AnthrOhio's theme this year was ``Barks and Recreation'' and they did a great job integrating the theme into the con's space and activities. Much better than any of the conventions we'd been to, that we remembered. Particularly, each of the convention spaces had a stand, with mock wooden signs holding the name of the place and, it transpired, an RFID card reader. This would be explained at Opening Ceremonies.
The gimmick, one of many that Morphicon/AnthrOhio has been trying to create a communal event out of just being at a convention, was that people could earn badges for their activities. By checking in at spots --- checking in recorded by tapping their RFID badges at these signs --- they could earn credit for achievements, and also earn points for their team. Participants would be one one of two teams, the Night Owls and the ... I forget. Early Risers or something. A group that we were not, by any sense of the word. And they promised it was all in fun and there wasn't any identifying information about what RFID chip matched what congoer. You know, in case you worried about fine-level movement detail being logged and recorded by goodness knows who and kept under unknown security and used for who knows what purposes.
Still, taking all that at their word it did seem like a fun enough idea and maybe even a better way to keep track of attendance at convention panels than just sending someone in to do a survey or asking panel-runners what attendance was like afterwards. (I say, as regular host of one panel that's never all that popular and of another that's only occasionally liked.) We were kind of up for it, but bunny_hugger kept missing chances to activate her card and join a team; you had to fiddle with something on their web site, which was no good for us on WiFi-enabled iPods, and then go to their computer just outside Main Events to activate a something else. It took a day for her to get all that registered --- and at that she somehow ended up on the Early Risers team --- and felt that she had spoiled her participation in the thing, or at least missed the chance to earn a good number of badges, by being so late to start. Me, I never did join; I forgot about the web site thingy even more resolutely than bunny_hugger did, including forgetting to go to the site after she had mentioned she was activating her card, until it was just ridiculous to even try.
It turned out that what determined whether you were on the Early Riser(?) or Night Owls team was not anything about when you first made your account. It was a registration question that was supposed to superficially have nothing to do with anything, to better balance the teams. The question: how do you feel about pineapple on pizza? (Or do you like it, or something like that.) When she realized this bunny_hugger was offended as we know how much anti-pineapple-pizza sentiment there is. Her team would always be behind in points, earned by people checking in to events; but the disadvantage in population left the team hopelessly behind. ... Although, not so, apparently. At Closing Ceremonies they revealed that about 49% of people had been on the Early Risers team and about 51% on the Night Owls. If the Night Owls earned about 60 percent of the points awarded that's just because they logged in more.
In practice I'm not convinced this RFID thing will help them better work out what popular and unpopular events are. Even without being on a team I did try to tap in, to show that I was at events, and I managed maybe a 40% success rate at remembering to do this. There were plenty of other people I noticed poking into a room, tapping in, and moving on. There might be some salvageable data about the relative popularity of things but I wouldn't want to try to bake the noise out of that raw data.
And there was some exciting news at Opening Ceremonies. That was that there'd be signups that evening for the Variety Show to be held Sunday. We always think we ought to do something with puppets, since we're the sad remnants of the convention's once-mighty puppeteering track. The chance to tell whoever was running the variety show that if you've got a part for puppets we could give it our best try was just what we were hoping for.
So that evening we went to the last couple minutes of the Whose Lion Is It Anyways? comedy show, there to find the promised signups. As the show broke up and the audience disbanded we saw a clear group of ... nobody, anywhere. I pestered Alkali, trusting that he would either know what was going on for the Variety Show or would know who to ask about it. No such luck; he wasn't going to be at the convention Sunday and was out of the loop on Variety Show planning. But he pointed us to someone else, at least. Who thought a bit and said that the signups were being organized at another room. This room turned out to be registration, which was closed for the day. I did knock several times, rousing the interest of absolutely nobody inside. So whatever these signups where they weren't there and then, either place.
bunny_hugger was confident she remembered the time and place right, but hadn't written it down at the time. I thought she was right, but I didn't play close attention to the time and place for signups, I suppose out of an assurance that it would be on the schedule (it wasn't) or would be easy to find by talking to performance-track people, and you see here how that went.
So this seemed to quash any idea of being the untrained and unrehearsed, but at least existent, puppeteering side of the variety show. Can't say we were impressed this this part of the convention's procedures. At the complaints session after Closing Ceremonies I did talk about how confusing this all was, and that there did need to be clearer ideas of who to ask about this sort of signup event as opposed to the event proper. I'm not sure that my point was made, as opposed to being lost under the general problem that schedule changes are never easy to deal with at a convention. But at least someone took a note that we were looking for signups and couldn't find anybody who knew such a thing could even exist.
Trivia: Between July 1869 and July 1874 customs agents at the Port of New York seized over 3600 shipments and secured 68 smuggling-related indictments, gathering over four million dollars in fines. Source: Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America, Peter Andreas.
Currently Reading: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons, David A Bossert.
The Dragon's entrance and the smoke-breathing masthead above in the early evening light.
Secondary midway, perpendicular to the main one at The Dragon coaster and facing west. Mostly redemption games and a couple of concessions such as a place for fruit drinks or coffee.
Evening view of The Old Mill's entrance, and ticket booth, with The Dragon's lift hill in the background.