victorthecook: (Default)
[personal profile] victorthecook
I try, usually, to post gently if at all on touchy subjects.  Gentle clearly isn't getting through to Baycon. 


There's more to say on this subject than I can cover this evening, but the short take is that Baycon has launched from last year's low point, and reached a new, much lower point.  If things change dramatically next year, the con might recover.  Otherwise, I expect it will slowly collapse under its own weight.   I'm not giving them any more money until I see verifiable signs of progress on the basics. 

Last year's Baycon was one of the few cons I've gone to which I really didn't enjoy.  The programming was weak, things were disorganized, and I came away feeling very disappointed.  So much so that this year we decided not to take a hotel room, and to attend only one day of the convention.  This year was much, much worse.  I'm so glad we didn't sink more into it, financially or emotionally.

To begin with: Programming.  I was only at the con on Sunday, or this list would undoubtedly be longer.

* Listing Doug Berry on every program item is hilarious if the rest of the schedule is reasonably correct.  When the web schedule, the pocket program, and the notes on the room doors disagree, on Sunday, it just looks like Doug is the victim of some fool who can't use the scheduling software.  Well, we all were, weren't we?

* Putting people on a panel who have no idea what they're talking about is bad, but doing it for something like "A Shot Rang Out", which is basically improv comedy, is cruel and ruins the event.  Or was that your intention?  I know the programming staff had a mad hate on for this item and the people who used to perform it.

* Putting the events about making things in the smallest rooms you have meant that people couldn't get into the room, while other space sat mostly empty  -- and while knowing what's going to be popular can be difficult, you get no credit for getting it spectacularly wrong.  Hint:  building stuff is popular, lately.  Even costume stuff.  See also: Maker Faire.

* Guest of Honor concert?  Well, you can say plus-or-minus a couple of hours when Steve should go on stage -- surely that's good enough?  Steve wasn't sure until just beforehand when he was going to play, and where.  Nobody else was, either.  Way to treat a fan guest, guys.

* I think that having the guests of honor critique submitted works in front of an audience and the writers/artists is either foolish or cruel or both.  I admit that I didn't see any of these events, and it's barely possible that this could have worked -- but my pennies never land on edge, either.

Publications:  Well, the pocket programs were late and riddled with errors.  The people who did all the research and editing for the restaurant guide, and gave you copy, are steaming mad at you for not bothering to print the guide.   There is no excuse at all for leaving people to search the office parks of Santa Clara, praying to find a restaurant.  None.  If the cat ate your database, you could type up something from memory and print a few copies.  Newsletters -- Sunday morning wasn't available until sometime after 2PM.  Information-free, too -- despite schedule changes.  Hell, you could have filled with restaurant reviews, or just a list of names, and done a service to your membership.

Leadership, or lack thereof:  Well, I've been in other places where someone who had copy for a restaurant guide would print it herself.  It's pretty clear, though, that Baycon discourages people doing anything outside the formal department structure -- so you get in trouble if you make sure things get done.  If you have a very large con, that's actually vital to keeping things organized.  Baycon is no longer very large, but its departmental organization is.  I saw many, many 1-day badges, so they may be able to back up their claim of 1800 memberships -- but I'd be surprised if there were 800 warm bodies on-site at any one time.  Baycon needs fewer titles and more people getting things done.  And it needs to retain smart effective people, instead of getting them to quit in groups.

Date: 2010-05-31 10:19 am (UTC)
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
From: [personal profile] madfilkentist
It's a pain when a con goes seriously downhill because of organizational problems.

Some performance-and-critique workshops which I've been in have worked well. The group should be small and the atmosphere has to be friendly. I don't know how similar that is to what Baycon attempted. With the GoH at a medium-sized con involved, it could be difficult to meet those conditions.

Date: 2010-06-01 03:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorthecook.livejournal.com
Yeah - my issue here is that Baycon wanted to have their guests critique 5 or 10 pieces ( I forget the number), but in front of an audience of spectators. And since it was two major GoH functions (writer and artist separately), I can't imagine there weren't sizable audiences. My feeling is that this presents the GoH with only ugly choices: be less than forthright, or give what may be harsh critiques to people in front of an audience. The former is pointless, and the latter is being mean to local fans in front of other local fans.

Date: 2010-06-02 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] weirdodragoncat.livejournal.com
found via ..elsewhere.

for the record...the artist critique panel was *not* for a general audience. It was only intended (and in reality *was*) for a limited number of participants...I was one of them.

I can't speak for the writer's one though but I seem to recall someone saying that the panelist said that people were welcome to watch but not comment during the process.

Date: 2010-06-02 07:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorthecook.livejournal.com
Thanks for setting the record straight. Pentaclemoon also pointed out my error here; I'll see if I can edit the original post to correct the facts, without removing the needed context of the subsequent comments.

Date: 2010-06-02 07:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] weirdodragoncat.livejournal.com
yeah...sorry about the duplication of info. I didn't see her comment till I'd already posted mine.

Date: 2010-06-01 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hillarysherwood.livejournal.com
It sounds like this con needs a serious rescue effort/leadership change. I remember that Lunacon was having problems 3 or 4 years ago, but they managed to turn things around, so it is possible.

Date: 2010-06-01 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorthecook.livejournal.com
I hope you're right. A rescue effort may be possible. One reason for my post here is the hope that people involved with Baycon will realize things need to change, and ask for help changing them. Sadly, the peculiar nature of the con's corporate structure is going to make a major change of management difficult or impossible.

To elaborate: Perhaps uniquely among fan-run events, the name "BayCon" is owned by a (notionally) for-profit corporation, with one person holding a large plurality of the shares. I gather that enough of the other shareholders have fallen out of contact that it's impossible to muster a majority vote without that major shareholder, even with the unanimous action of all the other extant shareholders.


Date: 2010-06-01 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That said, the con does have a lot of excellent staff/volunteers and potential access to plenty more. The con has also been quite good under much the same management. That's part of why it's so frustrating to see the con crossing from "stuff goes wrong and screwups happen" into "WTF?" territory.

What worries me is that, from what I can tell, it's an organizational, not an individual thing (and I have my own ideas about details). It could be fixed, but it worries me that it is harder to address cultural problems within an org than to firefight (or ignore) consequences of those problems.

Date: 2010-06-02 12:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorthecook.livejournal.com
Yes -- I guess I didn't make it clear that this con had been a great con for decades. They've had a great track record of recruiting very good people and putting on a good con. I agree that this feels like an organizational culture issue -- it looks like the higher echelons of con management aren't detecting problems and/or aren't fixing them before they become major issues hurting the convention.

Date: 2010-06-02 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pentaclemoon.livejournal.com
Hi there - sorry you have such issues around BayCon.

Just wanted to address the issue of the GOH critiques... Both were run per the usual parameters of the GOH's (Art Closed, Writing Open) as these are things that they do regularly and are known for in the industry.

For the Artist GOH Portfolio Critique. It was suggested/offered by Lee Moyer and run by him per his usual design. Also it was NOT open, the only people there were the people being critiqued (5 artists and Lee) and it ran over 4 hours and was relocated so that it could continue upon the mass desire of everyone participating. I think their feedback is most important in this regard, and it has been universally positive.

For the Author GOH Master Class. Yes it was open, and that was clear to the participants from the start.

The ChairMinion and I are sorry that you did not enjoy your time here, and would be curious about some feedback on panels that you did attend.

However the overall impression I am left with from reading your post is that it reads more like a collection of random snippets and unverified mis-information and ranting with an attitude as opposed to actually constructive feedback.

There have been some changes this year, and we are always working to do better. Feel free to contact us in the future.

Date: 2010-06-02 02:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorthecook.livejournal.com
Pentaclemoon, than you for taking the time to read and comment.

If by 'ranting with an attitude', you mean that I was upset by my experience at BayCon -- certainly. I had a bad time at an event where I've had many good times over the years.

If you mean instead that I'm just another whiner who bitches about things reflexively: Please, I beg you to consider at least that people may be perceiving the con the way I do -- and that _that_ is bad for the con.

My post was, perhaps, a set of snippets. That doesn't make them untrue or unworthy of your notice. They were the things that, to me, indicated larger problems, mostly things which happened to us over the course of Sunday afternoon. I can provide amplification or clarification if you'd like more detail.

For example: we asked at the Information table for a restaurant guide, and were told in so many words that it had been researched and prepared, but not printed or delivered. We asked if it was available on the con website, and got a negative there too. If that's untrue, it's an error that was being handed out at the Info desk by frustrated volunteers who thought their work had been wasted.

As for 'unverified mis-information', you've addressed the critique events. I'm sorry for my misunderstanding -- I didn't realize that the Artist critique was a closed event, and I'm glad it went well. I hope the writing critique did as well, though as an audience event, it sounds to me like playing with fire.

If you'd like to correct other factual errors, I'll be happy to listen.

I'm also happy to give feedback on specific panels; would you like it here, or in some other forum?

Date: 2010-06-02 06:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maiandra.livejournal.com
A couple of factual errors for you to take into consideration, from the Programming viewpoint-

Doug Berry was not on "every" program item. You will note that Author reading & autograph sessions did not have him added, nor did events that only had one presenter, or were a specific demonstration or GOH event. As the schedule always has minor changes happen throughout the course of the weekend, the three things you mention as not matching simply can not, based on different publication dates. To expect such is to court disappointment.

Everyone present on any programming event this year was there because they specifically asked to be involved in said panel or presentation. There was no possible intent to destroy A Shot Rang Out, or any other event. The talented, witty, creative, published and prolific individuals who offer their time and efforts every year as BayCon's Guest Panelists are to be thanked and appreciated for their efforts to bring a convention to life, as without them- there would be no programming what-so-ever.

"Riddled with errors" is something of a loaded statement- we had two or three brought to our attention. We are always happy to have folks let us know when we have goofed and misprinted something- being only human, it happens. Next time, please feel free to come visit the Programming office and let us know, so we can rectify the error.

Not a single one of the workshop or hands-on type demonstrations we had on the program this year were in our "smallest rooms". The Saratoga and Central rooms happen to be the smallest, per hotel listings of square footage and capacity. I am sorry it seems you had a personal issue with not being able to get a seat at a particular event- if you wouldn't mind telling me which one, I'll happily make sure it goes into the notes that it would need more space, if it's to be re-done next year. We do our best to collect data on how many people attend each event, and have volunteers who actively collect said sample information for each program item- but we cannot truly ever anticipate how many people will or won't attend something, even taking popular trends into account. Also- in some cases, the presenters themselves have specifications for their presentations that require us to schedule them in a particular place or time.

The location of the Filk concerts never changed, throughout the entire weekend- nor did they ever change from where we initially placed them in the preliminary program. So "where" Steve Savitzky was going to play was never at question. Timing became an issue, based on the needs of setting up the required sound equipment, but it was our intent to have him play as close to the time he'd initially requested as possible, based on availability of the sound tech, and other scheduled items for himself and Colleen. There was an error in the order in which the concert performers were listed for Sunday, and I am sure that Heather Stern, the Department Head for Concerts and Filk, will happily apologize for her oversight in providing that information to the Publications department, should you care to seek her out.

The Vice-Chair already addressed your errors concerning the GOH critique sessions. Being another of the artists who brought their work to Lee Moyer for the critique session, and having been there for 4 hours, and come away with an invaluable experience with a master at his craft who is kind enough to want to share his experiences with those who aspire to follow the same career path- I could not have been happier with the outcome of that session, and would gladly do it again. Is that a penny on it's edge that I see?

Date: 2010-06-02 06:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maiandra.livejournal.com
On a more personal note- I find it difficult to believe that I can be considered as "having a serious hate on" for an event I have never once attended, for no other reason than simple ambivalence or lack of time. I also do not know any of the past presenters from that panel well enough to offer them anything so deep as hate, either.

Sometimes, things happen just for the exact reasons that it's said they happen.

"A Shot Rang Out" did not get scheduled in 2009 because none of the people queried who had been invited as Guest Panelists that year expressed an interest in running it. During the convention weekend, relatively new Guests asked to be involved in bringing it back in 2010, as it was a favorite of theirs, even though they had not been involved in it at BayCon before. The attempts to run the impromptu "A Shot Rang Out" on the 2nd floor mezzanine were stopped in 2009 only because they posed a hazard to convention attendees in their original location, put our convention in breach of certain contractual obligations to the hotel, and the fashion in which it was gone about was inappropriate. The panel was scheduled again in 2010, with all happiness to give the convention attendees what they asked for, and with renewed interest from this year's collection of invited Guests. No malice was ever expressed or intended, or felt in the slightest on my part, or on the part of any of the Programming Staff. It baffles us that the immediate knee-jerk reaction and related vitriol that has been directed at us continues to arise. Seriously, folks- can we let it go now? Change happens.

All that having been said- I will also be glad to let you know that the positions of Programming Division Manager, Programming Division Second, and all of the Programming Operations Department staff positions, including the Head of the Department, are now open and available for new volunteers in 2011. I urge you or anyone else interested in giving the time, effort, and intense dedication required to handle Programming to feel free to contact the new Chairman, when they are announced, and let them know you'd like to volunteer in said capacity. I have a fairly large data dump of notes, names, and suggestions from convention attendees to pass on to the person who will be shouldering the task for next year's BayCon, as it will not be me, or any of the rest of my staff from this year.

Good Luck fixing what you feel is so elementally broken! I am afraid, however, that there is no scheduling software provided by BayCon, so I would hope you like post-it notes and spreadsheets!

-Kimmi Allbee
Affectionately titled "Madame Ziggurat"
Programming Division Manager, BayCon 2009, 2010
Programming Division Second, BayCon 2008
Programming Operations Department Head, BayCon 2007
Programming Operations Department Staff, BayCon 2006
Charity Coordinator, BayCon 2004, 2005
Attending BayCon since 1989

Date: 2010-06-02 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorthecook.livejournal.com
Thank you for taking the time to write, Kimmi. Your comments deserve a proper reply, and they'll get one. Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to put it together tonight. Take this as a placeholder, if you will.

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