NASFiC was this past weekend. The first thing I did was check if I was in the art show, although I had signed up pretty early I never heard back, although I did get contacted on an art-related item which seemed to indicate I was set. Still, I was glad to see my art in the tidy, single page gallery they had chosen. On the plus side, was a nice clear layout gallery with names and bios prominent and the format was landscape, so pieces looked good. The disadvantage was that the images had no additional info or links, even though I am almost certain the form I submitted requested prices and titles – live and learn, that’s what watermarks are for after all. The main issue appears to be that the art director quit a week out from the convention so of course other folks were doing double duty. 

Art show check done, I moved on to find my way to the schedule. This turned out to be confusing because I failed to realise that I wasn’t registered; the convention was free, and obviously I had signed up for the art show, so that added up in my brain to “all done” – I went in circles a couple of times and finally twigged that the registration link on the website was a pretty straightforward sign in form. You agree to the CoC, sign your name, and then the rest of the website content appears automagically.

The schedule page seem to just be a list of all the panel titles, each item a button that went to the corresponding pages. I don’t know if I looked too early (it was the day before the convention) or if I just didn’t scroll down far enough, but I completely failed to see the proper schedule list with names and so on the first few times I checked. But eventually I was all set!

The Discord was set such that you could join the server the regular way, but you could also use it through the website. There was some problem with the link provided, but obviously I use Discord so I used cut and paste and that worked fine for me. I let the Help Desk know, and saw quite a few folks having that problem as well. They were very responsive on Discord helping with sign up and tech problems, the primary issue they seemed to be dealing with was more of a design than tech problem. The Discord had a #registration channel, and some folks who had correctly use that to set up their Discord account for the convention were confused when told to “register” in order to see the schedule. Of course that referred to the website sign in mentioned above, but a few people were not understanding and frustratedly going in circles. I’d suggest future conventions pay attention to their naming schemes across platforms, duplication of this type is bound to lead to confusion. Eventually the Help Desk added some screenshots, which helped.

Sadly there was no way to save the schedule to a calendar, so I manually went through and added panels I was interested in to my calendar one and a time, it was tedious but in the end I had everything in my own timezone one click away from watching it. In an ideal world online conventions would localise to your timezone, but at the very least they need to make the timezone prominent, in their banner even, now that they are likely to get a percentage of guests from out-of-zone.

Panels were broadcast only, no Zoom to log into for the audience. Initially I was worried it would feel less participatory, but each panel had a moderator in charge of monitoring the appropriate Discord channel to pass along questions and comments. Sometimes the panelists also did the same. This ended up being much better since there was only one place the audience conversation was happening, it also seemed to lead to more frequent instances of the panelists entering the Discord conversation post-panel, which was very nice.

My first panel was CovidFX Social Gatherings, which was lively and helped by Alison Scott paying attention to the Discord while on the panel, she has the experience after all. Moderators were taking questions, though we didn’t know that at the time, the system is good but needs more publicising. The panel was fun, though it slid a bit too much into discussion of conventions rather than general clubs and groups – I was part of the problem there, whoops.

Opening ceremonies went smoothly; Tom Smith introduced himself, then the guests, handed off smoothly and it all just worked, because it was just Zoom and you can pre-record, it’s not that hard! I didn’t notice on the first go that it was recordings, but honestly for this sort of thing that’s fine, it worked and went well. Herbert and Anderson were both good speakers, they even dressed for the occasion, which I thought was nice. There was captioning, but was a bit problematic since the text was too large and couldn’t be changed. Reception was mixed as a result, accessibility plus for some and impediment for others. The toastmaster pointed out the Artist GOH’s single panel, and told the time and place, which was a nice touch.

The next panel for me was about selling your art, once again Alison Scott was on it. On their recommendation I am trying out ArtStation, which was mentioned several times at CoNZealand but I had dismissed as a digital/concept artist platform. Another of the advantages of virtual, is that you don’t have to take notes since it’s all there in the chat!

Friday night the evening party was in a platform called Gather.Town? First I’ve ever heard of it, looks simple, but disconcerting to run across it while perusing the schedule with no added info. 

After some initial tech issues it was actually pretty neat! Unfortunately it only worked on Chrome, so not everyone could use it. There was much discussion of other similar platforms, I’m sure we will get to try many of them over the next months. Alison was hanging with an Australian and I had a brief chat, then I ran into Brad Templeton who shared an article on the topic, then I went to bed. Much like previous cons I feel like the evening parties could use a channel with pinned announcements or something, since the conventions tend to only mention them at the end of the day, meaning there’s a good chance to miss or not ever find out about them. Would also be useful to put party stuff in the newsletter or the discord.

On Saturday I checked out the Women of a Certain Age, about older women as protagonists. It was a really great panel, comprehensive and with tons of participation from the Discord, lots of back and forth in real time with the panelists.

On Sunday I was a bit tired and had other engagements, which may have soured my mood a little, but felt the art show ended up being a bit of a damp squib after the complete radio silence on the colouring book and if/when the show would be taken down, on top of that having to correct my info twice in the Souvenir Book. Eventually, after closing ceremonies but before dead dog, I did get replies and apologies on both items and felt mollified. To be fair the colouring book looked great and it was probably nice for folks to have a little aprés-con treat.

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