshots as I move through the hallways. I couldn't tell you if most of them are there for the cosplay, the videos, the games or just to be at a mother-huge party that has all those things and more. That would require me to look into their heads or for them to tell me through feedback and forums what's in their heads, and either way I'd still be getting an incomplete picture. Still, we have the forums and we have the feedback forms and we have the room counts revolutionaryjo took, so at least we'll have a better idea who these people are, or at least what they want from us. It's a start.

One of the things that does concern me is the general lack of interest in what I call "the greasy organizational stuff." In contrast to MISFITS, ATC is practically invisible behind the flashy curtain of AD, and we don't seem to have a lot of Totos interested in pulling back the curtain and finding out just who this Oz character is. Part of that may be due to the fact that the officers and directors of ATC are also AD staff, and to the casual observer there just may not seem to be a whole lot of difference. Lord knows, after the last two and a half years of trying to keep the Board from micromanaging, I'm not altogether sure that the Board knows either. One does what one can. Anyhow, given our somewhat Mexican style of leadership where the chairman of AD is Sole Rightful Autocrat during his term, there isn't really anywhere for the social dynamics of the organization to work out except on the Board, and the Board only has five seats on it, seven if you count the Treasurer and President.

Which, considering that we have a voting population of 32 this year, is probably fairly reasonable, but I'm not sure that it really accommodates the various subcultures in ATC. My sense of things is that we basically have three groups of people on staff: the founding group, the folks from MAS (mostly in cosplay and programming) and people who really aren't part of either group. Now, it's not like we have some kind of energetic political struggle going on or anything - quite the contrary, judging from the lack of response to the call for nominations- but one does get a sense that if MAS were running this convention things would be done differently, since their priorities aren't those of the founders. Note that I'm not saying those priorities are wrong, they're just different. (I'm not from here, you know.)

So it'll be interesting to see how this year's Board elections go. I'd like to see someone from MAS take a more active role on the ATC side of the house, because they haven't really had one.

It'll also be interesting to see if the consensus on staff that we don't want to become another ACen holds up after we secure bigger, more spacious quarters for 2008. I'd like to think it will, but the history of other fan-run conventions is not promising. We are, after all, professionals, but only once or twice a month at staff meetings. ~_^

*Yes, I even missed the Staff & Guests Mixer on Thursday night after dragging in all the food with acdragonmaster. Somebody had to be in Ops.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
revolutionaryjo
Apr. 6th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC)
Here's my outside perspective and totally uninformed impression of the MISFITs/CONvergence relationship vs ATC/AD. MISFITs looks and feels like a social organization. A group of people that come up with ideas to bring the local scifi/fantasy community closer together through craft groups, ice cream socials, discussion groups, etc etc. and CONvergence is the con they happen to throw on the side.

ATC to me feels like the group that runs AD and that's it. Maybe it needs more people involved to take on the larger social role that AD does. But given that so many on the board are on AD staff too it tends to stretch people a little thin. That's why I've been so hesitant to get involved with it. Purely because I don't have the time to help run three local fan organizations and maintain a full time job. It just won't happen without a total mental breakdown occurring.
wombat_socho
Apr. 6th, 2006 03:06 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, I think you're right, but I'm not sure there's any way to fix that without having people on the Board who aren't staff. That strikes me (and others) as being a Bad Idea since it leads to the kind of split between the board and the con staff that got MNSTF/Minicon into so much trouble...We're open to suggestions, obviously.
michaellee
Apr. 6th, 2006 03:20 am (UTC)
Every fan organization that I've had any indepth awareness of that does both a convention and has a club has some sort of tension betweeen the convention and the year-round club. Every single one. I think it's a universal truth.

wombat_socho
Apr. 6th, 2006 12:06 pm (UTC)
Every fan organization that I've had any indepth awareness of that does both a convention and has a club has some sort of tension betweeen the convention and the year-round club. Every single one. I think it's a universal truth.


It may well be. Well, we'll bash on regardless and hope for the best. MISFITS seems to have done well, for the most part, and ATC hopes to do as well.
acdragonmaster
Apr. 7th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)
To me, the relationship between AD and ATC makes perfect sense. But on the other hand, my dad's an attorney so concepts like 'reading the fine print' are stuff I've been familiar with since elementary school.

As for the MAS thing... eh, the people at MAS are cool, I'm friends with some of them, but MAS is an anime club, not a convention. This reminds me of the fact that this year other than joining the group registration for the discounted rate, I'm going to ACen entirely seperately from the anime club here at NDSU. The mindset it takes to run a club and a convention are entirely seperate things, and while club-run conventions *can* become major things, they will have to change along the way. I've been to two club-run conventions before, Sogen, and the day-long Scorch Con the MSUM gaming club puts on each semester. And especially in the case of the latter, the lack of experience and knowledge of how to run such event is *very* evident.

So my point is, MAS is cool, but MAS is not an anime con. MAS does not even represent a majority of the folks who'll be attending AD, as many of those aren't even college age to begin with. Anime clubs are inherently different from anime cons, and that really needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to stuff like programming and so on. Similarly, having attended cons makes a huge difference. I might have only been going to cons for a few years, but in that time I've been to quite a few cons and know the ropes. That was one of my biggest warnings to my friend on Sogen staff, was that with so many of their staff not having experience going to cons, I was expecting they'd probably have a rough time their first year running one. (and also was a large factor in why I went down there pretty solely to volunteer and help them run the thing)

And just in general, there's a lot of people who really truly mean well, but don't have the experience/expertise yet to be able to make good judgements. MAS people are cool, but I'm particularly wary of messing with a formula that *is* proven to work (and three years running, at that)...


It'll also be interesting to see if the consensus on staff that we don't want to become another ACen holds up after we secure bigger, more spacious quarters for 2008.

Now, I should point out that I'm one of the (probably very few) people on staff who thinks that running a large con *is* fun, but I'm just weird like that... >_>
wombat_socho
Apr. 7th, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC)
And just in general, there's a lot of people who really truly mean well, but don't have the experience/expertise yet to be able to make good judgements. MAS people are cool, but I'm particularly wary of messing with a formula that *is* proven to work (and three years running, at that)...

You thought we had a formula? Uh-oh...

Seriously, though, this is why we take feedback with a grain of salt. We know that 99% or more of the people handing in those sheets/making those posts don't know jack about the grimy details of running a convention. We're mainly looking to see if there's some big farking problem brewing out there that we somehow managed to remain unaware of, because that does happen.

Running something te size of ACen might be cool, but it would be punching far above our weight even if we somehow doubled the staff. It's going to be hard enough handling 3000 people in 2007, and I am trying very hard not to think about 2008, when we might could have the function space to handle 4000.
acdragonmaster
Apr. 8th, 2006 05:26 am (UTC)
Well right, you can't have an ACen-sized convention without an ACen-sized staff. I mean just on the issue of letting the con grow as opposed to putting an attendance limit on it early on.

For cons outside of the sort of middle range as far as attendance goes (ACen being about the largest of said category), I generally don't seem to have a very good time attending them. On the other hand, I'd probably have a blast volunteering or staffing for something like Otakon. So go figure.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

wombat
wombat_socho
wombat_socho

Latest Month

March 2019
S M T W T F S
     12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31      
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner