April 11, 2012

Nerdiquette 101

Laura Haywood-Cory has convinced me to help with her with an education project she has titled Nerdiquette 101.  The concept behind the project is to help some of our fellow con attendees to better understand what is and is not acceptable behavior at conventions (any time really).  It’s truly a disgrace that we have to even contemplate starting a project like this in 2012, but it seems some members of fandom are still lacking in social skills. 

[Note: The project also has an additional side bonus of promoting positive hygiene practices as well.] 
The background for Nerdiquette 101 stems from a series of bad experiences that a number of female SF fans have suffered through over the last several years (and some guys too).  Normally what happens is that some socially inept individual makes a horrible remark, or performs some inexcusable action, which leaves the woman feeling very uncomfortable.   Each of these experiences falls into the “dude, that’s just not acceptable” category, yet, sadly, many of the offenders have no idea that their behavior needs improvement. 

Our goal is as follows:

  1. To educate the fans who are lacking in social skills
  2. To encourage women to report improper behavior to the con staff or hotel staff
  3. To educate the various ConComs that they need to take any reported offense seriously
  4. To provide conventions written materials that can be included in program books or on “freebie” tables
We will be hosting our first ever panel for this project at RavenCon this weekend (Friday, 5pm).  Please stop by if you are at the con.

For those of you not going to RavenCon, Laura has recently created a Nerdiquette 101 page on Facebook.  She already has a one page info handout posted there for ConComs who wish to start taking action now.

I will post more on this project as it develops. 

April 1, 2012

How to Know When It's Time to Quit

Today, guest blogger Tera Fulbright will address getting out of running conventions.  This topic is one that is “near and dear” to my heart.  If you organize conventions, I encourage you to get out of the business before you lose your friends and sanity.

Thanks Tera!
* * *
I recently read a great post by David B Coe on “The Writing life: when do you give up?   He wrote one of the best answers I have ever read: “No, the time to quit is when you don’t feel anything anymore.”

I think this applies to every activity/commitment/adventure you do in life.  But it is particularly true in conrunning.   According to my resume, I ran or helped run cons from 1996 to 2009.  That’s 13 years.  Thirteen years where I ran cons, ran programming, talked to guests or arranged special events. 
Now, there are people out there that have been running cons 20+, 30+ or more.  But I think that one characteristic that those who still organize conventions share is a passion for the job.

When you run a convention, you live and breathe that con for at least 13-14 months of your life, if not more.  Between the setup, the actual con, and the post-con, you are constantly dealing with several of aspects of the business of the convention.
I made the decision to stop being involved when I no longer cared about the success or failure of the convention.  I didn’t care if the attendees or the guests had fun.  I knew then it was time to get out, so I quit.  Since then, I’ve helped… I’ve answered questions… but I haven’t “run” them.

I think it is important to have a passion for this type of volunteer work.  You have to want it; for most of us, we don’t get paid to run cons.  It is a time commitment we give as volunteers.  And as con organizers, one of things we must be aware of is how much time and energy it takes to run a con.  It can take a lot out of you, particularly if you, which I suspect most of you reading this are, also work a full-time job/have families/etc.  Sometimes, we have to realize that we can’t do it all and give up something.  
Sometimes, that’s con running.  When running cons takes the place of your family, your friends, your job or any other aspect of your life, then it is time to take a close look at why you are doing it.  When you no longer care if the attendee can find the panel room they are looking for, or if the guest has eaten that day;  when you no longer care if the art show artwork gets sent back to the artists or if the dealers had a good weekend, it’s time to stop.

Realizing that you no longer have a passion for something can be a painful experience.   But then, you can do what the rest of us do… offer advice to the new folks who have the passion.  And maybe, just maybe, they can run a little longer than you did.
Please note the switch back and forth between ‘you’ and ‘we’ … once a con runner, always a con runner?