Going Digital Paperless in an Analog Convention Leads to Angry Attendees

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Having existed for over 10 years, the largest anime convention in Northern California known as Fanime (short for FanimeCon) should know how to handle itself logistically. And for the most part it does. They host themselves in a large venue in the San Jose Convention Center that can accommodate tens of thousands of attendees. It books guests fans actually want to see. The Dealers Room and Artists Alley is full of vendors selling their wares. Stage Zero is a central hub of the convention where fans can relax and watch some live entertainment provided by staff or fellow fans. And the convention security cooperates with local law enforcement to prevent attendees from wielding dangerous weapons or impersonating law enforcement through fictitious costumes easily mistaken for the real badges.

But the 2011 Fanime had a serious logistic nightmare for both staff and attendee alike: Lack of printed schedules and maps.

It’s one thing to have a giant convention full of guests, panels, and other forms of live programming intended to inform and entertain attendees. But it hardly does any good if no one actually knows when or where any of those things take place. People may have had an idea that a panel on a subject of their interest was happening during a certain day and time, but they would have to check individual rooms hoping to find it. This was not a very fun game of hide and seek. The info desk was the main source on information on live programming as they had a few printed schedules for people to flip through hoping to find their desired panels. Additionally the info desk posted updates on what panels were cancelled (possibly due to the panelist being unable to locate his/her panel room and time due to a lack of a printed schedule) and what panels replaced the cancellations (possibly run by people who had the free time to wait at the info desk to see if they could squeeze themselves into a panel room).

There was much speculation over the lack of printed programs and schedules. Some thought this was Fanime’s attempts to go digital and save money while also promoting itself as a green convention. I’ll give credit where it’s due: Fanime made very good use of Twitter for reminding attendees of events and updating people of any changes. And the website did house the current schedule during the convention. But it does not get around the fact that most attendees either are not on Twitter, do not own smart phones, or do not carry around laptops to go online while walking around the convention. The info desks did their best to provide info to those who asked, but were overrun with requests.

Attendees simply need paper print outs of the convention they attend so they can have a physical representation of the convention in their hands. They can take notes on where to go, what is happening at the same time, and perhaps have a souvenir of the convention itself. And maps of the convention and surrounding area are very important if attendees actually want to find the promoted places around the convention without getting lost. It’s just common sense that should have outdone digital preferences and green efforts.

It is also surprising that Fanime was able to print out beautiful program guides that oddly enough had the schedule of the DJs for the raves printed in the schedule but were unable to print the live programming supplement.

During the complaint session after the convention, Fanime admitted that the lack of paper programming guides was due to an issue with the printer and not an effort to go green or digital. In any case, that still does not excuse the convention for not providing them. If worse becomes worst, a 24-hour copy center would have shown some effort.

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