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Otakon 2018: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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On 8/19/2018 at 1:10 PM, MadameZombieStix said:

Ahhhh wonderful <3 No problem! My sister and I actually saw the wall of tezu dolls and decided to come in! (Sorry I forgot the official name of them!) The only feedback I could give is hopefully you guys get a bigger room??? We kind of did our craft very quickly since we couldn't sit down..... But everyone was very informative and friendly, and everyone on staff seemed to know the limit of letting people in! I hope to see more crafting projects next year =)

Oh yay! I'm glad you were able to stop by and that the teru teru bozu could convince you to check us out! :lol: I'm so sorry for the lack of space and totally agree with you - this being our first year doing the Makerspace, it was a trial run for us, so we were given a smaller room to sort of 'test the waters' - we initially had no idea that we'd be so busy! Because it was such a success, I can definitely tell you that a larger room is in the cards for us! Hopefully having a larger space means more space for people to move around and browse supplies, as well as providing a little more room for people to spread out, relax, and feel less crowded. (As someone who's introverted, sometimes having a bit more time to myself helps me recharge, as much as I enjoy spending time with others!) Thank you for letting me know that! I'm glad you had a good experience with the staff otherwise and I'll be sure to pass it along to let them know! I really appreciate it! :)

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On 8/17/2018 at 3:33 PM, alabaster said:

Well, there SHOULD have been.  Somehow they missed Main Events!  I reported it up to Con Ops and I assume they sorted it out -- along with a few that needed refills that I encountered.

Trust me. We noticed -_-

Luckily they had em in by mid-late Sat I think? I can't remember exactly when I first saw them pop back up. But we were feeling that on Friday.

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Hello all, Animescience101, here.  I was reading through the thread and saw a number of complaints about canceled panels and I felt the need to apologize for my 4 panels being cancled.  The new school I ended up at had their first day on August 13th, and thunderstorms were predicted for sunday morning when I would have flown back to CA.  I didn't want to risk missing the first day so I had to call off going at the last minute.  I'm sorry to those of you who were looking forward to my panels.

Animescience101

PS- feel free to move or delete this if it is in the wrong place.

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2 hours ago, CI78 said:

Hello all, Animescience101, here.  I was reading through the thread and saw a number of complaints about canceled panels and I felt the need to apologize for my 4 panels being cancled.  The new school I ended up at had their first day on August 13th, and thunderstorms were predicted for sunday morning when I would have flown back to CA.  I didn't want to risk missing the first day so I had to call off going at the last minute.  I'm sorry to those of you who were looking forward to my panels.

Animescience101

PS- feel free to move or delete this if it is in the wrong place.

From my point of view, there's no need for you to apologize. Real life happens, and some responsibilities cannot be shirked. Maybe I'm being too generous to all the people complaining about canceled panels, but I've been interpreting the complaints as being focused more on Otakon in terms of actually communicating that panels had been canceled. In a lot of cases, including the MHA one I was told you were presenting, there wasn't any notice that a panel had been canceled. People just kind of showed up and discovered that the panel had been canceled or replaced with something else. In the worst case, the DBZ one, people waited and waited, only to be told half an hour into the timeslot that the panel wasn't happening at all.

Still, thanks for popping in to apologize. It's very kind of you to worry about the people affected. I hope your first day went well and that you've settled into your new school. Hope to see you at a future Otakon!

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On 8/17/2018 at 9:39 AM, deathnote666 said:
  • No notification to those that had badges mailed to them that the Fate/Grand Order lanyards were being given out at registration.

You know you could’ve come down and asked us for one, we would’ve been happy to give one to you.

As far as “notification” ...from what I recall last time we got unique lanyards like these, they are donated to us from industry -and very last minute/close to con. 

I myself (and I’m sure other staff) were just as surprised they had FGO lanyards when we sat down to start working on Thurs. Heh, even commented a few times I was a bit jealous over it, lol....but I digress...

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4 hours ago, Ikano said:

You know you could’ve come down and asked us for one, we would’ve been happy to give one to you.

As far as “notification” ...from what I recall last time we got unique lanyards like these, they are donated to us from industry -and very last minute/close to con. 

I myself (and I’m sure other staff) were just as surprised they had FGO lanyards when we sat down to start working on Thurs. Heh, even commented a few times I was a bit jealous over it, lol....but I digress...

Maybe a bit of communication would have been nice to those who paid to have their badges mailed, a post in the guidebook or on social media. Not everything is always as clear as "just ask". I would have loved to get one. If we had to come to registration that would also have meant waiting in the registration line, right? That's typically filled to the brim a fair amount of the convention.

Alternatively maybe it could have been included in the information booth bags that are typically picked up by those who had their badges mailed because we don't get our information bags like those who register at the convention.

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4 minutes ago, razisgosu said:

Not everything is always as clear as "just ask". I would have loved to get one. If we had to come to registration that would also have meant waiting in the registration line, right? That's typically filled to the brim a fair amount of the convention.

After dinnertime when I walked by Registration the lines were barely there. There isn't a need to get something like a lanyard the first thing in the morning so you could have picked a time where the lines were shorter/gone. Of course, I suppose there's the risk of them running out of the lanyards by the time you go and you don't get one, but not asking, not finding out they're at Registration, and not getting in whatever line is at Registration guarantees you won't get one either. It's a fine example of the old adage, "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained".

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Like I said, communication goes a long way. A simple "hey for those of you who got the basic lanyards with your mailed bages, we have FGO lanyards compliments of Aniplex USA at registration, just come pick one up." Not only would you communicate with your guests, you would be able to put out good word of mouth for your industry partners. Something to think of for next year.

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20 hours ago, razisgosu said:

Like I said, communication goes a long way. A simple "hey for those of you who got the basic lanyards with your mailed bages, we have FGO lanyards compliments of Aniplex USA at registration, just come pick one up." Not only would you communicate with your guests, you would be able to put out good word of mouth for your industry partners. Something to think of for next year.

Sounds simple, but often isn't.  Only a handful of people can throw things out to social media and an even smaller number can do more than one type.  Most of us wear multiple hats.

Depending on when they found out about the lanyards  -- for example, if they were a Thursday morning surprise -- then you face the issue of key people either being in transit or absolutely slammed getting things ready for the con. 

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4 minutes ago, alabaster said:

Sounds simple, but often isn't.  Only a handful of people can throw things out to social media and an even smaller number can do more than one type.  Most of us wear multiple hats.

Depending on when they found out about the lanyards  -- for example, if they were a Thursday morning surprise -- then you face the issue of key people either being in transit or absolutely slammed getting things ready for the con. 

Such a communication also runs the risk of creating a mob situation. If I were in charge of messaging, I would never approve such a message to go out.

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1 hour ago, StarCreator said:

Such a communication also runs the risk of creating a mob situation. If I were in charge of messaging, I would never approve such a message to go out.

I really doubt that. But hey, keep the communication lax and continue to see complaints and disappointments about it from con goers. That's fine too.

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4 hours ago, razisgosu said:

I really doubt that. But hey, keep the communication lax and continue to see complaints and disappointments about it from con goers. That's fine too.

Passive aggressiveness isn't going to change a thing. You couldn't be bothered to check at Registration and now are looking for a scapegoat as to why you didn't get a lanyard. If we're talking about disappointments, as a fellow con-goer MY disappointment is that apparently there are members that expect to be spoon-fed all information without any effort on their part to find things out. The truth is that it was your lax communication that prevented you from finding out the details of the lanyards. You could have asked at Registration, heck, you could have asked at any of the Otakon Information booths or the people walking around with the INFO flags. They most assuredly would have directed you to Registration to pick up your lanyard.

Just like you, I had my badge mailed to me in advance with the plain blue lanyard and when I saw the FGO lanyards being issued, I asked for and received one. I didn't need to wait for Otakon Staff to issue some bulletin regarding the lanyards before I acted on my question. The people issuing badges had no problems with giving me one. Had you bothered to ask, you could have easily received one as well. I'm sorry you were disappointed that you didn't get an FGO lanyard, but you can't put all the blame on Otakorp for that. You share equally in the blame.

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I disagree. But if you say so. Sorry that "hey can I get that" isn't on everyone's list of first thoughts when it comes to other people getting something you want. Clearly I wasn't the only one who thought the same way as at least a couple people have commented in this very thread. So obviously things could have been done better. Either way, I've said my piece on the matter.

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Whoah. :blink:

I think the reactions here to razisgoku suggesting something be communicated are uncalled for... ESPECIALLY considering that the main complaint on here has been communication in general. And as an Otakon attendee of 11 years, I am not feeling very positive by the responses I am seeing here.

Fadamor, that aggressive (not even going to say passive) comment about attendees needing to be spoonfed information is inappropriate, especially given what happened this year. It is not indicative of respecting attendees and our feedback, nor is it in the vein of the humility that, so far, Otakon has appropriately responded with in regards to the many communication issues that went on this year. The general response has been a "we know we messed up, and we are hearing your feedback, and we intend to do better." But these responses seem to be the opposite of that. Your name is highlighted as a gofer and someone from within the con. Are you aware that your responses then carry more weight?

Maybe don't say something about being annoyed that attendees need to be "spoonfed info" during a year in which over 6 panels were cancelled without any notices on guidebook even going out; during a year in which guidebook had misinformation and was not utilized for live announcements at all in the way it should have been and the ways it has been used in the past; and during a year in which an event being advertised as one of the KEY, main attractions for months got cancelled over 30 minutes into it due to internal communication errors.

And for the record, this is the first I am hearing of the lanyards. Kinda hard to ask about something you didn't know existed. Also, there were plenty of incidents in which Inasked someone about something, as you suggest here, only to be met with an IDK and no follow up suggestions.

My point though -- Communication is the theme of the year, for a lot of us. Whether it was a panel or a lanyard or anything else. And what I was going to say before seeing that super angry response, was that this sounds like another item (on a long list of items) that should have been taken care of simply, via the Guidebook inbox. Social media wasn't even necessary. Otakon had the tools at their disposal, and we have seen them used effectively in the past for all of the above. This year the ball was dropped, period. So please be aware of that when fielding feedback on said communication, especially when some may see your response as more official due to your highlighted screenname. :wacko:

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My feedback on this current trend in the thread is keep things civil and constructive. This is a GBU thread and staff ARE looking at it for constructive feedback. A well constructed post that outlines an issue regardless of if they have ideas on how to fix it will get significantly more attention than passive or active attacks on other forum posters.

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5 hours ago, Suika07 said:

Your name is highlighted as a gofer and someone from within the con. Are you aware that your responses then carry more weight?

...

This year the ball was dropped, period. So please be aware of that when fielding feedback on said communication, especially when some may see your response as more official due to your highlighted screenname. :wacko:

Anyone that thinks my posts are more "official" than any other member's posts (including yours and anyone else in this discussion) doesn't understand what a Gofer really is. Gofers are regular members who have volunteered to help at convention time. Other than through feedback and suggestions here (just like all other members), they aren't involved in planning the next convention at all. They don't receive any "inside information" from Otakorp Staff other than how best to help out at the next department they've been assigned to during the convention. Personally, I would be fine with not having the Gofer tag added to my account but, on the Forum, for legal or other reasons Otakorp must identify those who have worked as Gofers. Staff and Gofers are two completely separate entities and anything from a Gofer has not been vetted by Staff.

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22 minutes ago, Fadamor said:

Anyone that thinks my posts are more "official" than any other member's posts (including yours and anyone else in this discussion) doesn't understand what a Gofer really is. Gofers are regular members who have volunteered to help at convention time. Other than through feedback and suggestions here (just like all other members), they aren't involved in planning the next convention at all. They don't receive any "inside information" from Otakorp Staff other than how best to help out at the next department they've been assigned to during the convention. Personally, I would be fine with not having the Gofer tag added to my account but, on the Forum, for legal or other reasons Otakorp must identify those who have worked as Gofers. Staff and Gofers are two completely separate entities and anything from a Gofer has not been vetted by Staff.

This is true, but also please remember that a vast majority of the people do not know this. Never assume that people know and are able to tell the difference. There are over 30,000 people who enjoy Otakon and I place a significant amount of money on the fact that more than 75% of them have no idea what a Gofer is officially much less know they actually exist.

Moral of this story? People make mistakes, discussions can become heated, and regardless of if it is intentional or not, we all have an obligation to realize when one has occurred and adjust accordingly

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Alabaster suggested that different people post different social media and are informed of things differently.  This is insane. Its 2018, y'all need a dedicated Social Media specialist (I'd be happy to apply :P )

 

Joking aside, I'm serious about that. That response is amazing, because I appreciate the brutal honesty. However I think we're at a point in social outreach and current size of Otakon that this should be a priority.  

 

I think people dont even know where to check, from listening at the con.  The BBS is "official" but is honestly relatively dead.  The website is pretty useless during the con, probably due to being difficult to update.  The subreddit is its own little community, but I rarely see official things simultaneously posted.  Twitter and Facebook appear to run independetly, and IMO these should be linked.  Im not even sure if we have an Instagram.  The Discord is active, but certainly not everyone uses Discord yet.  

 

....Point is, social media is vast. Otakon has a reputation for being uncommunicative at times.  I think a dedicated social outreach would be helpful, and maybe include with that an easily searchable update hashtag. So be it youre on Reddit, Insta, Twitter or FB, you can search #OtakonUpdates and get updated info quickly. 

 

I totally recognize getting that information to that individual is a much more complex issue, though.

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We have Instagram (@Otakonpics), Twitter(@Otakon), and Facebook and our announcements are released simultaneously on all three platforms when possible (Instagram is sometimes a little slow due to some platform issues). We also have a Tumblr which had been receiving more love lately.

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3 hours ago, kimmibeans said:

We have Instagram (@Otakonpics), Twitter(@Otakon), and Facebook and our announcements are released simultaneously on all three platforms when possible (Instagram is sometimes a little slow due to some platform issues). We also have a Tumblr which had been receiving more love lately.

man i missed alot due to personal reasons but glad this is being discussed.  As i said earlier in a thread that means what exactly?

all of those accounts post nothing of actual value honestly.  We dont care about giveaways,being funny,posting the latest anime gossip etc or basic con info that can be gotten anywhere.

People would love to know why a panel flat out disappeared with no reason.  And especially one that ota hyped the hell out of. 

We are refereed to as members according to otakon and as members we know precisely nothing about the goings on of our group.  cept the finace part but even then i doubt we get the whole picture

I find it inexcusable in this age of information and being able to share info instantly you cant do better.  And as i said as someone who has deep ties to ota i refuse to accept what your saying as nothing less then you dont want to try better.

Bump up the membership rate and hire a full time coordinator of event news  and explain why the price went up was to hire someone for info relations.   And hire someone whose sole job is making sure people know what the heck is going on.  Heck raise it even more hire a full staff one to man a discord channel and for twitter etc.

Or completely kill the matsuri event and funnel that towards paying someone to make you look good.

If you are bound by legal reasons so be it but SOMETHING is better then what we have which is nothing.


 i wanted to attend the my hero academia 101 panel that vanished.  And your instagram,twitter,facebook was completely useless for that.  I found out through reddit that had zero ties to you about the why.

If you can honestly say thats how you want to present yourself so be it but thats how you end up with nothing but youtubers for guests in the future.

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8 hours ago, Something Clever said:


If you are bound by legal reasons so be it but SOMETHING is better then what we have which is nothing.
 

Are you suggesting Otakon lie than? I'm not exactly sure what answer you are looking for.  If Otakon can't share the real reason why a panel was cancelled, what answer would satisfy you? To start I have no idea why the panels were cancelled, and I didn't ask.  I assume that if I don't know (and two of them fell unto my room) there is a good reason for that.  Otakon usually has no problem admitting to issues and problems when they can, (they openly admitted fault to a communication conflict with one of the DMZ panels I believe) so no one is maliciously leaving out the details. 

I definitely agree communication needs to be better, and that we need to work on a better way of communicating when a panel is cancelled (I found out about VAAD through Guidebook update), but in terms of why it was cancelled? Unfortunately we can't always know why, and if we don't know why, it's for a reason. 

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A few things worth noting.

  • internally, we absolutely agree that we need to do better about communicating. It’s a struggle, even within staff, to get info out consistently and quickly to 700 people.  We keep trying new things to improve this, but there isn’t a simple solution.
  • When it comes to social media, that’s a constantly moving target. I miss posts from my own family on Facebook, as well as from the con, because it’s a constantly shifting target as they adapt the algorithms to try to squeeze more money out of advertisers.  The only way to ensure your reach stays high is to post often npenough and generate likes often enough that the system thinks you are super engaged with your audience.  Twitter, and all the others, do similar things to tweak what users see.  They are not reliable ways to get information out quickly, because where and whether you see such updates varies so much from person to person, and they won’t let us just see newest stuff first by default.  I am still just now seeing updates from a page that I help manage, and they are a week old.
  • sending email to entire membership is not easy either —and it costs money to do, and your spam filters catch most of it anyway.
  • during con (and for most of us, that’s Tuesday or Wednesday before, through the Monday or Tuesday after), the options can vary wildly, as people are in transit or busy moving boxes and setting up, or putting out other fires. We do have a virtual help desk that has people staffing it, but they don’t necessarily overlap with people who can post to all the social media or website. I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep all my social media open all the time, especially when I am working in a big concrete bunker and need to have my battery last more than an hour between charges.

Every year we meet up after the con to look over your feedback as well as our own. Every year we have attempted to address the issues we are aware of, and communication remains one of those thorny issues that will probably never have a perfect solution, especially as the world of options continues to evolve.

As I noted early, one big challenge that probably won’t get immediately solved is how to notify you (and 700 staff) about changes that happen within a 10-15 minute window at con.  Even if we could instantly radio back to Programming Ops that the 2pm panelist hasn’t shown up,  and they instantly said “oh crap, right, they sent an email last night that I happened to see, but I forgot about it”, it would still take a few minutes to verify and then notify the folks who need to update it. By that time, it’s too late.  So yeah, when we know, we need to get the word out better, but there will always be mistakes and last minute surprises, and they aren’t easily communicated with any speed, and they have to be verified before pushing out. Even if our internal processes were hyper efficient and foolproof (they aren’t, but they are still miles better than they were five years ago), it still probably wouldn’t get out instantly.

i do still think, however, that there is a place for this BBS, where we can have a record of what is discussed, and respond with something more than a couple hundred characters.  It’s kind of annoying to try to communicate complex ideas or have reasonable discussions within the bounds of social media.

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1 hour ago, alabaster said:

As I noted early, one big challenge that probably won’t get immediately solved is how to notify you (and 700 staff) about changes that happen within a 10-15 minute window at con.

The only thing I think might be able to do that is a SMS text message blast, but that is usually controlled from a special server. They do that at work with our critical employee notifications. Given the load on the cellular networks at the convention, this is still a good chance it won't get through to everyone.

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@Alabaster

I hope I didn't come off rude! I love the BBS and think it does serve a purpose. I just think most social-media savvy people nowadays don't even think to look for a forum. Much less one that's kind-of hidden off the main page of the website. If you're not used to looking for it, easy to miss, opposed to Twitter/FB/Insta/Reddit.  I agree though, BBS has a purpose!

As for one thing  -- 
"

  • When it comes to social media, that’s a constantly moving target. I miss posts from my own family on Facebook, as well as from the con, because it’s a constantly shifting target as they adapt the algorithms to try to squeeze more money out of advertisers.  The only way to ensure your reach stays high is to post often npenough and generate likes often enough that the system thinks you are super engaged with your audience.  Twitter, and all the others, do similar things to tweak what users see.  They are not reliable ways to get information out quickly, because where and whether you see such updates varies so much from person to person, and they won’t let us just see newest stuff first by default.  I am still just now seeing updates from a page that I help manage, and they are a week old.

"

Just as an idea, if posting things to social media (or guidebook pushes! I really enjoyed them, when they actually came, and provided suitable info!) does become more frequent, I highly suggest using a way to circumvent that. By no means is it fool-proof, but like I said earlier, use a simple hashtag like #OtaUpdates and advertise that on the scrolling TVs and maps throughout the con floor. Then, people don't need to worry about a miss. They can just search "#OtaUpdates" and have a timeline of the posts mentioning it from y'all.  Again, requires a small bit of tech savvy, but I think Otaku as a whole are a bit more tech savvy than the average person. Particularly if they're also the kind of people to be complaining about comms on social media.

Internally for updating a team, yeah. That's a struggle. Short of a secret discord or slack or something that's rough, and still has the problems of did they read it, did they process it, etc etc.  I feel for you guys on that one. x_x  This is super interesting to me, because while I'm sure it's hella frustrating on your end, from an outsiders perspective this is a super interesting thought-problem.


Edit : Oops. Submitted an empty post.

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@alabaster Thank you for offering that insight! It is comforting to know that feedback is being heard and considered behind the scenes.

So regarding the issue with sending out live notices, I do feel for you guys about trying to inform all 700 staff as well as all attendees. And I agree that, during the con, social media has its own issues and is not fully reliable.

The part that I am still confused about though is the utilization of Guidebook. In the two years before this one, I recall a lot more announcements and inbox messages being sent in the moment through Guidebook than what happened this year. Changes to the schedule, announcements about a line being shut down, announcements about the horrible pipe bursting, etc. -- I just recall way more information being relayed through this app in the past, which is the main tool we are using as it is tied to the schedule anyway. To be honest Guidebook is what I am going to be paying attention to during the con, not social media. (And to be honest I was actually super frustrated on Friday evening once I got back to the hotel and realized announcements about schedule changes had been happening via facebook that day and not guidebook.)

So I guess I am mainly confused as to why Guidebook is not being seen as the solution for getting these live messages out enmass during the con, when it seemed to work well in years past. We are already looking at it for the schedule, and when a change is announced the schedule itself can even be updated to reflect that change. Why are we going back to focusing on social media for relaying that info? Perhaps there is something more complicated about running the app that I am not understanding?

My strong suggestion would be to use an SMS text blast or something similar like Clutch mentioned for notices to staff, and have Guidebook be the go to resource for attendees, with social media acting as the secondary resource if/when time allows rather than the primary.

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Lots of ideas for improving, and I'm sure the appropriate folks are considering them (in some cases I know we are).  We have seen more use of slack recently, but let me share a story as to why those don't always work across the board.

For guests and programming, you're talking about maybe a hundred staffers. Guests and industry number in the high dozens. Not everyone has everyone's contacts, nor should they, so you're going to need a couple of critical relay points -- usually managers or assistants. 

Several Japanese and Korean guests routinely use Line. Our Otakon phones were using Google Voice/Hangouts for a long time. Individuals use SMS. Various people prefer to use Skype, Slack, Facebook messenger, or other chat platforms.  Iphones can use iMessage but only to other iPhones (making it super reliable between iphones, but tricky when there's an android user or two in the mix).  There's also a wide range of carriers from Google Fi to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc. and the networks don't all get good signal in the area nor penetration when deep in the convention center or hotels.

At a certain point, it becomes ridiculous to keep half a dozen means of communication open and not have a preferred one. And each of them sucks battery life as badly as Pokemon Go.  You kind of have to pick a common standard at least for staff communication so things are clear.

Factor in changes in personnel across the board for industry and a lot of new people all over, and coordination becomes a real challenge.

 

Personally, i tell people to text me; it's usually the most reliable way and the least disruptive, and my iWatch keeps me from missing calls or texts due to noise (by tapping my wrist), and when I was head of GR, I also had the Google one open as that was pretty reliable as well. (The con number was pointed at the app on my phone.) Between those two options, and occasionally checking FB, I was mostly able to stay in touch with anyone. Running out of juice was a real concern.

BUT... android was almost always later in getting texts, and transit times could vary by minutes between carriers, especially as networks got slammed. It seems better now in DC, but there are still weird delays.  I sent a phone number to someone twenty feet away and it took four minutes to get to his phone.

Now compound that times a hundred, and even within the GR and Programming teams, you can see the problem.

Now get an APB out to all staff....

Now multiply that times 25,000.

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In an emergency situation, you are more likely to get a SMS message through than a phone call. The system stacks the messages, and processes them when bandwidth is available, versus getting busy signals or dropped calls. They are much smaller and can go through more quickly, even with the cellular saturation at Otakon. While there will be delays, it should not be very long. Applets add overhead to any information you are trying to send. Radio the Base, and the Base sends the SMS blast.

The Information booths could be secondary message bases. Just thinking out loud.

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On 8/27/2018 at 1:43 PM, alabaster said:

Lots of ideas for improving, and I'm sure the appropriate folks are considering them (in some cases I know we are).  We have seen more use of slack recently, but let me share a story as to why those don't always work across the board.

For guests and programming, you're talking about maybe a hundred staffers. Guests and industry number in the high dozens. Not everyone has everyone's contacts, nor should they, so you're going to need a couple of critical relay points -- usually managers or assistants. 

Several Japanese and Korean guests routinely use Line. Our Otakon phones were using Google Voice/Hangouts for a long time. Individuals use SMS. Various people prefer to use Skype, Slack, Facebook messenger, or other chat platforms.  Iphones can use iMessage but only to other iPhones (making it super reliable between iphones, but tricky when there's an android user or two in the mix).  There's also a wide range of carriers from Google Fi to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc. and the networks don't all get good signal in the area nor penetration when deep in the convention center or hotels.

At a certain point, it becomes ridiculous to keep half a dozen means of communication open and not have a preferred one. And each of them sucks battery life as badly as Pokemon Go.  You kind of have to pick a common standard at least for staff communication so things are clear.

Factor in changes in personnel across the board for industry and a lot of new people all over, and coordination becomes a real challenge.

 

Personally, i tell people to text me; it's usually the most reliable way and the least disruptive, and my iWatch keeps me from missing calls or texts due to noise (by tapping my wrist), and when I was head of GR, I also had the Google one open as that was pretty reliable as well. (The con number was pointed at the app on my phone.) Between those two options, and occasionally checking FB, I was mostly able to stay in touch with anyone. Running out of juice was a real concern.

BUT... android was almost always later in getting texts, and transit times could vary by minutes between carriers, especially as networks got slammed. It seems better now in DC, but there are still weird delays.  I sent a phone number to someone twenty feet away and it took four minutes to get to his phone.

Now compound that times a hundred, and even within the GR and Programming teams, you can see the problem.

Now get an APB out to all staff....

Now multiply that times 25,000.

alabaster - ever consider looking into this costly but universal solution for the staff - as a fixed cost for Otakon - everyone while "on duty" working for the convention receives an identical device for communication (returned when off duty) & personal devices are not allowed? Whether phone or tablet, Otakon, as a large organization, needs to adopt a universal communication standard similar to any other comparable business/organization. The issues that exist result from a splintered & decentralized method of communication. Will it be an absolute fix? No. But it is a much more stable & highly professional form of communication. No matter how you turn the box, Otacorp has been a company for quite a long time now, not a small group putting on a convention in a single hotel & at the end of the day, professional solutions should be adopted. This type of solution should have been adopted years ago...

You have to start reforming communication internally. Once that is corrected, you can THEN move on to how to handle external communications, a completely separate issue to address.

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35 minutes ago, kalyoth said:

alabaster - ever consider looking into this costly but universal solution for the staff - as a fixed cost for Otakon - everyone while "on duty" working for the convention receives an identical device for communication (returned when off duty) & personal devices are not allowed? Whether phone or tablet, Otakon, as a large organization, needs to adopt a universal communication standard similar to any other comparable business/organization. The issues that exist result from a splintered & decentralized method of communication. Will it be an absolute fix? No. But it is a much more stable & highly professional form of communication. No matter how you turn the box, Otacorp has been a company for quite a long time now, not a small group putting on a convention in a single hotel & at the end of the day, professional solutions should be adopted. This type of solution should have been adopted years ago...

You have to start reforming communication internally. Once that is corrected, you can THEN move on to how to handle external communications, a completely separate issue to address.

I'm not Alabasater and I won't speak on his behalf, but as a many year Otakon staff in the highly active Access Control department, I can say that we do have a way for internal communications which are radios. The big issue with them is we can't simply have all Otakon staff on the same radio channel or there would be so much crosstalk that nothing would ever get through. I'm not saying that the need to do better on communication isn't a valid point and it is something we MUST do better at, but it isn't a solution that can be solved by giving everyone a single device such as a radio or cellphone.

Another issue is that not all information needs to be relayed to all staff in every department. Otakon has many departments that handle different aspects of the convention and hence what may be good information for the programming department may only be a distraction for Artist Alley.

However, lets assume every single staff in Otakon does get a radio/cellphone/magic device for communication. The problem then morphs into not just relaying the information to staff, but disseminating it out to the attendees in a timely fashion. One such avenue is indeed the guidebook app, but not everyone has the app, and more importantly, not everyone who has the app is able/willing to check it immediately. There are tons of reasons that have been listed earlier for why information isn't able to be guaranteed to be delivered to everyone in realtime and no single method available commercially is able to provide a magic bullet solution either.

The best we can do is keep track up new methods of technology to allow us to communicate with as many people as possible.

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These are my own views and do not represent Otakorp's position on the matter:

Every additional method of communication to members during the convention exponentially increases the complexity of getting a simple change to the schedule disseminated. The more social media portals that are used, the longer it takes to get the word out to everyone that needs the information. Social media portals during the overwhelming majority of the year are fine for use, as the information offered is not time-critical. During the convention, however, offered information usually is very time-critical. Cancellations and room changes usually don't happen with hours/days of advance notice.

Otakorp needs to designate ONE method of communication during the convention and make that the primary, with other communication methods being used only after the message(s) have been disseminated using the primary method. Personally, I like the Guidebook app and would vote for it becoming the "primary", but Otakorp staff may know about hidden issues with the app that make is less than ideal as the main information source. I'm not convinced that "not everyone has the app" is a valid concern, because most of the other social media methods will require AT THE LEAST an installed web browser on their phone. If they have a web browser, then they probably can install Guidebook. Heck, even my dad who just turned 80 handed in his flip phone a few weeks ago for a smartphone. The number of members who truly can't (as opposed to "won't") install Guidebook is rapidly approaching zero with every Summer.

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7 hours ago, Fadamor said:

The number of members who truly can't (as opposed to "won't") install Guidebook is rapidly approaching zero with every Summer.

There is no Guidebook application for Windows Phone any more, because they abandoned the platform. Put's me in the "can't" bucket. As a work around, I use the convention Wi-Fi to connect to the Schedule page in the phone browser. Phone works great for its intended purpose of making phone calls, so I am in no hurry to replace it.

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On 8/27/2018 at 1:43 PM, alabaster said:

For guests and programming, you're talking about maybe a hundred staffers. Guests and industry number in the high dozens. Not everyone has everyone's contacts, nor should they, so you're going to need a couple of critical relay points -- usually managers or assistants. 

Several Japanese and Korean guests routinely use Line. Our Otakon phones were using Google Voice/Hangouts for a long time. Individuals use SMS. Various people prefer to use Skype, Slack, Facebook messenger, or other chat platforms.  Iphones can use iMessage but only to other iPhones (making it super reliable between iphones, but tricky when there's an android user or two in the mix).  There's also a wide range of carriers from Google Fi to Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc. and the networks don't all get good signal in the area nor penetration when deep in the convention center or hotels.

At a certain point, it becomes ridiculous to keep half a dozen means of communication open and not have a preferred one. And each of them sucks battery life as badly as Pokemon Go.  You kind of have to pick a common standard at least for staff communication so things are clear.

I respect the difficulty. We have communication issues at my work, with different people all having their own side conversations and trying to match up what's said through emails vs chat vs meetings vs desk chats into one full discussion. It's definitely pretty maddening, so I'm sympathetic to the troubles you're facing. That said, it does sound like the problem is that someone(s) with enough authority needs to just weigh out pros and cons of all the various communication platforms in use and decide which are necessary and which can get folded into those you're keeping, and then mandate what systems are being used for which purposes. That'll reduce the one-off issues to just that: one-offs, much easier to handle as exceptions to a standard. As for personnel changes, maybe find a way to set contacts up with aliases rather than having individuals grabbing info for other individuals. I personally like the suggestions about using Guidebook/Twitter to push out the brief status updates about changes, and reserving Facebook for more detailed information as needed.

That said - and I don't know if this is possible with the convention center - we have wifi available, and is there not a way for the IT staff with WEWCC to create a staff wifi channel for the duration of the Con? Something just for you guys that has its own amount of bandwidth so the rest of us nerds aren't hogging it all on you? That might be an option worth exploring. That way you're not relying on cellular signals in the bowels of the Center to pass text messages and you have dedicated signal as long as you pick something that can run off wifi. Slack sounds like it's catching on as a good option for you all.

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On 8/15/2018 at 7:27 PM, Bibi said:

Bad 

  • The first two entrances to the dealers room are actually exits, the flow of traffic when exiting is hard, maybe they should get a rope like in Baltimore years to divide certain portions of the hallway in two

I would settle for staffers just being a little more vocal about not clogging the traffic flows, myself, but this actually reminded me of something else.

There was staffer handling traffic for the Dealer's Room at one point who was directing those headed to the DR to walk on the left rather than the right. It seemed odd at the time since in the US we're used to going on the right, and I even heard others around me commenting on how it felt weird and wondering why they were having us go against tradition. As I was coming out of the Dealer's Room later though, I realized that this actually really helpful to the flow because then we didn't have to cut across the line to get out. We just made a simple left turn and were on our way. Looking back, I realized plenty of the congestion points by DR and AA over the weekend were caused by that issue of having to cut across traffic at the exit points, and how many times I found myself and others having to wait for a wait for an opening instead of just getting to keep moving.

So suggestion to the Access folks (or whichever dept manages the foot traffic), maybe do this against next year overall: have all staffers directing people to walk on the left on that long hallway with the DR and AA, and then if you can spare them also have some floaters who are just making sure that people aren't stopping for pictures in the middle of the way so the flows keep moving.

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6 hours ago, Clutch said:

There is no Guidebook application for Windows Phone any more, because they abandoned the platform. Put's me in the "can't" bucket. As a work around, I use the convention Wi-Fi to connect to the Schedule page in the phone browser. Phone works great for its intended purpose of making phone calls, so I am in no hurry to replace it.

Using the browser on your Windows phone, go to

https://guidebook.com/guides/

then type in "Otakon" in the "Type to search guides" box to find all the Otakon guides, then select the Otakon 2018 icon. After it comes up, tap the "View this guide on the web" hyperlink to bring up the guide without having to install Guidebook.

I'm not sure how schedule pushes would be reflected on the web version... maybe the user has to refresh the guide in their browser manually?

Here are the known issues with the current web version of the guides (most of these are concerned with building the guides). I boldfaced the ones I think are most applicable to members in general:

  • On Guidebook web, the Interact feature is not available.
  • Maps are not interactive on Guidebook web. Guides will use static maps.
  • Messaging and Attendee Check-In / Connect are not currently available.
  • Push notifications will not be sent to the web version. (You can still view notifications in the Inbox.) (Note: a "push notification" is the alert users of the Guidebook app get whenever the schedule changes. The web-based guide doesn't have your contact info, so of course it can't alert you when things change. I'm guessing a user would need to periodically refresh the guide in the browser to receive any changes.)
  • If you have a branded app, the web version of your guides will not have your branded app themes and coloring.
  • Guidebook web is not available for Invite Only or SSO guides.
  • Schedule and photo album previews do not work on the web version.
  • The "My Schedule" module is view-only on Guidebook web. This means that adding/removing sessions from My schedule is not available on the web version.  (Note: Effectively makes My Schedule unusable for anyone only able to use the web version of a guide)
  • Session registration for sessions with limited space will not work on Guidebook Web.
  • Universal search does not work on Guidebook web. You will have to scan the web pages using your browser's search functions.
  • The Notes module is not currently available.
  • Thumbnail Images will not appear in the web version. 
  • Campus Tours are not available on the web version. 
  • QR Code Scanners and the Scavenger Hunt game are not supported in a web browser. 
  • Internet Explorer may experience some hiccups in navigation and feature access.  We recommend using Google Chrome. (Note: I used Firefox on my Android phone to check the Otakon 2018 guide and it works as well)

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3 hours ago, LittleHobbit13 said:

That said - and I don't know if this is possible with the convention center - we have wifi available, and is there not a way for the IT staff with WEWCC to create a staff wifi channel for the duration of the Con? Something just for you guys that has its own amount of bandwidth so the rest of us nerds aren't hogging it all on you? That might be an option worth exploring. That way you're not relying on cellular signals in the bowels of the Center to pass text messages and you have dedicated signal as long as you pick something that can run off wifi. Slack sounds like it's catching on as a good option for you all.

Oh it's possible for the right amount of money.  But, from the numbers I know, it'd be like 200k to get all staff on wifi. I'm sure they'd do some sort of bulk discount, but it's still extremely expensive and something where money can be spent better elsewhere. 

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On 8/22/2018 at 11:47 PM, Fadamor said:

Just like you, I had my badge mailed to me in advance with the plain blue lanyard and when I saw the FGO lanyards being issued, I asked for and received one. I didn't need to wait for Otakon Staff to issue some bulletin regarding the lanyards before I acted on my question. The people issuing badges had no problems with giving me one. Had you bothered to ask, you could have easily received one as well. I'm sorry you were disappointed that you didn't get an FGO lanyard, but you can't put all the blame on Otakorp for that. You share equally in the blame.

XD  I actually have a Team GoodSmile racing Miku lanyard that I wore. I had people asking me "we saw the FGO lanyards but where are they giving out Miku lanyards?!?!"  I had to send them away disappointed. 

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Checking in, thanks to everyone who enjoyed Manly Battleships content.

Only a couple things I wanted to bring up, because overall I'm really on board with the direction Otakon has been going the last two shows.

1.) Art Auction -- Loved the concept of digital platforming the process, but there were a large number of implementation problems and by Saturday there were still a few pieces intended for sale that weren't up on the website.  I'm also really glad I checked my email, because I didn't find out about the payment processing and contact deadline errors until close to time.  I expect this is just a learning curve and working out bugs, and I don't suggest abandoning the new system.  But I do hope next year is smoother.

2.) Dealer Room Lines/Entrance -- I'm not sure what led to the set up this year, but the entrance/exit placement for Dealer's was backwards from both a convenience standpoint and from line management perspective.  Entrance line was fighting through cross traffic of two exit points, and unless there's stuff I'm not privy too there didn't seem to be any reason for it.  Highly recommend the entrance be the closer of the three portals next year, so exit traffic crossing to the other side of the hall doesn't have to run into the in flow.

Only other thing was that weird backup in the tunnel, but I think that was more everyone suddenly discovering the existence of the tunnel.

Great job overall.  See you next year.

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Just for the record, I can't install Guidebook.  Guess I use the old fashion route by using public computers to view Guidebook before Otakon and writing down the events I'd like to attend.  Then during Otakon, this puts me completely in the dark as to any cancelations.  But I expect to miss things once in a while so I'm usually ok with it.  (Sometimes have found really great things going on to fill-up that time!)  But most events that I wanna see haven't usually canceled (knock on wood).  Guess this puts me in the minority, but I don't mind.  Oh, and I love the Awesome Sheet of Awesomeness -- I hope Otakon can keep that available.  It's so handy and packed with info.

 

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1 hour ago, EdKitten said:

Just for the record, I can't install Guidebook.  Guess I use the old fashion route by using public computers to view Guidebook before Otakon and writing down the events I'd like to attend.  Then during Otakon, this puts me completely in the dark as to any cancelations.  But I expect to miss things once in a while so I'm usually ok with it.  (Sometimes have found really great things going on to fill-up that time!)  But most events that I wanna see haven't usually canceled (knock on wood).  Guess this puts me in the minority, but I don't mind.  Oh, and I love the Awesome Sheet of Awesomeness -- I hope Otakon can keep that available.  It's so handy and packed with info.

(I'm assuming you at least have a phone with a web browser)
See my post (three posts above) for how to use the web-based version of Otakon's Guide without actually installing the Guidebook app. The main drawback to the web-based guide is that it is a one-way deal - you can't send information back to the server using the web-based guide, so things like "My Schedule" cannot be used. Automatic pushes of the updated schedule also will not work with the web-based guide, but refreshing the web page should also update any schedule/room changes since the last time you refreshed the page.

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On 9/5/2018 at 6:36 PM, Panda said:

2.) Dealer Room Lines/Entrance -- I'm not sure what led to the set up this year, but the entrance/exit placement for Dealer's was backwards from both a convenience standpoint and from line management perspective.  Entrance line was fighting through cross traffic of two exit points, and unless there's stuff I'm not privy too there didn't seem to be any reason for it.  Highly recommend the entrance be the closer of the three portals next year, so exit traffic crossing to the other side of the hall doesn't have to run into the in flow.

I imagine the difficulty in placing the entrance of the dealers room is because they need an area that acts as a bottleneck to check badges and control the flow of attendees, and it also needs to have a long enough hallway for all the people that queue up before the dealers room opens.  If they swapped the entrance and exit positions, then the morning dealers room line would have to queue towards the back of the convention center (or else risk having a bunch of stationary people near the Marquis tunnel) meaning that you would still have to walk past the entrance to get to the back of the line.

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20 hours ago, Fadamor said:

(I'm assuming you at least have a phone with a web browser)
See my post (three posts above) for how to use the web-based version of Otakon's Guide without actually installing the Guidebook app. The main drawback to the web-based guide is that it is a one-way deal - you can't send information back to the server using the web-based guide, so things like "My Schedule" cannot be used. Automatic pushes of the updated schedule also will not work with the web-based guide, but refreshing the web page should also update any schedule/room changes since the last time you refreshed the page.

 

Thanks for all the info!  Sadly though, I just have a little cell phone (aka: small screen, no web browser).  I keep thinking of getting a smartphone, but haven't justified spending all that money each month.  But who knows -- maybe by next Otakon, I'll get one.  :)

 

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12 hours ago, DeathJester said:

I imagine the difficulty in placing the entrance of the dealers room is because they need an area that acts as a bottleneck to check badges and control the flow of attendees, and it also needs to have a long enough hallway for all the people that queue up before the dealers room opens.  If they swapped the entrance and exit positions, then the morning dealers room line would have to queue towards the back of the convention center (or else risk having a bunch of stationary people near the Marquis tunnel) meaning that you would still have to walk past the entrance to get to the back of the line.

I'm pretty sure that's the main reason why we, and any other large event with a big dealer room queue, do it that way.  Pulling you to the far end gives queue space and also ensures that the back of that huuuuuge hall doesn't become a dead space for traffic.



 

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11 hours ago, EdKitten said:

 

Thanks for all the info!  Sadly though, I just have a little cell phone (aka: small screen, no web browser).  I keep thinking of getting a smartphone, but haven't justified spending all that money each month.  But who knows -- maybe by next Otakon, I'll get one.  :)

 

My 93-year-old grandmother now has a smartphone. Just sayin'.  depending on how you get your service, the cost is NOT that much more. On our family plan, it's a $10/month difference. (Assuming the phone is already paid for -- and some friend is bound to have an older one so you can get your feet wet without massive investment.)

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13 hours ago, alabaster said:

My 93-year-old grandmother now has a smartphone. Just sayin'.  depending on how you get your service, the cost is NOT that much more. On our family plan, it's a $10/month difference. (Assuming the phone is already paid for -- and some friend is bound to have an older one so you can get your feet wet without massive investment.)

That's so terrific about your grandmother!  $10/month difference -- hmmmm, maybe I'll re-think about getting a smartphone.  Thanks!

 

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The phone my dad recently bought was a Samsung J7 - one of their newer basic smartphones. They'll run ~$200 out of pocket or the phone service you use will be happy to amortize the cost over the length of a multi-year service contract. In my dad's case, it was a J7 V (for Verizon) and was a definite upgrade over the Verizon flip-phone he had been using.

https://www.pcmag.com/review/345440/samsung-galaxy-j7

Personally, I've been "getting along" with a Samsung Galaxy S5 for years now. I haven't really seen the need to upgrade from it even though Samsung has been pumping out newer, more powerful models.

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I wonder if you have a particular channel for the info desk people, you can give them one of those red or yellow spinning "siren" lights and instruct them to turn it on when they receive a critical piece of intel like a major change to a popular panel, with signage "check here or Guidebook for major update when flashing" to wrap up the non guidebook people and quicker than updating the TV channels.

Reminds me of the "tune in to AM 1500 when flashing for traffic information" signs you see on the highway. Is it the greatest? Nope. But it is an analog solution to the quick dissemination of info, provided the tables don't get swamped when this happens.

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21 hours ago, Fadamor said:

The phone my dad recently bought was a Samsung J7 - one of their newer basic smartphones. They'll run ~$200 out of pocket or the phone service you use will be happy to amortize the cost over the length of a multi-year service contract. In my dad's case, it was a J7 V (for Verizon) and was a definite upgrade over the Verizon flip-phone he had been using.

https://www.pcmag.com/review/345440/samsung-galaxy-j7

Personally, I've been "getting along" with a Samsung Galaxy S5 for years now. I haven't really seen the need to upgrade from it even though Samsung has been pumping out newer, more powerful models.

Thanks again for all the info!  I'll definitely be researching all this.  :)

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