Panel parity

Every so often I share a link on Facebook about panel parity, with a focus on gender. What usually happens is someone comes along and says that quotas are bad and can’t we just get the best people on panels.

In the recent past, a number of conventions have said things like “We plan to put the best people on panels”. What usually happens is that you get a majority of panels with 4-5 men sitting around talking.  I think we can agree that there might be something wrong with this.

Here is a Truth that is often missed out by a lot of people against panel parity. Panel parity is the aim to have the best people on panels.

However we can’t just magically have that, despite what some people think we still have a society that is filled with bias.

Whenever I try to put together a panel, I usually think about who I know might be good for the panel. I think about who I have seen previously is a good speaker, who I know has written relevant works.

This seems a reasonable step; the problem is that because women don’t get to be on many panels, I don’t immediately think about women to put on panels. Yes, this is my bias, but I think that it might be a bit more wide-spread.

So I set myself a target of at least having 40% of my participant slots having women in them. I also want to have a similar target for each panel, while knowing it may not be possible; this is what I have called “soft quotas”.

The 40% is the least that any convention that wants to draw in more attendance from women should be doing.

The point, for me at least, of ‘soft quotas’ is that it forces me outside my comfort zone, it forces me to justify why I have four men on a panel with no women. Sometimes that might be justified, but I had better know why I have done it.

I am looking forward to the day when people will do stuff like gender balance without having to think about it, but until then I am going to do my hardest to make sure that any event I am involved in is at least getting parity at the convention level if not at the panel level.

Irish Fandom – Where to next

After my look back at Octocon, and the previous ones yesterday, I wanted to put out some thoughts I have had about Irish Fandom as we get ready for Running things like Shamrokon, and putting a bid together to host a World con in Dublin.

One of the problems  is that we get together nowhere near enough. Back when I first got involved, there were monthly meetings of the Irish Science Fiction Association. However attendance of those meeting fell, and in the end the organisation was wound up.

This left a gap of places for fans to get together, and looking around Dublin there does not seem to be much more than a couple of Science Fiction Book clubs and other small gatherings.

When I think about it, I come up with four distinct points

  1. I think I would like a regular meeting.
  2. It should be as cheap as possible to attend.
  3. It should be centrally located.
  4. It should have a definite purpose.

1. I have thought about this, and feel that about once a month is a good idea, and it should be a set day of the month, something like the second Tuesday, or similar means that people will know when it is as they start planning things. Making it easier for them to decide if it is worth there while to attend. I know other events have shorter and longer gaps, I just feel that this is a time line that might work better.

2. I would like this to be free, however it can be hard to ensure a good central location without some charge. While a place could be found that might meet a lot of these requirements, keeping it month to month for free could be difficult.  It may start out as free, with possible requests for people to donate to supporting the event on a voluntary basis.

3. In this case it should be near to the majority of bus routes, such that a single bus or Luas would get you into the area where the event is happening. Of course because of train station locations the same cannot be said for Trains.

4. Having a meeting that is just for meeting up with friends is useful, it however does not really encourage the arrival of new people, and in truth this about getting to meet new people. So each meeting should have a purpose of sorts. A reason that people might come along. Whether it be a talk from an author, a table quiz, or a presentation of some sort. Something to differentiate each meeting from the last.

I am going to investigate this and try and find some place to host a meeting, and maybe some form of talk for the first meeting. The question is does anyone else want to get involved in helping me out with this?


Octocon 2013 – Stakeholders Report

Since I got involved with Octocon I have tried to give a breakdown of the convention and where we are going next, maybe some aims and similar. This is what i have taken to call my Stakeholders Report. It is for those who are interested in Octocon.

This started in 2010, and continued in both 2011 and 2012. All of those are over on my Live journal, however I decided to continue here on my own Space to see where we go next.

Since I took over after 2010 I have been working with 3 strategic goals.

1. To grow the committee, and non committee helpers.
2. To grow the attendance by 50%.
3. To maintain, or improve, the quality of the convention.

Point 1: Grade F.

This year we explicitly asked people who were not going to attend to come and help us. Unlike how things were done normally, we did not charge them for memberships, and then worked them really hard. This opened the rest of the committee up to actually been able to relax. However we still need to look at growing the committee pool, coming out of 2012 we had a committee of about 5 people, and went into 2013 with a pool of four, however that was down two and up one. I am not sure if all four will remain on board until 2015, so a lot of this is in flux.

Point 2: Grade B-.

Since setting that goal our membership numbers took a dip, we had a major Bump from having George RR Martin as our GOH, a bump that we did not maintain. Over the next few years we grew membership, and I am hoping that while we will get a bump from any GOH, our base level will stay more constant. I think our base membership has probably grown by about 33% since 2010, but it is only a guess. at the end of last year, I made a comment about growing membership to above 200, this we did this year, with actual membership at approximately 210, now not all members made it for various reasons, and so our through the door was about 195. This is progress, but my target is around 250-300.

Point 3: Grade A-.

I know giving myself an A on this is a bit of an ego thing, however this is based on general on reviews of the convention on-line.  We have grown the number of program items, and also the number of program participants. We had a gender balance of about 56-44. There could be some variance from program to actual on weekend numbers. We still have a lot of work in getting in additional participants, as I want the average to to be around 3-4 panels per person, with a maximum of six. This year we had one person on eleven panels! This is at a two day con! The complaint that I have heard from some places is that the convention program was a little bit too serious, and maybe a fun track could be brought back. This is partly my fault, and I hope to be able to change in 2015.

So I still need to work on our strategic goals. However some progress has been made.

2013 was the first year that we decided to have two Professional Guests of Honour. We had two Guests of Honour in 2009, a professional and a fan. This lead to some interesting program things, and i feel it worked really well and is something that I hope we continue to do.

This was the year were we brought in a big US name, to see if it could work. However I do not think Octocon at its current level can actually afford that full cost. This caused a lot of stares at bank balances this year, and join rates, and generally hoping our at the door numbers would be enough. However in the end on a financial level we broke mostly even, though that is because of receipts not handed in.

The convention is taking a break for 2014, for a number of reasons, the main one been ShamroKon, however that break gives us a chance to sit down and fix some of our underlying structures, things like Website and so on. There are also some ideas that we would like to try, but need to get some idea of how to do it, and how to get buy-in from various places.

I think that this year was probably the best Octocon I was involved in, and hope to keep it going a little longer. I had hoped to do a reshuffle, move things around, and while that may still happen, i suspect that the committee will not change position that much over the next two years. So I will likely be in charge when we come back in 2015, though hopefully with someone looking and ready to take over in 2016.



Irish Science Fiction Association Headed Paper

As i mentioned i am in the process of trying to put together an archive of Irish Fan history. Part of that is getting older documents scanned and put on to the Internet.Of course all such things take time and of course documents.

I recently got some documents from Pádraig Ó Méalóid. There is a lot in the bag and so it will take a lot to get it in.

The first of the things i have scanned are two blank documents which have the header for the Irish Science Fiction Association which was set up in 1976 to promote awareness of Science Fiction in Ireland.



Hopefully i will manage to get more these scanned and into a proper archive.