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Crowdsourcing the SciFi Convention: How the Internet (That’s You!) Can Save Live-Action Fandom

They say that the Internet is killing the small science fiction convention. They say you can interact with fans and pros in so many ways online for free, there’s no point in paying to do it offline. Unless you’ve got the critical mass of awesome like you’d find at Comic-Con, DragonCon, GenCon, or WorldCon, there’s no sense even trying, right?

Frak that. I don’t believe the web is killing small sci-fi cons. I do believe that the Internet can save them.

After five years as a staffer at my local convention, Louisville’s own ConGlomeration, I’ve stepped up as programming co-chair on the organizing committee. But I come at this after 10 years as an online content producer and old-school social media Kool-Aid-drinker. I believe, as Doc Searls taught us, that hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. I believe that with many eyes, all bugs are shallow. I believe in black swans, tipping points, and the wisdom of crowds. And, above all, I’m looking for a few brave first followers.

I want the Internet – and especially the readership of SF Signal – to program ConGlomeration 2011.


From Friday, April 22 to Sunday, April 24, 2011 — Easter weekend — we’ve got 50 hours of geekdom to make amazing. This is the ConGlomeration 2011 programming grid as of today. It’s empty. There’s room for 350 hours of programming. I don’t need to fill it all, but I need to account for 175-200 hours of it. That requires ideas. That’s where you guys come in.

We have a 300-person ballroom at our disposal. It will have Internet access, a few laptops, some webcams, and a digital projector and screen. We’re going to have virtual guests (via Tokbox videochat, in all likelihood), and we’re going to do programming involving pros and fans from all over the planet. There is no reason to limit our panels to physical locations. All that’s required are willing participants with a webcam and the ability to stay awake simultaneously for an hour. We’re living in the frakking future of pocket supercomputers, electric cars, and free global communications. Let’s act like it.

So who do you want to see, and what do you want them to discuss? Throw me your dream panel. If you’re a sci-fi, fantasy, or horror professional, what panel have you always wanted to do, and with whom? We’ll work to make it happen. For you fans, what panel do you wish someone would let you stage? Pitch us, and we may videoconference you in to take your shot. Comic books, games, movies, television, books, webcomics – we’ll tackle any medium or mashup. No subgenre is sacred our out of bounds. Through the miracle of the Internet, all things are possible. What do you want us to make real?

If the topic is awesome but we can’t get the perfect geek-celebrity lineup, we’ll find substitutes from our own regional volunteer staff and make it a standard offline panel. Every wild idea you share has a very real possibility of blossoming into a program reality. And don’t limit your pitches to just the virtual panels. We’ve got a dedicated LARP space (no judging). If there’s a live-action roleplaying concept you wish someone would offer (besides Vampire), we’re listening. We’ve got a dedicated KidCon youth programming track, so if there’s a special all-ages idea you want to see come to pass, we’re standing by for your call. Is there a brand of (legal) con activity that no one has ever tried before, beyond the confines of a regular panel? Feel free to shred our existing paradigm right here, right now.

So what’s in it for you, right?

Well, besides the bragging rights and the sheer power-trip joy of making strangers act out your fevered imaginings, we’re going to video-record every second of ConGlomeration 2011 we can, then post as much of it on the web as we can reasonably edit into a coherent product. Even if you don’t attend ConGlomeration 2011 – and we’d love to have you – we’ll share as much of the magic with our online friends as we possibly can. Share and enjoy, as the great Douglas Adams taught us all. (Or, alternately, go stick your head in a pig.)

ConGlomeration may be housed in Louisville, KY, but so far as I’m concerned, it belongs to all of sci-fi fandom – starting with everyone reading this SF Signal post. Conventions have always been labors of love, made possible by dozens or even hundreds of fans cooperating to create a shared, communal product. I see no reason why that collaboration has to be limited to people within arm’s reach. This is your con, too, and we want you to help create it.

The gang here at SF Signal has generously given me column space to discuss our progress. (They’ve also promised a few of their awesome Mind Meld topics to help with our research.) As ConGlomeration 2011 comes into focus, you’ll get the play-by-play on your shared ideas coming to fruition. You’ll watch as we – as in all of us, together, you included — build a new kind of sci-fi convention from the ground up.

It all starts in the comments section below. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email. Our doors are open, and the floor is yours.

Let’s ConGlomerate.

4 Comments on Crowdsourcing the SciFi Convention: How the Internet (That’s You!) Can Save Live-Action Fandom

  1. Say, for example, one were to try to create an all-star zombie media panel. Besides Max Brooks, Robert Kirkman, and George Romero, who should be on the panel?

  2. For a less intense evening activity, what about a concert of SF/F music from films and tv shows? The local university has a decent music program and you could probably get a small orchestra together for the price of a meal and/or alcohol. I’ve been several concerts with a SF/F theme and it was so much fun! If you want to make it interactive you could poll conference attendees about what they’d want to hear. The polls would just have to close by a month beforehand so the performers have time to practice. I know sometimes towards the end of the con if feels like your brain has been overstuffed, so a concert would be a nice way to unwind a bit and still revel in geekery with your fellow con-goers.

  3. I like the concert idea. That’s quite interesting. Need to figure out who to call about that.

  4. Alternatively, and related to the concert theme, you could bring in il Troubadore who have a bit of a following in Louisville (especially amongst the local bellydancers) and play Cons–covering all the classic tunes from Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune nd other Sci-Fi/Fantasy series often in the languages the tunes are written in (Klingon, Huttese, Ewok, Fremen…).

    Take a look at our version of the Klingon Victory Song:

    and our cover of “Yub Nub” the Ewok Celebration song:

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