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wasurenai

The autograph line was a disaster.

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This needs to be addressed by Otakon immediately.  Utter chaos - combining lines, breaking up lines, staff allowing people in one line to immediately move to another guest without waiting in line again.  Meanwhile, those of us who waited for two hours for a single guest were told to clear out - half an hour before the autograph session was closed, with no voucher or promise of priority the next day. 

Absolutely embarrassing and a colossal waste of our very limited convention time. 

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Yep just mentioned this in another thread. A total disaster. 

 

We also asked staff several times before the line closed to let us know if we have any hope so we wouldn’t waste our time. No one felt the need to get back to us until basically the end of the signing. The entire time the line didn’t move at all. 

 

Also the fact that they let ppl get several autographs when some of us got none. 

 

I thought autographs would be handled better once we got more space. I guess not! 

 

 

 

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Yeah, I called this from the start, ever since I heard about the new setup. This is awful. The whole thing is ludicrously unorganized and we had several staff straight up admit to us that they first learned about the setup yesterday. Staffers gave us conflicting instructions and now apparently they're trying to rearrange things to go back to the old system, which they never should have abandoned in the first place. Autographs worked perfectly fine last year, this year it's a total disaster. Don't fix what isn't broken, guys.

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Had a feeling this thread would be here. Not surprised at all after the experience I went through today. I think most people in here are probably referring to the Kawamori line. I haven't seen a disaster like that since the Kouta Hirano meltdown years ago. As someone who was there in line by 12:10, I can easily tell you the major problem of the entire ordeal was not setup or a miscommunication by staff, the problem was our fellow con-goers. People were monopolizing Mr. Kawamori time with photos, too much conversation, and sketches. This is completely messed up. The line for Kawamori was pretty lengthy and only 50 people got through the line!  It never moved after the initial 50 people were sent into the main line! That is utterly insane. He was there for almost one hour and 1/2! Do the math. Each person was taking up two-four minutes each. And honestly as someone who has interacted with guests and sports athletes, that's like a lifetime. My main suggestion to staff is that they have a wrangler up in the front and enforce a strict autograph only policy to be fair to everyone else in line. It's really messed up in my opinion to hog up the guest's time and our time when hundreds of other people are waiting.  

But there were other issues such as people cutting the line going for one guest and jumping into another guests line. These things need to be monitored closely.  If I can fault staff anywhere it would be that.

At the end of the day, I didn't get the autograph I waited for and that's life, but I'm more frustrated at losing time standing there for almost 2 1/2 hours thinking I would be a lock for getting in and more agitated at my fellow members who hogged up all the precious time Mr. Kawamori has with us. Hopefully tomorrow will be better, I already invested 2 and 1/2 hours, I'll probably be doing the same tomorrow. Let's hope this time more than 50 people get through the line.

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How strange. It worked perfectly fine for me. Maybe it was the first signing slot that was a problem? If so then they already fixed it. It was, basically, just dividing the line in two, and they started telling people they'd probably not or won't get to the second line in time by 40 minutes of the end of the session.

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2 hours ago, Tachibana said:

How strange. It worked perfectly fine for me. Maybe it was the first signing slot that was a problem? If so then they already fixed it. It was, basically, just dividing the line in two, and they started telling people they'd probably not or won't get to the second line in time by 40 minutes of the end of the session.

Yeah my friends got their autographs with Yoshinari with no problem. I kind of wanted his autograph too but I was so upset by what happened I didn’t even want to try again today. I stood in line for 2 and half hours and got nothing. An yes it was the Kawamori line. 

 

Note its not even about not getting the autograph it’s the fact I wasted my time and staff didn’t even have the courtesy to tell us until the last minute we were not getting in and we asked for them to let us know if there was any hope at least an hour before that. And then the staff member just told us to come an hour before for the next session which is exactly what we did this time so no help at all basically. 

 

Now there is another signing but it overlaps closely with the DB tour event (I have no idea even what that is but I am interested) so now I have to decide to try for Kawamori’s autograph again or go to the DB thing. Either way I miss something. 

 

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1 hour ago, Kirarakim said:

Yeah my friends got their autographs with Yoshinari with no problem. I kind of wanted his autograph too but I was so upset by what happened I didn’t even want to try again today. I stood in line for 2 and half hours and got nothing. An yes it was the Kawamori line. 

 

Note its not even about not getting the autograph it’s the fact I wasted my time and staff didn’t even have the courtesy to tell us until the last minute we were not getting in and we asked for them to let us know if there was any hope at least an hour before that. And then the staff member just told us to come an hour before for the next session which is exactly what we did this time so no help at all basically. 

 

Now there is another signing but it overlaps closely with the DB tour event (I have no idea even what that is but I am interested) so now I have to decide to try for Kawamori’s autograph again or go to the DB thing. Either way I miss something. 

 

They went back to the original way of doing autographs for Yoshinari et al; i.e. separate lines for each guest with no mega pre-line. And it worked wonderfully. I hope whomever came up with the setup that was used this morning is never allowed to be in charge of anything again.

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Hmm.. 

I mean it's a bit different still, imo, but now that I know the impression of later lineups WAS that it was the old way.... I can only imagine how horrible the first signings were. D: that sucks

Edit: ... Wait. How the later signings were is how it was like back at Baltimore. I feel silly now. For some reason I only remembered the super lines of last year.

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1 hour ago, Dostovei Illuminas said:

They went back to the original way of doing autographs for Yoshinari et al; i.e. separate lines for each guest with no mega pre-line. And it worked wonderfully. I hope whomever came up with the setup that was used this morning is never allowed to be in charge of anything again.

It's good they went back to the original way because that way clearly works best but still if the original way was originally in place this afternoon it would have made zero difference. Kawamori was taking his time with signing and the members were double-dipping, taking photos, and monopolizing the time given. Only 50 people got through the line in the allotted time span. I've never seen anything like it before, the only thing that comes close is Kouta Hirano.

I'm really hoping tomorrow during the session they have a staff member in the front trying to move things along as smoothly as possible. Let's see what tomorrow brings! Good luck everyone.  

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Egads!  My jaw dropped when seeing the autograph line earlier today -- seemed like a sea of people just standing there.  I felt so bad for you all.  I sure hope you all get the autographs you want tomorrow!

 

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Friend and I lined up for Canna, who started around the same time as Kawamori, and we knew right off the bat it wasn't going to turn out good. One general autograph line for attendees to file into? Did no one on staff have enough foresight to realize attendees would be shimmying ontop of each other when it was time to move into the actual line for a guest?

We got Canna's autograph although we ended up waiting in the makeshift overflow line for about 45 minutes. The experience paired with a scheduling conflict convinced us not to try for Kawamori on Saturday.

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I did thankfully get the autograph this time & Kawamori was absolutely  lovely but again it was handled very poorly. 

 

There were a whole bunch of people crowded in one area for Kawamori’s autograph. I understand Otakon does not like mobs of people waiting before a line starts but they created this situation with how Kawamori’s autograph was handled yesterday.

Instead of forming a line near this area the staff member running the autograph line decided it was better to form it on the complete opposite side of everyone. 

Of course they yelled not to run but what do you think is going to happen? It’s like Otakon prefers chaos.

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30 minutes ago, Kirarakim said:

I did thankfully get the autograph this time & Kawamori was absolutely  lovely but again it was handled very poorly. 

 

There were a whole bunch of people crowded in one area for Kawamori’s autograph. I understand Otakon does not like mobs of people waiting before a line starts but they created this situation with how Kawamori’s autograph was handled yesterday.

Instead of forming a line near this area the staff member running the autograph line decided it was better to form it on the complete opposite side of everyone. 

Of course they yelled not to run but what do you think is going to happen? It’s like Otakon prefers chaos.

Yeah, that and the perpetually stupid one hour rule both make every autograph session a complete mess. You have more than ample space now for multiple lines; let people line up as soon as they get there instead of trying to wrangle an unorganized mob outside of the area until the exact second of one hour before. There is nothing preventing a line or two for the more popular guests from being set up 2-3+ hours in advance. If people want to spend their whole con in line, let them. I personally came here for nothing other than Kawamori's autograph, so con staff wanting me to go out and see the rest of the con frankly means nothing to me. The way staff handles the autograph line area is never going to get better as long as they keep insisting on following this ridiculous rule. Crowds are not going to disperse because if we do then someone else will jump into the line once it opens and the people who left will end up not getting anything. I will never understand why any con continues to stick to a policy that does nothing but cause crowd control problems

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2 hours ago, Dostovei Illuminas said:

Yeah, that and the perpetually stupid one hour rule both make every autograph session a complete mess. You have more than ample space now for multiple lines; let people line up as soon as they get there instead of trying to wrangle an unorganized mob outside of the area until the exact second of one hour before. There is nothing preventing a line or two for the more popular guests from being set up 2-3+ hours in advance. If people want to spend their whole con in line, let them. I personally came here for nothing other than Kawamori's autograph, so con staff wanting me to go out and see the rest of the con frankly means nothing to me. The way staff handles the autograph line area is never going to get better as long as they keep insisting on following this ridiculous rule. Crowds are not going to disperse because if we do then someone else will jump into the line once it opens and the people who left will end up not getting anything. I will never understand why any con continues to stick to a policy that does nothing but cause crowd control problems

Not staff here, but I can tell you why the con will not allow people to line up for 2 - 3 hours before an event: It's a huge safety issue. Every area in a venue has a max capacity of people that can safety congregate there, even hallways and lobbies. If too many people cluster in one area and the building has to suddenly evacuate (fire, shooting, etc.), someone could get trampled, crushed, or otherwise hurt in the hurry to vacate. At big events like Otakon, the fire marshal makes several rounds to make sure this isn't happening. If it is, the whole event could get shut down if it isn't remedied.

It sucks that you didn't get the autograph you wanted. But I also advise not going to a convention for just one thing. Because if it doesn't happen, you'll feel like you wasted your money and weekend.

Staff: Is there a way you could implement a ticketing system for autographs? My hometown convention sometimes offers tickets at a guest's panel and the tickets guarantee an autograph at the guest's signing. No ticket, no autograph. That way people aren't crowding the autograph area or re-enacting the Hunger Games when the line opens.

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2 hours ago, Tigress said:

Not staff here, but I can tell you why the con will not allow people to line up for 2 - 3 hours before an event: It's a huge safety issue. Every area in a venue has a max capacity of people that can safety congregate there, even hallways and lobbies. If too many people cluster in one area and the building has to suddenly evacuate (fire, shooting, etc.), someone could get trampled, crushed, or otherwise hurt in the hurry to vacate. At big events like Otakon, the fire marshal makes several rounds to make sure this isn't happening. If it is, the whole event could get shut down if it isn't remedied.

It sucks that you didn't get the autograph you wanted. But I also advise not going to a convention for just one thing. Because if it doesn't happen, you'll feel like you wasted your money and weekend.

Staff: Is there a way you could implement a ticketing system for autographs? My hometown convention sometimes offers tickets at a guest's panel and the tickets guarantee an autograph at the guest's signing. No ticket, no autograph. That way people aren't crowding the autograph area or re-enacting the Hunger Games when the line opens.

So how is having a giant unorganized mob in front of the autograph area safer than letting people form orderly queues in advance? If the fire marshal is going to shut us down for anything it's going to be that.

I did get the autograph I was after thankfully, but that was in spite of Otakon's efforts, not because of them. And tickets don't solve this problem, it just shifts the unorganized mob to the ticket counter instead. Panel tickets will just mean the panel has the giant mob, and the Hunger Games rush comes in when everyone charges out of the panel after getting their ticket to go get in line. Unless you want to do online distribution through Showclix and have everyone pay booking fees like SDCC and AX, you're not going to solve the crowd issue. I can handle that just fine but I'm sure a lot of people can't. 

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I believe they did a ticket setup for a guest sometime ago (Yoko Kanno? X Japan?) I remember reading it didnt go over very well with attendees.

When I started attending Otakon we were allowed to line up whenever we wanted, and I was fine with that up until I missed out on TMR's autograph because I wasn't willing to lineup overnight in Baltimore like others. I'm not fond of the prehour setup but I prefer it to the previous method.

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Yoshiki had a concert that was only available to be entered if you won a raffle and were given tickets. Ironically once show day came there were so many unfilled seats they opened it to the public, remaining con members I mean.

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22 hours ago, Kirarakim said:

I did thankfully get the autograph this time & Kawamori was absolutely  lovely but again it was handled very poorly. 

 

There were a whole bunch of people crowded in one area for Kawamori’s autograph. I understand Otakon does not like mobs of people waiting before a line starts but they created this situation with how Kawamori’s autograph was handled yesterday.

Instead of forming a line near this area the staff member running the autograph line decided it was better to form it on the complete opposite side of everyone. 

Of course they yelled not to run but what do you think is going to happen? It’s like Otakon prefers chaos.


Yesterday's session went a lot better (for me at least) than Friday. I was walking  around in the Dealer's Room for a few hours before the official lining started (even waited in the DBZ line for the exclusives for an hour to pass the time and get some cool items for the collection). Had to pass on going to Kawamori's panel because the start of the autograph line overlapped with the panel. Made my way over to the autographs by 1:50 and sure enough a crowd started to gather. Most people were on edge because of what happened on Friday but also because most people knew if they weren't the first 50 in line, they had a high chance of not getting anything. I was glad to see almost all the people who were around me yesterday were there, all the people who never moved from the original line and were super close to going into the signing area. All of us got through from what I saw, although I'm not sure how many people got through after I left. Hopefully it was more than the 50 people from Friday. Kawamori was amazing and super nice, but sure enough I did notice some people taking advantage of the situation and getting 3-4 things signed. Not cool. Hopefully most people didn't do that as Kawamori was taking his time with each person. 

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23 hours ago, Dostovei Illuminas said:

Yeah, that and the perpetually stupid one hour rule both make every autograph session a complete mess. You have more than ample space now for multiple lines; let people line up as soon as they get there instead of trying to wrangle an unorganized mob outside of the area until the exact second of one hour before. There is nothing preventing a line or two for the more popular guests from being set up 2-3+ hours in advance. If people want to spend their whole con in line, let them. I personally came here for nothing other than Kawamori's autograph, so con staff wanting me to go out and see the rest of the con frankly means nothing to me. The way staff handles the autograph line area is never going to get better as long as they keep insisting on following this ridiculous rule. Crowds are not going to disperse because if we do then someone else will jump into the line once it opens and the people who left will end up not getting anything. I will never understand why any con continues to stick to a policy that does nothing but cause crowd control problems

Personally I thought the staff did the best they could organizing the mob. A lot of people were there for various different guests, and all of them broke off very well and lined up orderly expect for the people who were there for Kawamori. So out of five signing sessions going on, one went off the rails in regards to organizing the line. The Kawamori section were the only ones who were on edge because of only 50 people getting through on Friday and the majority of the people there in the crowd were present Friday and knew there was a high possibility if you weren't the first 50, you might not get anything. So a lot of them went nuts when the official line open. So in my opinion it wasn't any policy that caused the issues because it worked fine for the other sessions, it was just previous experience and knowledge of knowing that if I'm not within the first 50, failure of getting an autograph is high, and that's normally very rare at Otakon. As someone who loves getting autographs at Otakon, the whole Kawamori sessions felt like an anomaly.

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I think most of the autograph staff were fine except the one staff member who randomly decided to form the line on the opposite side of where the group for Kawamori were standing. I expect she did that because we were all mobbed together and she wanted to show this was a bad thing to do but I thought it wasn’t very nice considering how Kawamori’s line was handled on Friday. Of course people were mobbing on Saturday. Maybe other lines were handled better but Kawamori’s was the line I prtsomally experienced. 

In the end the poor handling of Kawamori’s line had a ripple effect on my whole convention experience. I wasted so much time on Friday because no one let me know there was no hope so I missed other stuff I could have gone to on Friday. 

Then I tried again on Saturday and while I was successful so the time I used up here wasn’t in vain I still couldn’t go to panels I wanted to on Saturday . 

I also had not 1 but 2 panels cancelled on me this weekend while I was waiting in the panel with no warning beforehand. This obviously has nothing to do with the autograph line. And I know there are always going to be conflicts and  things you will miss. There always has to be hard choices. 

 

But this year I barely was able to go to anything and that has a lot to do with major miscommunication on Otakon’s part. 

 

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Otakon seems to always struggle with autograph line management. Ever since Brina Palencia's line in 2012 I've focused on getting autographs at smaller cons where there seems to be more concise, organized management. 

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With the horror stories that I heard about the autograph line, it was probably a good thing that I forgot to bring my Berserk artbox in hopes of getting it autographed.

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I had went to get Cherami Leigh's autograph on Friday and that had turned into a huge mess as well. I got there an hour before it started and got my proxy person set up (due to not being able to stand in place in line) and then sat and waited. Unfortunately, the line moved in a different direction than I thought it was going to, and in all that mess of people, I had lost where my proxy person was. I am pretty sure that I missed them go to where the actual autograph area was, since I had gotten there so early, but I had missed them. I had tried to explain that I had lost my proxy person, but there was different staff there at the time then when I had originally gotten there so nobody seemed to have an idea of what to do until someone eventually just ushered me over to the real line.

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Hmm. I'm sorry to hear from those that had negative experiences this year, we did try our best to make the new space work out effectively. I think there were some definite advantages here once we got going, but there were some challenges as well. The day one set-up was a bit disorganized, but the convention staff moved quickly to rearrange some of the queue space to a format that worked better for the remaining days, and Dealer's Room Access control was doing a great job helping to manage the pre-line-up crowds.

To the issue of guests sometimes taking more time interacting with fans than absolutely necessary, that is a tricky thing to manage, because each guest moves at his own pace, but we do have staff on hand in most cases, especially with Japanese guests, and do what we can to keep things moving. The most important thing is for you guys to be respectful of each others' time, and not take up too much time when it comes to your turn. Be mindful of how many people are behind you in the line. When a line is very long, and you are very far back, and it's not moving very quickly, maybe make your own judgement calls on that. We rarely extend a session by more than a half hour or so (if the guest's schedule permits), but if a line is barely moving, then it will likely continue to barely move. We don't like to kick people out of the line until we are definitely sure that it's not going to happen, but you're free to walk away at any time. We had several who did that, and many others who, seeing that the lines were enormous when they got there, decided to do something else.

It's difficult to communicate information to everyone in line, but if you have a question for a staffer and are not near one of the edges, feel free to move to a location where you can ask someone what's happening (ideally one at a time and in an orderly fashion so you don't lose your place). There should always be at least one staffer, likely several, that are around the general lining queues. They might not have any hard data on how things are going, but they can at least check on it for you and share what they do know. I wish we could promise that everyone gets a signature, but basic human nature makes that impossible, there are just too many factors to juggle and it's impossible to predict how things will turn out.

As for "why the one hour rule," I get that people want to line up earlier sometimes, would be willing to do so, and theoretically it would be much more orderly. The problem is, if people do that, it requires a lot more space than we've ever been assigned. I mean, we'll take whatever space we can get, but back in the early days of Otakon autographs, we had late afternoon signings where people would show up at 9am, and by the time of the signing their line would be running along the entire outer wall. With the space we had this year, we could barely accommodate the 1 hour lines in some cases. You may feel that "a lot of people" try to bend the rules by congregating in the minutes before a line forms, and that's true enough, but if we gave the green light for people to line up whenever they wanted, I guarantee we'd see ten to fifty times as many people permanently clustered in that area.

You might have come by at some point and seen a few queues empty, but then those would be filled up in relatively short order as we started for a new guest, so if we had people waiting for something else, they would need to be moved out of the way. If we have more space to work with next year then we might be able to accommodate earlier line-ups, but that's well above my volunteer-grade.

As for the idea of pre-ticketing the sessions, it can be a crowd management issue to have everyone who goes to a panel get tickets that also allow them an autograph. It would raise the panel attendance beyond the current level (which would be a venue capacity issue), and would also burn fans that couldn't get to the panel and now would have little to no chance at an autograph either. We know it's annoying to have to choose, but we feel that it's the most fair system that gives the best chance at having at least one experience to as many fans as possible. This is also why we try to avoid having out "consolation tickets" that would allow day 1 people who missed an autograph to skip the line on day 2. It would be unfair to the people who showed up on day 2 with no chance out the gate.

I do appreciate the feedback from you guys though, we know how things look from our end, and we know what seems to work and doesn't work from our perspective, but it's also important to get the fan perspective and see what you guys are thinking about it. Most of it we can guess, we know when a line is not working as smoothly as we might want, but there's still a lot of detail to be learned from first hand accounts.

 

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Maybe it's just my particular perspective but I spent quite a bit of time at the autograph area on Friday and Saturday and it really did look like you were not lacking for line-up space once things were rearranged from the Friday morning set-up. There were at least 4 lines empty when the Saturday Kawamori line was waiting to be formed. I really just don't get why you couldn't have let people in sooner. But I do realize that I don't see what you see and I don't know what you know.

As I just mentioned in another thread though, I think the Artist Alley set-up last year was far superior overall. I don't know if you can get the same amount of space in there as you had in the dealer room, but I also feel like trying to coordinate that many sessions at once is part of the problem in some respects. Maybe you could separate things out where some autographs are in Artist Alley or Dealer Room and some are in the Marquis or other event space, similar to the set-up in the last couple years at Baltimore. I realize this would probably stretch your staffing resources a lot but I think it's worth considering.

As always though, despite all the complaints, I really do appreciate your work on everything and I hope that all the grumbling doesn't get too discouraging. 

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Well, one thing that was different from this year than in previous was that everything happened in waves. It was all lines for a time block at once, whereas in previous years we staggered things on alternating 15-30 minute schedules. What this meant is, when one line went relatively fast, it would empty out and then nothing might happen there for another hour or more. It's tricky to predict in advance which lines that might be though. So if you came by and a line space was empty, especially for a late session, it was probably full at some point earlier, so if people came up intending to line up before that, we wouldn't have space for them. And we need to be fair and consistent with our policies, if we took a "sure, you can show up two and a half hours early, if we have the space for that particular line" approach then people would be justifiably upset when they show3ed up an hour early and found a hundred people ahead of them. We are considering options for next year though, including potentially the Marriot, but we need top work out whether the issues that would pose would be worth the benefits.

As for separating to multiple venues, we tried that in the BCC, and while we can make it work, it's a lot of hassle because we have to permanently split our staff up, preventing us from adapting as flexibly to new challenges, requiring more staff overall for the same results, and various other issues. It's much better to have a single location if we can find one with sufficient space for us.

And I totally get the grumbles, we understand when a line doesn't go as smoothly as anyone would like, and while I don't want to say "it hurts us more than it hurts you" or anything like that, we do know and understand and want to fix it as best we're able.

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I am personally happy with how autographs were handled, in general. The move to the dealer's room was an excellent choice because of the increased space. But I do think that even more space could be utilized for the "waiting" lines (the ones with the stanchions). I still saw so much empty unused space that could be used for waiting lines.

Kawamori's signing was definitely an anomaly. Yes there were tons of people lined up to see him, but he also took his sweet time with each of them. Some people who brought their own items to be signed were also offered a signed poster, which further increased the signing time.

 

6 hours ago, ogul said:

As for "why the one hour rule," I get that people want to line up earlier sometimes, would be willing to do so, and theoretically it would be much more orderly. The problem is, if people do that, it requires a lot more space than we've ever been assigned. I mean, we'll take whatever space we can get, but back in the early days of Otakon autographs, we had late afternoon signings where people would show up at 9am, and by the time of the signing their line would be running along the entire outer wall. With the space we had this year, we could barely accommodate the 1 hour lines in some cases. You may feel that "a lot of people" try to bend the rules by congregating in the minutes before a line forms, and that's true enough, but if we gave the green light for people to line up whenever they wanted, I guarantee we'd see ten to fifty times as many people permanently clustered in that area.

Having people line up more than one hour prior to the signing wouldn't require a lot more space. All it would mean is that the waiting lines would be capped much earlier than one hour prior. So if people were lining up at 9 am for a late afternoon signing and there were 100 people in line by 10 am, staff would cut off the line. Too bad for everyone else who came later than 10 am, but that's just how it is. This would also solve the problem of people permanently clustering in the area. So, instead of keeping the waiting lines empty until exactly one hour prior to the signing, just let them fill up as attendees arrive, whenever that may be.

You might be wondering what would happen if someone shows up super early, like at 9 am for a 5 pm signing. In that case, set up a general waiting area.

Let's say there were four autograph times: 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, and 5 pm. The waiting lines are set up for the 11 am signing. Everyone else who arrives early for the remaining three sessions goes into the general waiting area. Once the 11 am signings begin and attendees move out of the waiting lines and into the actual autograph lines, then the people in the general waiting area who are there for the 1 pm signings move in an orderly fashion to their respective waiting lines.

To prevent too many people in the general waiting area from getting autographs from the same guest, staff would have to keep track of how many attendees are waiting to see whom.

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59 minutes ago, otoxo said:

I Having people line up more than one hour prior to the signing wouldn't require a lot more space. All it would mean is that the waiting lines would be capped much earlier than one hour prior. So if people were lining up at 9 am for a late afternoon signing and there were 100 people in line by 10 am, staff would cut off the line.

Yes, and no, and don't wanna. The problem with that theory is that it would only work if we had one physical line set aside for every session of the day. Taking a look at day one, we had somewhere around 20 signings, but we never had more than 8 main lines in action, and that's counting the overflow lines. We would need more than twice as much active space as what you saw, likely three times more if we wanted to allow the same number of fans in. Sure, you could mitigate that slightly by accurately predicting exact throughput for every session, but that's tricky because it can be hard to guess at the attendance interest of each guess (we try, but it's a very inexact science), and how quickly the guest works (which can vary significantly, I can tell you that ProZD got through probably twice the fans during his signings than most guests, and others, well less than the average). Plus factor in that these lines need to be arranged in a way that is both safe and reasonably healthy, allowing for bio breaks, so they can't be packed too tightly.

The only way we could plausibly do something like that is if we capped lines very low, which as some people can attest would have been fine for some signings (sorry about that), but for plenty of other signings they got through probably 200+ fans over their session, and most of those would have received nothing if we'd hard capped it low. Plus, I'm sorry but we do like giving people a reasonable chance of getting in without having to wait 5+ hours. There's a bit of RNG to the process, sure, but ultimately it's less of a burden on everyone.

1 hour ago, otoxo said:

Let's say there were four autograph times: 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, and 5 pm. The waiting lines are set up for the 11 am signing. Everyone else who arrives early for the remaining three sessions goes into the general waiting area. Once the 11 am signings begin and attendees move out of the waiting lines and into the actual autograph lines, then the people in the general waiting area who are there for the 1 pm signings move in an orderly fashion to their respective waiting lines. 

To prevent too many people in the general waiting area from getting autographs from the same guest, staff would have to keep track of how many attendees are waiting to see whom. 

We had something similar at the BCC, but it's easier said than done, and less efficient than it sounds. For one thing, it's very difficult for staffers to tell which fans want to see which guests. We can ask each person, but we can't reasonably remember all that, and frankly don't even have the time to ask. We can get rough guesses going based on spot polling, but they would be wildly inaccurate. For another, shifting people from "general waiting areas" into the appropriate lines rarely occurs in an "orderly fashion." We use every trick we can to make such a process safe and orderly, but people will still be people. See Men in Black memes on the subject. The more people we encourage to hang out in these areas, the more chaotic it will be when official lines are formed, and inevitably some people who have been "waiting all day" will end up at the back of the line because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And keep in mind, we did not have space in the primary signing area to hold every fan that was waiting for that guest. The primary area would only hold about 20-30 people per chute, whereas our main lining area held about 8-10 times as many per chute. We would feed people from one to the other constantly through the signings, and if we just filled the smaller chutes and then cut everyone else, many guests would be done in a half hour or less, and hundreds would have been turned away unnecessarily. So, to do something similar to what you propose, we would need to have much larger primary queues, from 30 people each to 200+, and much more space set aside for "all day general waiting" than we had this year, a space roughly 150-200% the size of our main line space, and even then there are the issues mentioned above. It's a system that could work, if we had the space for it, but I doubt we ever will have quite enough free space to work with.

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8 hours ago, ogul said:

We are considering options for next year though, including potentially the Marriot, but we need top work out whether the issues that would pose would be worth the benefits.

This would probably be for the best.  They won't take up space in the dealers room or artists alley and they won't cause a huge mess in the convention center.  Good luck working on the logistics of making this happen.

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5 hours ago, ogul said:

The problem with that theory is that it would only work if we had one physical line set aside for every session of the day.

You won't need waiting lines for every session of the day. You will need more space, but not significantly more than what's already used. Plus, I see plenty of open space in the dealers room that's still unused, if that's what your concern is. The general waiting area doesn't need to be as big as the waiting lines for the autograph sessions that are currently taking place. The reason is because most people won't arrive at 9 am for a late afternoon session. Yes, some will, but most won't. Not every guest is huge like Kawamori, but if there is one, you can plan accordingly by setting up a dedicated area just for that one guest.

 

5 hours ago, ogul said:

The only way we could plausibly do something like that is if we capped lines very low, which as some people can attest would have been fine for some signings (sorry about that), but for plenty of other signings they got through probably 200+ fans over their session, and most of those would have received nothing if we'd hard capped it low.

So some guests like ProZD can sign 200 items while others can only sign 50. So what? As long as you limit the number to 100 (or whatever you think is a reasonable average number), then you've done your part. Otakon already makes it clear that autographs aren't guaranteed. You don't need to feel bad that a guest who can sign 200 items only ended up signing 100 and is leaving early. And you don't need to feel bad that a guest only signed 50 items so you have to turn away the remaining attendees. You did the best you could to organize the sessions as best as you could. What happens after that is on the guest.

 

5 hours ago, ogul said:

For one thing, it's very difficult for staffers to tell which fans want to see which guests. We can ask each person, but we can't reasonably remember all that, and frankly don't even have the time to ask. We can get rough guesses going based on spot polling, but they would be wildly inaccurate.

All you need to do is have the staff working at the general waiting area carry a clipboard with a list of autograph sessions that day. Then, as attendees enter the general waiting area, ask them, "Who are you here to see?" Then put a tally next to the guest's name on the list. When you reach 100 (or however many) for one guest, don't let anymore attendees into the area for that guest. If you are afraid people will try to cheat this system, then hand out numbered tickets with the guest's name on them. There's no need to try to remember everyone or to make rough guesses.

 

5 hours ago, ogul said:

For another, shifting people from "general waiting areas" into the appropriate lines rarely occurs in an "orderly fashion." We use every trick we can to make such a process safe and orderly, but people will still be people.

Shuttling the attendees in the general waiting area into the waiting lines in an orderly fashion is the responsibility of the staff, but fortunately there's a simple solution. Grab the blowhorn and make a clear announcement: "If you are here for the Shoji Kawamori autograph session at one o'clock, please stand up. Those standing up, please follow me and walk to the waiting line". Naturally, there would be a sign in front of the waiting line indicating who the line was for. There, done. If someone doesn't listen to the staff member's instructions and gets upset because they are left behind in the general waiting area, that is their problem, not yours.

 

5 hours ago, ogul said:

And keep in mind, we did not have space in the primary signing area to hold every fan that was waiting for that guest. The primary area would only hold about 20-30 people per chute, whereas our main lining area held about 8-10 times as many per chute.

I hope I'm understanding your terminology correctly.

"Primary signing area" = the lines directly in front of the table

"Main lining area" = the lines with the stanchions (which I'm calling the "waiting lines" above)

 

5 hours ago, ogul said:

So, to do something similar to what you propose, we would need to have much larger primary queues, from 30 people each to 200+, and much more space set aside for "all day general waiting" than we had this year, a space roughly 150-200% the size of our main line space

You don't need a larger primary queue area. Keep it the same size. Main lining area is also the same size. What you do need is space for the general waiting area. Maybe a diagram will help:

461913336_lineslineslines.thumb.png.2c110dad5e9735c5d2b29a10ae1aeba6.png

I drew the general waiting area as a rectangle, but it doesn't have to be one. It could be, for example, a line that runs along the wall of the dealers room.

 

 

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Thank you for volunteering to run and manage this complete nightmare of a system where people will be cutting and clustering like mad, your sacrifice for the rest of us will not go unforgotten!

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4 hours ago, otoxo said:

The general waiting area doesn't need to be as big as the waiting lines for the autograph sessions that are currently taking place. The reason is because most people won't arrive at 9 am for a late afternoon session. Yes, some will, but most won't. Not every guest is huge like Kawamori, but if there is one, you can plan accordingly by setting up a dedicated area just for that one guest.

But like I said, it can be tricky to predict which lines will grow long and which won't. Sure, in retrospect, you have one line that is 50ft long and another that is 200ft long, so you only need a 50ft space and a 200ft space to contain them, but it's hard to judge that going in, and if you direct people into a 50ft line and 200ft worth of people show up, then you have to move the whole line elsewhere. There are ways to do this, but it's not pretty.

4 hours ago, otoxo said:

Otakon already makes it clear that autographs aren't guaranteed. You don't need to feel bad that a guest who can sign 200 items only ended up signing 100 and is leaving early.

Still, I like to make as many people happy as possible. I don't want to turn away 100 people who could have gotten an autograph, and most guests wouldn't want that either. It's better to allow for the maximum possible outcome, and leave it up to the fans how long they'd like to stick around.

4 hours ago, otoxo said:

All you need to do is have the staff working at the general waiting area carry a clipboard with a list of autograph sessions that day. Then, as attendees enter the general waiting area, ask them, "Who are you here to see?" Then put a tally next to the guest's name on the list.

In my experience, autograph line-ups have never been that orderly. Instead you get 25 people showing up one minute and two the next, often for different people. And if you assigned multiple staffers to that role, there would be overlaps. It sounds way simpler than it would actually turn out.

4 hours ago, otoxo said:

Shuttling the attendees in the general waiting area into the waiting lines in an orderly fashion is the responsibility of the staff, but fortunately there's a simple solution. Grab the blowhorn and make a clear announcement: "If you are here for the Shoji Kawamori autograph session at one o'clock, please stand up. Those standing up, please follow me and walk to the waiting line". Naturally, there would be a sign in front of the waiting line indicating who the line was for. There, done. If someone doesn't listen to the staff member's instructions and gets upset because they are left behind in the general waiting area, that is their problem, not yours.

Man, wherever that world exists, I want to go to there.

4 hours ago, otoxo said:

You don't need a larger primary queue area. Keep it the same size. Main lining area is also the same size. What you do need is space for the general waiting area. Maybe a diagram will help:

Ok, but we had up to seven or so signings going on in each time block, needing up to seven distinct lines. As you noted, the primary change we'd need is more "general waiting" space available, but even so, managing that area would be a struggle. Scale aside, what you described is basically what we did at con, we just didn't have remotely enough "general waiting" space to accommodate all-day waiting.
 

4 hours ago, robotzor said:

Thank you for volunteering to run and manage this complete nightmare of a system where people will be cutting and clustering like mad, your sacrifice for the rest of us will not go unforgotten!

Lol, thank you. I hope we continue to improve.

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Honestly I don't feel like it's that difficult to predict who gets the most demand for autographs:

Most Dub Guests: Moderate to High demand

Big Name Dub Guests (Vic, JYB, etc): Enormous demand

Most Japanese Seiyuu: Moderate to High demand

Big Name Seiyuu (Ayako Kawasumi, Maaya Sakamoto, etc): Enormous demand

Musical Guest: High to Enormous demand 

Japanese Artists (Character Designer, Animator, etc): Low to Moderate demand, though could go to High

Japanese Directors/Creators: Moderate to High demand

Other Japanese Staff: Low to Moderate demand

Of course these ranges are dependent on the particular guest and what they've worked on as well as what's popular at a given moment, but I feel like this is a good rule of thumb.

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That part is predictable within a range.

Whats not predictable, sadly, is how quickly they’ll get through that line. Kawamori was slow. Others were faster than expected. The rule of thumb is noted earlier, but as both Tim and I have said, that’s a big range.

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Your rule of thumb is a good one, and one I always used to try to consider when putting sessions next to each other (external schedules permitting). Most of the time the lines I figured would be big would be big (although perhaps bigger than I thought), and the ones I thought would be small would be small (or very small).

That said, I don't want to name names on this one, so as not to offend their fandoms, but even after doing this for more than a decade I'm often surprised by certain guests pulling ten times as many people as I would have guessed, or far fewer, so if we got really hardcore about line sizes from the planning stages, "this line gets 50 people" and "this line gets 100," "no exceptions!," then there would inevitably be cases where we'd get it wrong, and the size we intended would be way off, potentially throwing off the patterns of later sessions if they were all tightly wound together.

And of course as Jim points out, different guests can take different amounts of time to get through groups, so you can still have cases where you set aside a lot of space for a guest, lots of people fill that space, but he only gets through 10%, or you only set aside room for 100 people, 300 people turn up over the available period so you have to turn 200 away, and yet he blitzes through those 100 in a fraction of his time and could easily have handled 100-200 more. That's why we try to err on the side of higher amounts, leave plenty of wiggle room in our location to account for surprises, while hopefully providing fair warning that nothing is guaranteed and for people to be responsible for their own time management.

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In the end, it sounds like the initial line Friday was a mess -- which I'd heard -- but they quickly got it sorted for the remaining sessions.  is that a fair assessment?

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I just want to say that as someone with an odd obsession with lines and organizing them that this thread has been enlightening into both the GR and attendee side of things. I usually try and budget out what time I have to the autograph sessions(if anyone interests me) and this year was definitely interesting. It's always fascinating to be in an autograph line and hear what the thoughts are.

I only know a few of the Autographs staff but they really do break their backs to try and make this work for us. I've had plenty of times where I wasn't able to meet someone, and it sucks. But what we (fans) need to try and keep in mind is that unless we're at a convention with a population of 1-2k then there is always competition. Sometimes things go right and sometimes they don't. Just remember that it's a handful of people trying to communicate and organize hundreds and there's a more than good chance that some of them are leaving empty handed. Work with em, not against em <3

PS: I'm not accusing anyone in here of anything directly. Just stating what I believe :3

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On 8/15/2018 at 2:24 PM, ogul said:

Man, wherever that world exists, I want to go to there.

lol, so true, right?

Thanks for reading my suggestions and posting thoughtful replies. I still believe that the dealers room is incredibly spacious and you have the ability to expand the autographs area if you want to. I hope you are able to plan it out somehow.

I still have the opinion that, at the very least, you ought to let people into the main lining areas earlier than one hour prior to a session, as long as there is space in those lanes. Then you won't have the massive clustering 10 minutes before the top of the hour and you won't need the blowhorn to tell people to go away. Seeing empty unfilled lanes next to a massive crowd makes me sad because it means that space isn't being used.

 

On 8/17/2018 at 3:53 PM, alabaster said:

In the end, it sounds like the initial line Friday was a mess -- which I'd heard -- but they quickly got it sorted for the remaining sessions.  is that a fair assessment?

I think that's accurate. I was at the first autograph session on Friday and returned for more on Saturday's sessions and they were run completely differently. Friday was confusing for attendees and staff. Saturday was a little better, minus the clustering. Despite my lengthy criticisms and suggestions, autographs was run well in general. Much better than 2017, that's for sure - the extra space of the dealers room made it work, imo.

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Lining up for Matsukaze-san was like going to the DMV in that there was one line for multiple signings, and then they'd pluck you from there for the line you want.

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On 8/23/2018 at 6:42 PM, Aresef said:

Lining up for Matsukaze-san was like going to the DMV in that there was one line for multiple signings, and then they'd pluck you from there for the line you want.

Right, and that was not the way it was supposed to go.  With any luck, our signs and other supplies will turn up or get remade. That would help a lot.

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On 8/11/2018 at 10:35 PM, Dostovei Illuminas said:

So how is having a giant unorganized mob in front of the autograph area safer than letting people form orderly queues in advance? If the fire marshal is going to shut us down for anything it's going to be that.

I did get the autograph I was after thankfully, but that was in spite of Otakon's efforts, not because of them. And tickets don't solve this problem, it just shifts the unorganized mob to the ticket counter instead. Panel tickets will just mean the panel has the giant mob, and the Hunger Games rush comes in when everyone charges out of the panel after getting their ticket to go get in line. Unless you want to do online distribution through Showclix and have everyone pay booking fees like SDCC and AX, you're not going to solve the crowd issue. I can handle that just fine but I'm sure a lot of people can't. 

Actually, the ticketing system at Animazement worked out pretty well. There was no "ticket counter". The first 100 - 200 people lined up for the guest's panel would get an autograph ticket and the tickets weren't given out until the con let people in for the panel. (A staffer would hand out the tickets as they came through the door.) The panels that gave the tickets were noted in the con schedule. If the attendee wasn't interested in an autograph, they were free to give the ticket to someone else. People with tickets were guaranteed an autograph. Those without were allowed to stay in the line, but it was really stressed that an autograph was in no way guaranteed.

 The logic was that people going to the panel were more "serious" fans and most likely to want an autograph. But Animazement is only 14-15K people, so YMMV.

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On 8/25/2018 at 10:51 AM, Tigress said:

Actually, the ticketing system at Animazement worked out pretty well. There was no "ticket counter". The first 100 - 200 people lined up for the guest's panel would get an autograph ticket and the tickets weren't given out until the con let people in for the panel. (A staffer would hand out the tickets as they came through the door.) The panels that gave the tickets were noted in the con schedule. If the attendee wasn't interested in an autograph, they were free to give the ticket to someone else. People with tickets were guaranteed an autograph. Those without were allowed to stay in the line, but it was really stressed that an autograph was in no way guaranteed.

 The logic was that people going to the panel were more "serious" fans and most likely to want an autograph. But Animazement is only 14-15K people, so YMMV.

That wasn't this past year, or if it was then it was for something I didn't go for personally... But Animazement is its own miniature disaster as far as organization goes. Much better overall than Otakon did this year, but by no means perfect. When you have people playing rock/paper/scissors to determine who gets an autograph from one of the top seiyuu guests, harass someone for looping back into the back of an autograph line when the guest has already gotten through their entire line at least once and there's still 30 minutes in the session, or try to alternate two separate lines for a guest based on whether people want them to sketch or not, you're doing it wrong. Just a handful of the situations I've experienced there in the past couple years.

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Anyone familiar with the method used at Anime Boston this year? While it had those who liked & disliked, it WAS different & productively successful. May want to inquire with them. There is also the method used by San Diego Comicon for their exclusives...the dreaded precon lottery system....sorta funny though that conventions in general can't work to resolve logistical things like this by collecting data during preregistration. It might remove the chance from those who just walk in the door to register, but it would provide something to further promote preregistration with ... lots of technological possibilities available BEFORE you get clusterflock live at the con...

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Trust me Kalyoth. You can collect all the information you'd ever want pre-con and things will still go wrong lol. People change their minds, bring friends or just don't offer whatever information we'd need in the first place.

 

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On 8/25/2018 at 10:51 AM, Tigress said:

Actually, the ticketing system at Animazement worked out pretty well. There was no "ticket counter". The first 100 - 200 people lined up for the guest's panel would get an autograph ticket and the tickets weren't given out until the con let people in for the panel. (A staffer would hand out the tickets as they came through the door.)

I wasn't at Animazement when they tried this so I can't comment on how successful they were. But I don't think this method will work at Otakon because the same number of autograph seekers will still show up. And the situation would be even worse than this year because the autograph crowd will have essentially moved from a place with a lot of space (the dealers room) to a place with much much less space (the panel waiting lines).

 

3 hours ago, kalyoth said:

the dreaded precon lottery system

Oh my god please don't ever do this. :excl:

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