Sunday, August 20, 2017

 

Worldcon 75 WSFS Division Post-Con Report


Photo of Michael with Hugo by Fia Karlsson
It has been a long five year journey since I was one of a number that gave Eemeli Aro $20 at the Chicago Worldcon. I’ve been to Helsinki four times, made countless friends, had some relationships strengthened and others strained. I suppose this is to be expected for my most involved Worldcon convention volunteer experience, but overall it was a positive experience.

I was WSFS (World Science Fiction Society) Division Head for Worldcon 75. After being a part of the bid leadership I felt a natural obligation to participate as a DH for the con, and after many years working a large convention at home on CONvergence I wanted to work on something that would be unique for Worldcon, but also one that would work just as well based in America as in Europe. I’d also run Site Selection the year prior in Kansas City, so had some opportunity to gain experience going in, and learned much more through the process.

Because Worldcon 75 was filled with people that had never worked - and in many cases never even attended - a Worldcon before, WSFS Division served as a bit more institutional knowledge than I imagine it normally would. I hardly consider myself a Worldcon expert; many many people have attended or worked more - but for a variety of reasons we didn’t have others with much more knowledge on our committee so we managed the best we could. I wanted this to truly be a Finnish and Nordic Worldcon, and I think we achieved that goal, but figuring out how to get there was sometimes tricky.

I broke my leg two months before the convention. Fortunately I had healed up enough to be mostly mobile, but I was nowhere near 100%, and would occasionally just hit the wall with exhaustion. That meant things fell to others at times that I could not pick up, and I underestimated my own abilities. We should have planned for that with more assistance on site to help with some gopher talks.

Hugo Award Administration

I knew when I went for the WSFS DH that Nicholas Whyte was quite likely willing to be the Hugo Administrator, and given my previous experience with him at Loncon I was excited to work with him, and that was true throughout the entire time. The people that he chose all did an incredible job, and seeing Colette Fozard move on to become a Vice Chair stabilized the top of our organization and generally reduced my own stress about the convention.

Having the Hugo ceremony on night 3 instead of night 4 made night 3 busy with Site Selection counting and the Hugo ceremony, but it had a positive impact on the business meeting, as Hugo related business was handled after the award ceremony but not on the last day when people wanted to get out of town. I’m hopeful that the business meeting won’t need to spend as much time in post-Hugo deliberations in future needs, and I think there are valid reasons for both night three and night four depending on the tastes of each staff and the particular circumstances year to year.

One hiccup was that instead of printing more copies of the embargoed Hugo Results for after the ceremony, we had a bunch of additional Business Meeting agendas.  Printing extra copies of massive documents like that proved impossible on site by the time this was discovered, and provided for an unnecessary amount of stress. This might have been easier back home in the US.  We had sufficient copies for the business meeting and the results were swiftly posted online, so this wasn’t as poor as it could have been, and I know that not everyone likes to have all of the detailed results thrust upon them while leaving the ceremony.

Our partnership with events was good, and with what I saw they produced an outstanding ceremony. We could have prepared a little bit better for shipping Hugo Awards home, and I think some of the Award logistics (as opposed to the ceremony and reception) could have been a little easier. I’m not sure we have a great accounting of what needs to be produced for finalists or their expectations. We should have had one additional staffer available on Hugo night as Kate was unable to fully enjoy being a Hugo Acceptor because of a bunch of emergencies that sprung up at the last minute (such as the photo copy of results).


 

We delegated the selection of the base to the Chairs, as it was our strong opinion that the base be Finnish. I’m pleased with the result there.

Nicholas Whyte has done his own writeup, and I highly recommend that as well. [Part 1] [Part 2] [Hugo Packet Debrief]

Site Selection

We had done Site Selection for the Kansas City Worldcon, and we knew Dublin was unopposed, so much was easier there. I was happy that Johan Anglemark signed on as a Site Selection admin as I wanted to see someone Nordic in the division, and he did an outstanding job.

Despite some mild trolling I participated in of some people opposed to electronic site selection, we never seriously considered it. I’m convinced that generally the current method works for now, and given the political opposition I think there are  other ways to improve the process. Note that emailing signed scanned ballots to someone else to print out and hand carry is allowed.

Electronic validation of voters against the registration database is something that worked and can be improved for future Worldcon site selection. Carrying around all of that Personally Identifiable Information on paper at Kansas City was nerve wracking, and something that could be improved without changing the overall traditions of a paper based site selection. I gather we didn’t save Dublin as much time after receiving the data as we hoped, but that may be something that future Worldcons could improve.

We accepted Dublin’s Advance Supporting Membership rate without sufficient consideration; which had differing amounts in Euro and USD. This was an error, as people would want to shop for the rate that was cheaper when they mailed items in, and our credit card banking was in Euro. Currency rates are complicated, especially for mail in ballots.

WSFS Business Meeting

I suggest that the deadline for new business get pushed back two weeks. The current deadline was difficult due to travel arrangements, and it also means that items get added at the last minute without the opportunity to discuss before the convention.

We had a great deal of anxiety about the room size when we realized more people were going to show up to the convention than when we had chosen the room over a year ago. Fortunately, those concerns weren’t warranted and the room was ideal. Note that the Business Meeting is one that can’t turn people away due to WSFS constitutional requirements, and it’d been a disaster if we had been forced to swap with larger rooms.  (I pretty much lost a night of sleep in fear.)

We struggled a bit with our local tech team due to cultural and communication issues. They did their job well - but the Business Meeting is a strange and particular beast. The tech team did an outstanding job of which I am grateful - but I think it was more difficult for all of us than it should have been.

Having both online streaming (as provided by W75) and the official videographer provided by Lisa Hayes was useful. I think we need the truly permanent record to be provided by someone in the room, and as the Hugo ceremony demonstrated, streaming is still not always reliable (or viable!). There was some confusion and tension by having two teams, but I think recognizing two different sets of requirements and having a backup was good there. This was a meeting that had some potentially important moments in WSFS history so keeping a record is good.

The online CART translation worked reasonably well; I think it’s slightly more effective if you can have the CART transcriber in the room, but when finances or logistics do not allow it, it’s a good alternative to be aware of. I don’t think CART should be optional; accessibility demands something there.

In retrospect, we should have had a local person as part of the Business Meeting team as a liaison to handle all of the logistics of the room. They wouldn't have needed to be a Business Meeting expert ahead of time, but could have assisted with some of the mechanical tasks.

All of our top table staff were experts in their positions; I think it’d be good for future Worldcons to provide opportunities for new people to take on all the roles.

Having a printer in the room was a major win, as it could print one or two page additional reports effectively without needing to go elsewhere.

I am pleased we were able to have coffee. We had forgotten that we might need to explicitly order water, but they were able to provide that when we requested.

Conclusion

I am overall pleased with how things turned out. This took a greater emotional toll than I had expected, but in the end I feel mostly positive that our division worked well, and that the convention as a whole was successful.

I could not have done this at all without Kate Secor as my deputy DH, and it would be much more accurate to describe her as a co-head.  I believe every position in a convention committee should have at least one back up, and this was especially true here.

I also thank all of the people that were on the WSFS team at some point during our journey: Nicholas Whyte, Kathryn Duval, Colette Fozard, Brent Smart, Jo Van Ekeren, Johan Anglemark, Michael Pargman, Mark Linneman, Kevin Standlee, Don Eastlake, Linda Deneroff, Paul Dormer, and Lisa Hayes. 

I’d also like to thank honorary WSFS Division Members Hugo Ceremony Head Joshua Beatty, Con Office Head Phil Davies, DevOps DH Eemeli Aro and DevOps Project Manager Daria Medved.

We also had support from a variety of people that were on the Chairs team at some point during the two years before the convention, usually by staying out of our way. Thanks to Saija Aro, Colette Fozard, Jukka Halme, Crystal Huff, and Karoliina Leikomaa.

Also thanks to everyone in Design, Exhibits, Facilities, Finance, Programme, Social Media, Tech, and Web Team. If you think I forgot you, forgive me.


Comments:
You wrote: "Note that emailing signed scanned ballots to someone else to print out and hand carry is allowed." As a former WSFS DH, I don't see how this differs in any way from doing the same and emailing them straight to Site Selection. We did this successfully for Sasquan so as not to disenfranchise anyone from four countries competing for the Worldcon.
 
We'd been given different marching orders as far as emailing pdfs go last year in Kansas City, and we just continued on with that for this year.
 
The difference is that putting it in the hands of the admin means that person knows how people voted, and our system is explicitly set up to avoid that. Not every admin would want that responsibility. Not every voter would be comfortable with that person knowing their vote. But sending it to a friend is an entirely personal interaction.
 
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