Last year, I described RavenCon as ambitious, young, but impressive. In its second year, still at the same hotel, it did some notable growing. More people entered the costume contest on Saturday night, there was more entertainment ... there were a few more panelists and guests, and programming and dealers in general were increased.
However, cons are like children in more ways than one -- and just as some cons getting into their teens or tweens hit some uncomfortable points of puberty, a young con like Ravencon is going to have early, uncomfortable growth spurts. Fortunately, so early on, they're tiny and nothing that's going to make the con bad -- just something that will hopefully keep the coordinators on their toes.
I mentioned improved programming. Guests are still encouraged to sit five or six more panels, which is either a testament to the sheer amount of programming, or a sign that more panelists are needed. One of the good things about Raven is that it gives people a chance to see many different aspects of their guests. I, for example, sat panels on costuming, writing, and webcomics; many other panelists had a similar span, and it's a good opportunity to show just how varied fandom can be.
My only problem with this is burnout. Many of the guests are doing shows, book readings, signings, and other such things. I stacked up to about six or seven separate events over the course of the weekend. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I need to be kept busy at cons or I will cause trouble -- not so everyone else. I'm not entirely sure how much opportunity is given for panelists to 'take it easy,' but for those who aren't like myself, I wonder if the current growth of Ravencon might give them a bit of leeway into getting a few specific panelists. That is, much like at anime cons, bring in people's panels, rather than filling every panel from a preset guest list.
The dealers' room, as expected, was mostly books. Hopefully at the rumoured new hotel they'll be able to devote a bigger space to the dealers, as it was a passable size but a bit on the cosy side. (To qualify any further discussion of size and space, let me just say that this is an airport hotel and only has so much space. For a first- and second-year con getting its bearings, it was a safe and non-threatening size.) The smallness of it made for one or two ill-placed tables and a bit more 'sharing' than might have been enjoyable; yet another reason I'm hoping for a bit more room for them.
With a miniature masquerade (which I'm hoping will expand -- this year was a good sign), they could get away with 'main programming' being in an opened-up set of panel rooms. But ... they have been bringing in evening entertainment, and so even though they may not get enough contest entries to warrant the extra space, they do have enough entertainers to do so. I get the feeling there will be more such comedy, music, and fun added to the schedule, which makes a hall -- or at least a couple of risers -- almost essential.
Scheduling. Augh. Well. It seems that any con I go to, the Saturday night entertainment is going to be a bugger to start on time, rig up correctly, or what have you. So I shouldn't complain. But if the previous paragraph is correct, they will need a proper stage manager or three. Some times, both for the entertainment and some panels, were very unclear: the program said one thing while the sign on the door said another, and this was inconvenient for attendees and performers alike.
Coffee klatches need to continue, which I think is universally agreed upon. More conventions need to do proper sit-downs like that, and give opportunities for discussion and casual conversation outside panels. However, if these are going to go on, it might be wise to separate the autograph table from them.
Oh. The autograph table has had wretched placement both years. People will come looking for guests and miss them entirely.
Unfortunately, and I hate this, my only true nibbling complaint has to do with the attendees. Many, many were insufferably rude. Which is all well and good, but they were also not checked for live steel. I do not kid when I say I nearly had a sword drawn on me in anger, and I'm worried by my thought that I might not have the only one. With more attendees coming in, I hate to say it, but security and staff need to crack down on these things. Many SCAdians and LARPers are about, and some of those don't have much regard for weapon safety. It's regrettable to have to ask for staff to be tougher on people, but this behaviour started rather suddenly, and it might be time to nip it in the bud before Year 3.
This is the point in time when I think a convention needs critique more than any other. It's proven that it could survive two consecutive years. It has staying power. It's been a repeat performance, and now it's going to go on. Time for staff to begin weighing the good and the bad, investing in more room and guests, and lining up the best staff they can so they can hit the ground running in 2008. This is when word of mouth is going to hype it up, and this is when the learning experience is at its most important. But from what I've seen on the mailing list, I believe Raven's pretty much aware of everything I've said, and is raring to go. Fingers crossed ... because I'm going back. Back to Reports