Minicon 33 Concom Minutes 8-Jun-97

Minicon 33 General Committee Meeting
June 8, 1997 - Painter Park
Honey and Vinegar, Themes and Foosball

Not Randomly Selected Vision Statement:

A convention with so much interesting going on that we can't hold it all in programming space. It's in parties, hallways; sf, fantasy, fandom, all of it oozing all over. -- Katie



Next Meeting:

Exec Report

The budget figures are suggested figures. We want you to come back to us with your proposed budget. Budgets should be finalized by the end of summer, sooner is better. The easiest way to get in touch with us is email:

All the people who filled out an MMPI will be added to the Einblatt. Einblatt is the Mnstf monthly newsletter, with information about Mnstf meetings and other cool stuff. An example was handed round.

Minutes will be sent out primarily via email. We will start sending out snail mail minutes once we have the Concom Directory whacked into shape. The Camel has left the tent. If you have seen the camel, please talk to Abdul the rug merchant. Translation: Would anyone who knows the location of the Mnstf computer please tell us. A volunteer from out of the crowd said that Sheri Lessinger was the last person seen riding the camel.

Department priorities are as follows: PR 1, budget, job description, postmortem comments, in that order.

Martin described the process for selecting the Minicon 34 exec as follows: A selection committee is formed of this year's exec, and last year's exec, and the exec for the year before that. That committee makes a recommendation to the board for next year's exec, and the board makes a final decision. The board is trying to get away from the "bidding" process, and enhance continuity.

In the olden bygone days, related Martin, the exec was a stable body from which people stepped off and stepped on. Roughly speaking, we would like to move back towards that, rather than a complete change of exec every year. If anyone would like to be exec, please let this year's exec know as soon as possible. On the other hand, if you have revolution in the offing, you can come to us and you might convince us, but we're prejudiced in favor or of the former model.

Don Bailey pointed out that no form of choosing execs is perfect. The model currently being used works fine

Open Input

Victor gave a Wiscon report, which began, "This is the best pocket program ever." He reported that Wiscon is both good at what they do, and very fun. Their publications department does an especially nice job, the pocket program being only one example.

A number of years ago, Andy Hooper said that the difference between Minneapolis and Madison is simple: in Minneapolis, you have meetings that degenerate into parties, we have parties that degenerate into meetings. Anyway, whole point is, they've learned their lesson. They know how to party. The parties were fabulous. There was a floor set aside for parties. Victor helped with ops and parties. Their ops department is tiny. "This," declared Victor, "is the only convention I go tow where I go to programming, enjoy it, and take notes. I don't know what that means." Beth assured him there was a support group for this.

Other things were pointed out as things that Wiscon did well. Programming had room monitors, who made sure that the panels started, that there was water for the panelists, and flashed 10 and 5 minute warning signs. The name cards came from the green room. On the front, they had the name of the panelist. On the back, it said what the panelist's next panel was, when, and where. It also told the panelist where they were right now. There were special badges for former Guests of Honor, a nice honor for the GoH, and a nice way for members to identify them. The room parties were given rooms in which to hold the parties at no cost. The rooms were parlour rooms, not sleeping rooms, and the requirement was that you clean up and be out by 2 am. This worked well, but did seem to cause the parties to go a little short.

Wiscon went through crisis some years ago. It started out as a feminism in science fiction convention. It got the point, however, where some of the people working on questioned the necessity of having feminist programming. Some of the fans who had been working on it for a long time said, "Wait!", got involved again, and restored Wiscon's focus. It must have been uncomfortable. However, they restored their focus without losing the other stuff. They still have a gaming suite, good film and video (with interesting discussions of the films), and so on. They survived a crisis, and are stronger for it.

Going to other conventions, especially working on other conventions, gives a good perspective and is good experience. As the year goes along, the exec is interested in hearing other people's convention reports.

Department Reports

CFO: Budgets should have been turned in. The budget process is ongoing. We intend to go to line item budgeting. We are currently working on the line item list. Please remember that the budget is a living document, and we need to work on it together.

Parties : There will be a consuite. Shahan of the Desert is our head in training. (This is Shahn Dickson) If you have information relevant to parties, give it to Gypsy or Tesla or Shahan of the Desert. Postmortem comments have been written up and will be turned into cyberspace. (Which strikes this reporter as a neat trick, I didn't know creating cyberspace was that easy.)

Registration: We have turned in a budget and job description. Registration and others met to discuss requirements for a database. Don Bailey is working on a designing the database. The department will be putting a proposal to the board to buy a new, improved camel (a dromedary). We believe we have tracked down the current version of the registration database.

Publications: First PR will go out in July. If you have not turned in your info, please do so ASAP.

Hotel: Shannon is moving, and most of the info is also moving, her life is in motion. Ishmael needs resumes from anyone who needs anything from the hotel. Resumes are due by the next concom meeting. Please get in your room requests as soon as possible.

Cyberspace: Web pages change. There is new stuff. As far as I know, I haven't put up anything I shouldn't have.

Dark Star: It is too soon to do anything, so we haven't.

Ops: Ops is proceeding. We have reviewed the manual, made some changes. Don Bailey will work with ops on network issues. We have turned in our budget and PR info.

Art Show: On schedule. We won't do anything much until January.

Programming: We have our PR submission. Programming participant letters are going out next Sunday.

GoH Liaison: Last time we said Neil Gaiman had accepted. Unfortunately, Neil had been given bad info about when Norwest con is, and was forced to honor his prior commitment. On the bright side, Mike Ford has accepted as toastmaster. Gardner Dozois will be publishing GoH.

Reconvene for discussion

Sharon Kahn did presentation on management

The gist follows.

Everyone in this meeting is a leader. The fact that you are here in a stifling room on a beautiful day means that you are a leader. Don't underestimate your power. If you just came to ask a question, you have more power than you think. When I ran programming, I wasn't a manager at work, but it intersected with leadership. I got stuff done solely by influence. I didn't want to be a manager, I just wanted to get stuff done. When they made me manager at work, I thought it would be different, but it wasn't. You'd think if you tell the people who are reporting to you to do things they'd do it, but actually, you have to convince people. We all have influence, not just the people on the top.

Influence can be positive or negative. Even if you think no one listens to you, they probably are. [Sharon paused to create some weird drawings of honey, vinegar, and flies. The benefits of drawing flies were not discussed.] It's easy to forget to say, "You're doing a great job." However, positive reinforcement is useful for getting people to do things. Negative reinforcement is only good for getting people to stop. If you are too negative, people won't do anything at all. They react like mice in a psychology experiment who, when subjected to too much negative reinforcement, ended up huddling in corners. This is not the best use of your volunteers. On the other hand, it is necessary to be truthful. Sometimes the best you can say is "I know how hard you worked on this."

It helps to remember that no one (well, almost no one) tries to do a bad job. Whatever else may be going on, the person you are talking to tried their level best to the best job they knew how to do. It is important to acknowledge that. However, if someone is doing a crappy job and you say, "You're doing great," they'll continue to do the same thing. Start with a presumption of good will.

Themes, more discussion

Each side will pick their champion, and the champions will play, wait, that's not what happened. Even though there was a foosball table in the middle of the room. Honest. It's not what happened.

The two competing themes were:

The discussion was spirited. It was pointed out that the second theme was really a theme for the concom, not for the convention as a whole. After all, as someone pointed out, people do not go to sf conventions to not have fun.

After a while, it was suggested that the theme "Heisenberg probably slept here" be accepted by acclamation, with "If we're not having fun, we're not doing right" being adopted as the concom motto. This suggestion was acclaimed, and so it was, and is, and ever more shall be.

But we didn't get to play foosball.


Modeled on the article by Meadows, the concom attempted to "vision" a sustainable Minicon. The instructions were that this was not to be an argument. Rather, it was to be a set of personal statements. Feasibility is not the point. Discussions of how to achieve these goals are premature. The purpose of the exercise was to see if we could imagine the ideal Minicon.

Victor summarized that the things that show up most commonly are social interactions, the feeling of coming home, safety, oozing, and oozing sensibilities. DDB pointed out that not one single thing has the slightest thing to do with sf; this not necessarily a bad thing, but it some of the attempts to focus the convention by focusing with sf may not be in accord with a relatively shared vision. Victor responded that this is part of social change. We used to be able to conflate the reading of sf with fandom. It used to be, 1 in 100 people read sf, but of those, 1 in 10 were potential fans. Now, 1 in 10 read sf, but only 1 in 100 of those are potential fans. This change is a fact of life, and we need to learn to manage it. Eric H. said that he felt that our dedication to sf is implicit, rather than explicit.

DDB said that his synthesis of the discussion was that sf used to be a pretty good preselection filter for who made up fandom. SF may no longer be the correct filter for framing the fannish community. Fandom as a whole, and Mnstf in particular, should think about this.

Victor said that we need to be clear. We need more filters, and we need to be more clear about what they are. The "background radiation" of sf is very high. If we are to be visible mutants, we need more fissionable material. We have to become more distinctive. If all the convention is about is what it's been, then we may get people we don't have a sense of community with. We need to be very careful how we say this, because we could scare away our people if we are not clear.

Geri pointed out that a big part of this exercise is the doing of it. She would like to look at ways to remember it. Polly suggested we could put statements on the minutes. Geri suggested cartoon collector cards. Lydy suggested drafting Derek to draw the cards.

[DDB then went and wrote a script to present a randomly selected vision statement each time somebody loads the Minicon 33 homepage.]