Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It Came From the Ball Pit- I Was a Panelist at DashCon



If you've been on the internet in the last few days, you may have heard about DashCon, the Tumblr Convention that kind of imploded on itself over the weekend. If you haven't heard about it, you can learn more:

-Here
-Here
-And Here

I was there.

Specifically, I was there to do a panel on Podcasting.

So what was it like being at the now notorious DashCon?

Let's start at the beginning.

My podcast, the Improvised Star Trek, is always trying to get new listeners. To that end, we've made a concerted effort this year to go to more conventions and festivals. We've gone to ChiFiCon, and Trek Chicago. We've also done comedy festivals like the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival and the Chicago Improv Festival. In researching festivals, I discovered DashCon.

DashCon had a couple of things going for it to my mind:

1. It was in Schaumburg, Illinois, right outside of our homebase of Chicago, IL. I could get there via mass transit.
2. They had a simple, easy panel application process. I like panels because you don't have to pay to be on them. When you get a table or a booth at a con, you have to pay for it. So, the price was right.
3. It seemed legit. Welcome to Night Vale, Noelle Stevenson, and a few other prominent actors/writers/artists/performers were scheduled to be there.
4. The average IST listener is between 25 and 40. The average Tumblrer is under 25. This was a chance for us to try to connect with some younger listeners.

So, I put in my panel application, and very promptly got an email back from one of the organizers asking me if I'd do a Skype interview.

My Skype interview was about 2 minutes long. They told me they thought my application was great and they'd put me on the podcasting panel with some other podcasters.

Fast forward a few months.

I show up at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg.

I wasn't there on Friday night, so I missed the $17K debacle. I didn't go to the Night Vale panel so I missed the Ball Pit debacle. Most of what I noticed as far as dysfunction was more mundane.

First, when I registered, they didn't ask for my name or any kind of identification. I just said "I'm on a panel." They gave me a wristband and told me to go find my panel room. Really, I could've just been some dude who was trying to get into the con for free. My panel was supposed to have four people on it (based on my scant communication with the organizers.) There were only two of us, myself and a fellow named Mark from Broken Sea audio productions. There was no moderator, but I don't think there was supposed to be one.

Our panel was sparsely attended. I think this was because it wasn't really a fandom panel. Most of the con was oriented towards fandoms- Dr. Who, Sherlock, Supernatural, etc. The podcasting panel was about... well... podcasting... and I don't really think that's what people who came to DashCon were there for. I mean... really... it was less a Tumblr Con, and more a Fandom Con. Which is cool! It's just something to note. Tumblr is full of fanperson's but it's also full of fitness-oriented accounts, news blogs, and lots of other stuff.

Also- there was no communication sent to panelists about the Friday night $20K deadline besides Twitter and Tumblr posts. No texts, no emails, etc. So, I actually had no idea that the con was "almost cancelled" until I got there on Saturday morning and logged onto Twitter from my phone.

I walked around for awhile. It didn't seem like there were alot of people there. The "artists alley" area seemed kind of empty. The game rooms seemed empty. I'd say about half of the people attending were there to see Night Vale based on the number of Night Vale cosplays I saw.

Basically, my thought when I left was "That was weird and kind of poorly run but people looked like they were having fun." Over time I read about what happened with WTNV, the Baker Street Babes, Noelle Stevenson, and everybody else, and realized that what seemed like "kind of a crappy con" was actually "kind of a fiasco."

I guess sometimes it's hard to recognize a fiasco when you're right next to it. Like, fiascos can just kind of look like slightly poorly run conventions until you get a few miles and a few thousand twitter posts away.

So anyway. That was my experience. I went to DashCon. I wouldn't go to future DashCons. I feel bad for the people who showed up expecting to see Night Vale. I'm glad we all at least got the ball pit meme out of this.



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