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Alex von Thorn
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Alex von Thorn

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So someone is whining on the Internet about how they didn't get called on during a panel at Renovation, and that they felt disconnected because they stood in a corridor and nobody talked to them. Not to say that Worldcons are perfect, but there are things people can do to have a better experience:

* Bring a friend. Sharing the new experiences with someone you already share context with makes it a lot more enjoyable. Not just during the con, but you can talk about things afterwards when you get home. It is much easier to start a conversation with your friend and then include other people than it is to break into someone else's talk.

* Volunteer. This is a must for me. Knowing what's going on brings a pattern to the whole experience, making it easier to understand and appreciate everything. You are much closer to what's going on and you are in much closer contact with interesting people, authors and other convention organizers, if you are behind some of the scenes.

* Bring something to the table. Give people a reason to talk to you. Be a writer, a fan writer, a costumer, a blogger, a filker, a maker, a gamer, whatever. If you are a fan, be a fan of something, and do something about your fandom. Show off your fandom with a t-shirt, a button, a hat; give people a clue that you can talk about something they are interested in.

* If you want to do something social, go to social events. Parties are social. Book launches, con suite, "stroll with the stars", workshops, kaffeeklatsches, and so on. Note the difference between social events and things that are more informational and structured. A panel is usually about the speakers; levels of formality vary, but if there are a bunch of famous authors at the front of the room, that's who people in the room want to hear. Maybe you can ask a question, but you are not the point of the panel.

* If you are interested in something in particular, do a bit of research and preparation. If you want to see an author, find out when they are doing a kaffeeklatsch or reading. Many authors have gatherings of their fans, which you find out about not through the Worldcon but through that author's blog or Facebook page or mailing list. Be a recognizable name on that blog or mailing list, so that when you meet the author in person, they'll already have a reason to talk to you. Don't just focus on the biggest names; people who only have a couple of Hugo nominations can be fascinating people but will be more accessible and more appreciative of meeting a fan.


This may not be a complete list but it's a good start. If you are doing this stuff, you will have a good time and you will be talking to people. Find one person to talk to, and build from there. Heck, find me, and I'll give you something to do. Once you are making fandom more interesting for everyone else, everyone else will start paying that back to you.
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Actually being 13 is kind of a valid excuse. We've identified younger fandom as a constituency that is important to us where we have room for improvement. Doing this right is very people-intensive.

Of course I wasn't at Torcon 2, but my impression is that as the years go by, we have so many traditions and good ideas that the we try to do that the whole convention is a bit more diffuse. While we mostly avoid fiefdoms, there is a certain about of organizational cruft, things we've done for many years and so there's a constituency to keep doing them.
And as Mark Olson has noted, Worldcons have more competition in the Internet age, which is good for fandom, if less so for Worldcon itself. I think parties are good for socializing.

Obviously conventions aren't perfect and we can look at plenty of areas of improvement. But what I learned from listening to this member is that the problem scope is not entirely within the control of the Worldcon committee. The fans themselves have a responsibility both for their own experience of the convention but also for contributing to everyone else's experience. The ethic should be, and should be communicated, that to complain is to volunteer to help with whatever one is complaining about.

We're not going to make Worldcon into a pop culture festival, by which I mean, we're not going to invite paid celebrities that might trigger the membership growth curve that larger events have seen. Given that, and it is a given, we need to communicate this difference to potential members, we need to not obsess about not reaching membership numbers of the pop culture events, and then we need to focus on running the best Worldcon we can.

Alex von Thorn

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I go to conventions. So far this year: Rustycon, ConFusion, Capricon, Boskone, Ad Astra, Norwescon, Balticon, ConComCon... #speakgeek
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, Duckon, Westercon, OSRcon, Renovation, CanCon, plus some planning meetings for Chicon, and I'm planning on Fencon, Capclave, WIndycon, SFContario, and Smofcon. I am currently working on SFContario, the Spokane in 2015 Worldcon Bid, Chicon 7, Westercon 65, Duckon 21, Bloody Words XII, and ConComCon 19.
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Alex von Thorn

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Chevron has sent subpoenas to three ISPs to get names associated with over 50 email addresses of environmental activists. Electronic Frontier Founndation and EarthRights International has filed motions against these subpoenas. ERI says "The courts have long recognized that forcing activists to reveal their names and political associations will chill First Amendment rights and can only be done in the most extreme situations." 

And I'm reminded of the controversy regarding Michael Brutsch and his "RapeBait" forum on Reddit. Many people on Reddit are upset that Adrien Chen posted the identity of "ViolentAcrez". Mr. Brutsch lost his job when his employer found out about his online activities.

So what's the difference?

Two things. One is that individuals can take reasonable steps to protect their own anonymity. But private journalists and corporations don't have access to the power of law enforcement.

So Mr. Brutsch didn't take a lot of care to protect his identity. He printed his online avatar on t-shirts to give to his friends. Mr. Chen acted as an investigative journalist, tracked down leads that were available, and found out who "ViolentAcrez" was.

The envirornmental activists have been more careful and apparently haven't been found through investigative resources. Now Chevron wants their identities as part of a civil lawsuit.

So, two, where the environmentalists have taken reasonable steps to protect their anonymity, Chevron wants to use the power of the state to reveal them.
If the activists had committed a crime, the subpoenas would be court orders requested by state prosecutors and approved by judges. But the power of the state should not be used to serve one side in a private dispute. 

So yes, anonymity can be an important aspect of free speech, but it also can rely on intermediaries. If you do want to speak anonymously, the reason is that you don't want people to link what you say to who you are in other contexts, and that means not everyone is going to be on board with respecting your anonymity. Maintaining your privacy belongs to you and to the intermediaries you deal with. The law does provide some protection, but the right of free speech also protects those who would reveal your identity. Free speech demands the protection of unpopular speech, but we are also free to judge and interpret what we hear according to our own morals and preferences. That means that any private transmission of speech is under the control of private parties, who may or may not support one's agenda.
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Alex von Thorn

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So it's a month until voting closes for the Aurora Awards. Don't forget to vote! All members of SFContario 2/Canvention 31 are entitled to vote, as well as those go through the Aurora Awards website at http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/Membership/.

Yours truly has been nominated for Fan Organization. My short bio on what I'm currently up to is at http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/wordpress/?page_id=849 . The bullet points are:

* Chair and founder of SFContario, Toronto's fall science fiction convention http://sfcontario.ca
* Bid Chair of the Spokane in 2015 Worldcon Bid http://spokanein2015.org
* Webmaster for Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago in 2012 http://chicon.org
* Publications Director for Westercon 65, the 65th West Coast Regional Science Fantasy Conference http://westercon65.org
* Program Director for Duckon 21, Chicago's spring science fiction convention http://duckon.org
* Webmaster for Bloody Words, the Toronto mystery and true crime fiction conference http://bloodywords2012.com

Please take a little time to become familiar with the nominees in this and other categories, short blurbs and links are all available on the Aurora website, and then vote in any category you can become informed about.
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