I attended InstaCon, a symposium for Texas con-runners, on April 18, 2009. I’d been assigned to participate in two panels, both as moderator. I prepared write-ups for each of these panels in advance, which were printed in the conference proceedings. I also participated in a teamwork exercise, SF Pictionary, where I produced the clues and served as judge.
I arrived at the convention at 9:15 on Saturday morning, picked up my registration materials, and attended a presentation by Houston Fan Brent Morgan: Comprehension Convention Engine (CCE) on Microsoft Live. Morgan presented software he’d developed to assist in many areas of running a convention. The primary focus of this software is to aid in the task of programming a convention: assigning people to panels, assigning panels to rooms, communication with program participants, and various reports to be used in publications. The software requires Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. So far it seems to have been used by only one convention, Conestoga in Tulsa, for the past two years. The software seems interesting, has some nice features, but has some significant missing functionality. It is almost complete print-oriented, with no reports suitable to be posted on a convention’s website. And it does not produce any concise print reports suitable for a traditional short pocket program.
Next was my first panel, Technology: Threat or Menace. I was moderator, and the other panelists were Houston fans Jonathan Guthrie and Brent Morgan. We provided an overview of technology currently in use at conventions (for publications, communication, presentations, and more) and talked a bit about possible directions for new technology in the future. We had lively audience participation, and the room was filled with people with strong ideas about technology (All Microsoft! All Adobe! All Open Source! Web 2.0! etc.) The discussion of technology to be used in the future was interesting. More than one person came up with the idea of putting RFID chips on the participants’ badges.
Afterward was a short lunch break. The rain was pouring hard outside, so I (and most of the rest of the con) ate in the con suite. Con suite organizers Chuck Coshow and Valerie Villareal provided a nice selection of food.
The next item I attended was the Con Suite Roundtable, led by Chuck Coshow in a room adjacent to the con suite. Many good ideas were presented on budgeting, planning the food selection, and efficient and cost-effective shopping.
At 3 PM was my next panel, The Great Balancing Act: Programming for SFF Cons. I was moderator, and the other panelist was Houston fan Katy Pace. We had a good discussion of all aspects of programming: inviting participants, gathering ideas, assigning people to program items, communication with the participants, interactions with the rest of the concom, and schedule adjustments during the con. We had good questions from the audience, and a couple of programming veterans offered informative anecdotes.
For the next programming session I spent a little time in the panel Bodycount: How Many Fans Does it Take to Run a Con? I also visited the convention art show (in Kurt Baty’s room) and networked with area fans in the con suite.
During the dinner break, I ate at Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant with several fans from Houston and Dallas. Dining companions included kgkofmel , markbhall , geogal , and several others who are not on LJ.
Next was SF Pictionary. Kim Kofmel was MC, and I was judge. We had excellent participation. I provided the clues, which all had something to do with Texas science fiction. Among the harder ones to guess were InstaCon and Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom.
At this point, programming for the day was complete. I went to the con suite and talked with other fans for a bit, and then left the con.
Thanks to FACT for providing financial assistance in attending this convention. I was active in the program, and got a lot out the event.