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There Should Be No More Back-to-Back US Worldcons. Ever.

August 18, 2014

LonCon3 – the biggest Worldcon in history – is currently winding down. One of the more distressing pieces of news to issue from its administrative bowel is the announcement that the 2016 Worldcon will be held in Kansas City, Missouri.

Dubbed MidAmeriCon II, the Kansas City bid saw off competition from a group of Chinese fans who were hoping to bring Worldcon to Beijing for the first time ever. Given that the 2015 Worldcon is already being held in Spokane, Washington, Kansas City will make it two years in a row (and three years out of four) that Worldcon will have been held in a regional American city without a proper international airport.

As disappointing as this administrative colloquialism may be, it is not a surprise as fifty-three out of seventy-two Worldcons have taken place in the United States.

To make matters worse, a Washington DC bid has now entered the race for the 2017 Worldcon. Prior to the announcement of the DC bid, the 2017 slot had boasted an admirably internationalist slate including competing bids from Japan, Canada and Finland. People with ties to the internationalist bids are justifiably outraged:

 

 

A victory for DC would not just make it three US Worldcons in a row, but quite possibly four as the only bids to have declared for 2018 are from San Jose, California and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Aside from undermining Worldcon’s claims to be the World Science Fiction Convention, this administrative parochialism has a number of unfortunate knock-on effects:

 

Firstly, science fiction culture is currently trying to address its shameful track record of marginalising and excluding people from outside the English-speaking world. One of the best ways of making science fiction culture more accessible to a wider audience is by taking the biggest convention in science fiction and transporting it to a country that is not a part of the English-speaking world. By keeping Worldcon safely locked away in American venues, we are perpetuating the preposterous myth that science fiction belongs to Americans.

Secondly, one of the reasons why Anime fandom has overtaken genre fandom and begun to grow much larger conventions is that Anime cons tend to take place in large cities that are cheap and easy to get to. Favouring US regional cities favours wealthy, retired Americans who can easily afford to up sticks and travel to up-state Washington to attend a convention. The size of LonCon3 owed nothing to the strength of British fandom and everything to the comparative ease of getting to London.

Thirdly, Worldcons are run along democratic lines by groups of dedicated fans. Anyone can turn up and vote at a World Science Fiction Society business meeting as long as you happen to be attending the con. The problem is that in order to present a credible bid or introduce new business, you need to be willing to visit more than one Worldcon in a row. Favouring US venues over non-US venues means that American fans find it much easier to get involved in the running of Worldcon and this means that Worldcon is more likely to reflect their ideas and experiences. In other words, the more American Worldcons you hold, the more likely it is that future Worldcons will be held in American cities and built according to the concerns of American fans. Holding Worldcons outside of the US allows international fandom a greater chance to get involved in the running of Worldcon and the more international fans get involved in the running of Worldcon, the more likely it is that Worldcon will come to reflect the experiences and concerns of all science fiction fans.

Having read through some of the discussions surrounding the various bids, I am intrigued and frustrated by the forces that shape the bidding process. Obviously the process favours experienced con-runners but why did Kansas City stand almost unopposed and why did three credible international bids pick 2017 as their target leaving the US almost unopposed in both 2016 and 2018?

The WSFS constitution is silent on the matter. Article 4, which governs future Woldcon selection, describes the process of bidding and the hoops that bidders need to jump through but makes no reference to geographical considerations beyond tying a bid to the city it originally declared for. However, if you look back over older bids and discussions of past site selections, you find references to a system designed to prevent Worldcon from returning to the same city over and over again. From the website of the 1998 Worldcon in Baltimore, Maryland:

 

The rules specify conditions, both geographic and procedural, which a prospective bid must satisfy to be eligible. Bids from outside North America are allowed in any year but to ensure equitable distribution of sites, North America is divided into three regions: Western, Central, and Eastern.

 

Rob Hansen’s history of British fandom also makes reference to a spat between US and UK fandoms from the 1980s. The details of the spat are unimportant but the background sheds some interesting light on the hidden politics of Worldcon site selection:

 

During the business session of the 1984 Worldcon Ben Yalow, an East Coast fan, had suggested that for the purposes of Worldcon rotation the US in future be split into two zones rather than the current three “in order to eliminate wimpy bids”. This quote got somewhat garbled on the grapevine and word went round that an attempt was being made by East and West Coast fans to squeeze out ‘the Wimpy Zone’, i.e. the Midwest.

 

It is entirely reasonable for US Worldcons to rotate from region to region. One of the abiding principles of Worldcon is that it Brings Fandom to You and so any attempt to root Worldcon in a particular place has long been resisted. However, is it possible that the informal policy of rotating between different US regions has lead to a situation in which various US regions believe that they are ‘due’ even though Worldcon keeps returning to American soil year after year?

My solution to this problem is simple: Worldcon must be true to its name and impose legal limits on the frequency of American Worldcons. There should be no more back-to-back American Worldcons. Ever.

I understand that bidding for a Worldcon is an expensive and complicated process but I would like to see a situation whereby (at the very least) American Worldcon bids compete only against one another while non-American Worldcon bids are protected from opportunistic bids like that of 2017’s Washington DC.

Science fiction belongs to the world and it is high time that Worldcon recognised it.

98 Comments
  1. barackobamasuicidebomber permalink
    August 18, 2014 11:45 pm

    I don’t know how this stuff actually works. Can you suggest an amendment to the constitution and have it debated etc.? Or is this just a “don’t vote for” type suggestion?

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  2. Coleman permalink
    August 18, 2014 11:55 pm

    I think America should not be forced to split worldcons with the other nations. Again i used the word Forced.

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  3. barackobamasuicidebomber permalink
    August 19, 2014 10:41 am

    (& are there more tricksy wiggly ways around this?

    Here’s an idea?

    The reason Worldcon gets great is because everybody recognises Worldcon & goes there & makes stuff happen …

    So could fans who care about having a convention that is truly international just MAKE ONE UP, and let it be fulfilled by whatever convention happens to be closest to the ideal in that particular year?

    There be a sort of virtual “MetaCon,” or “GlobeCon.” Each year the title could be awarded to a relatively large convention in a relatively easy-to-get-to city, in a different region to the previous year’s GlobeCon. Some years GlobeCon would be in the US, some years it wouldn’t. Some years GlobeCon would be WorldCon, some years it wouldn’t (& inevitably, a little smaller — but maybe bigger than if it hadn’t been GlobeCon?).

    E.g. GlobeCon 2014 was WorldCon/LonCon. GlobeCon2015 will be (I dunno) Continuum 11 in Aus. GlobeCon2016 will be TorCon3 in Canada (or whatever), GlobeCon2017 will be WorldCon/Helsinki, GlobeCon2018 could be WorldCon again New Orleans. Or whatever. It would just need a little committee and a few selection criteria and a website, right? Maybe some kind of free membership system?

    If Worldcon does decide it wants to adopt the no back-to-back bids, Worldcon & Globecon would slip into alignment, Two Become One.

    Could that work?? This is probably a dumb piece of design fic …)

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  4. August 19, 2014 4:43 pm

    This would have to be a proposed amendment to the constitution. I’m familiar enough with the process to draw up such an amendment but lack the social capital (or the urge to visit Spokane and Kansas City) needed to get it seconded, proposed or passed. This is really more about starting a discussion and making people aware of the problem.

    Your plan is actually quite similar to the set-up they have in Australia where various towns have an annual convention with a different town taking it in turns to be the National Convention.

    I’m not sure this would work in the case of Worldcon as Worldcons are really their own thing… they’re much bigger than most SF cons and so require a much bigger venue and much more planning.

    Nice idea though :-)

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  5. August 19, 2014 5:45 pm

    Creating “Globecon” seems to make more sense than turning Worldcon into a zero sum game — let whoever will bring to market a convention run in a way that please them better (indeed, there already are many huge sf/media cons throughout the world drawing infinitely more fans than Worldcon.) Why in any sense must the Worldcon adapt itself to your ideological demands?

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  6. Mike Glyer permalink
    August 19, 2014 5:47 pm

    Muphry’s Law strikes again — typoing my own name…in fact, I’m not even sure how that’s possible considering I had to log in through WordPress…

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  7. August 19, 2014 6:14 pm

    why did three credible international bids pick 2017 as their target leaving the US almost unopposed in both 2016 and 2018?

    Japan was the first to pick 2017. Montreal originally announced for 2019 but later moved to 2017; I could speculate on why but don’t know for sure. A member of the Helsinki committee said in comments on another blog (can’t remember where now) that they didn’t want to run against KC because the Helsinki and KC committees are good friends.

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  8. August 19, 2014 9:17 pm

    Mike — What ideological demands? Worldcon travels around anyway… why is it some form of bizarre ideology to suggest that it should maybe travel a little bit further than it currently tends to?

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  9. August 19, 2014 9:32 pm

    Hi Petrea,

    It is definitely unfortunate and I think some ordering of the bidding process might avoid this kind of needless conflict.

    I heard a number of people puzzle about why Helsinki didn’t make the most of LonCon’s foreign status and reapply for 2016 following their failed 2015 bid but I’m pretty sure that the bid process makes that type of rolling application impossible.

    It’s unfortunate because 2018 will see the internationalist vote split between 3 different bids, which might well be enough to secure DC victory and set up 4 back-to-back Worldcons.

    Like

  10. August 19, 2014 10:05 pm

    Site selection is by preferential ballot so votes won’t get split by numerous international bids.

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  11. August 19, 2014 10:22 pm

    A bid doesn’t have to officially file until a few months before site selection, so there’s no problem there with running in successive years. In fact, Beijing’s bid for 2016 wasn’t even announced until this year, and that bid committee plans to keep filing every year until they win.

    In some cities, there might be problems securing a facility for a bid on a shorter timescale, but everything I’ve seen from the Helsinki bid says that 2016 was a real option.

    Like

  12. kastandlee permalink
    August 20, 2014 7:35 am

    Proposals to _force_ Worldcons outside of North America strike me as “white knighting,” by trying to defend groups who don’t want to be defended that way.

    The former “zone” system split North America (not the USA, all of North America including Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean) into three zones, only one of which was eligible in any given year. Bids from outside of the USA were eligible every year.

    WSFS once adopted a system that would have prohibited two consecutive non-North American Worldcons, but this is non-obvious, because it was adopted at a North American Worldcon and the following year, the _non-North American_ fans at a _non-North American_ Worldcon voted to repeal the rule because they didn’t _want_ to be forced to try and hold a Worldcon every other year. Let me stress this: the attempt to _force_ Worldcon to be outside of North America every other year was rejected _by the non-North American fans_.

    [The constitutional amendment process for WSFS has not always been what it is now. The archive of historical WSFS constitutions is incomplete.]

    The future line-up of bids includes a whole lot of non-North American sites: 2017 Helsinki; 2019 Dublin; 2020 New Zealand; and now 2023 Paris. There is no shortage of non-North-American bids.

    Kansas City was essentially left alone because they had bid unsuccessfully twice before and in the process made friends with most of the other bidders; consequently, most other bidders got out of KC’s way and did not want to oppose them. Strategically, Helsinki might have had a shot at defeating KC (unlike Beijing, which was never a factor outside of some Yellow Peril scenarios being created by some people who assumed the Chinese government would swoop in and “buy” Worldcon), but at the expense of significant goodwill among the very conrunners who they will need to help them put on their event.

    You actually can’t hold something called “GlobalCon” in the USA, although you probably could hold it elsewhere. The Association of Energy Engineers who tried to run an event they called “Worldcon” changed their name to “GlobalCon” when their attempt to scupper WSFS’s service mark on “Worldcon” failed. But if you want to go out there and create your ideologically-pure “GlobalCon” held anywhere other than the USA, nobody is stopping you. Anyone who thinks that’s the way to go should simply go out there and do it.

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  13. kastandlee permalink
    August 20, 2014 7:42 am

    As mentioned above, vote-splitting doesn’t happen that way with a preferential Instant-Runoff ballot. If it did, Helsinki (which had the most first-ballot votes last year) would have won on account of two US bids (Orlando and Spokane) splitting the vote. Instead, most of the Orlando votes transferred to Spokane, who came from second place to win the 2015 Worldcon race.

    If anything, if you assume that supporters of non-US bids will always vote a non-US bid ahead of a US bid, the presence of multiple non-US bids in the same race against a US bid should be seen as a good thing, because in an IRV system, the non-US voters’ preferences will keep transferring to other non-US bids. You see this happening with the Hugo Awards, where the presence of multiple _Doctor Who_-related nominees often (but not always) results in preferences all converging upon one of the DW nominees to the detriment of the others.

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  14. August 20, 2014 9:23 am

    You don’t need to single out America. A more neutral and so more appealing and marketable version would be to prohibit consecutive Worldcons in the same country. Same effect in practice.

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  15. August 20, 2014 10:28 am

    Hi Kevin :-)

    I’m not sure why you’re placing so much emphasis on the word ‘Force’ as nobody’s talking about forcing anyone to do anything… I’m not even sure how you’d go about using force in this context. This is no more about forcing the WSFS to legislate against back-to-back US Worldcons than your (excellent) proposal was about forcing the business meeting to surrender some of its authority to the wider membership by bringing in a ratification vote.

    I take your point about the political complexities of the bidding process but I’m not sure I agree that because this type of legislation has been tried before without success, it is doomed to universal failure. Times change, people change and I think making Worldcon more internationalist is more of a going political concern than it used to be.

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  16. August 20, 2014 10:28 am

    Demonstrablyfalse — Yes… good point :-) Far more diplomatic.

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  17. Neil W permalink
    August 20, 2014 10:48 am

    I’ve been trying to think of a method where you could strongly (or gently) encourage Worldcons to change countries annually, but not absolutely require it. This would serve the goals of broadening and internationalising attendance without alienating the current North American organising and supporting fans quite so much. Sadly I haven’t come up with anything practical. Maybe someone else can.

    An alternative to Worldcon is an interesting idea, but Jonathan has been consistently attempting to engage with and propose changes to fandom as it exists rather than completely replace it. There’s something to fandom and Worldcon that has history and value, and throwing it away and starting again loses that.

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  18. August 20, 2014 12:30 pm

    There are many reasons why bids pick the year they do. Among the reasons for Helsinki to pick 2017 and not 2016 was, as mentioned here, that the people doing the Kansas City bid were a great help to the Helsinki in 2015 bid. There was a lot of support and cooperation, and Helsinki definitely wouldn’t stab them in the back and bid against them.

    One other reason, among many others I won’t list here (and I don’t even know all of them as I’m not on the bid committee) was that the 2017 location is decided next year in Spokane, and all the supporters who voted for Helsinki in 2015 are automatically members of next year’s convention and therefore can vote on the 2017 selection.

    In my opinion, campaigning for geographical restrictions for Worldcons would be counterproductive (as I said, bids have many reasons for picking the years they do), does not have a chance to succeed, and could possibly even be harmful to Worldcons (it’s not easy to organize a Worldcon, and it might result in years when there are no bids with enough experience to do so).

    What I think people should do instead is to spread the word that if you want more diversity in Worldcons (as we do), you should encourage people to register as a supporting member and then vote. You don’t have to attend a convention to vote for site selection. Crystal Huff has written excellent instructions on how to do this: http://arisiacrystal.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/so-you-want-to-vote-on-worldcon-location-yay/

    (Yes, the process is quite complicated. And yes, people are working to change that, but it’ll take time as the change process is slow.)

    We do not need rules forbidding US convention. All we need are Worldcon members who want to see more international conventions, and who vote on site selection.

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  19. barackobamasuicidebomber permalink
    August 20, 2014 5:03 pm

    I wonder if Helsinki, Dublin, New Zealand & Paris will face competition from US bids yet to materialize?

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  20. kastandlee permalink
    August 20, 2014 6:46 pm

    I’m not sure why you’re placing so much emphasis on the word ‘Force’ as nobody’s talking about forcing anyone to do anything… I’m not even sure how you’d go about using force in this context.

    Easy. Pass constitutional amendments making bids from any site in the USA ineligible in even- (or odd-) numbered years. Then non-US sites (presumably you don’t consider Canada to be part of the USA the way some people do, much to the annoyance of Canadians, even honorary ones like me) would be eligible every year, and would have the field to themselves every alternate year. I’m not saying it’s a good idea, but mechanically it’s simple.

    This is no more about forcing the WSFS to legislate against back-to-back US Worldcons than your (excellent) proposal was about forcing the business meeting to surrender some of its authority to the wider membership by bringing in a ratification vote.

    Actually, I expect most of the resistance to ratifying Popular Ratification (it’s certainly no slam dunk) is exactly about the Business Meeting surrendering some of the tiny amount of authority they have. That’s why including a conditional “sunset” clause that allows the BM to unilaterally withdraw the popular-ratification stage is in the proposal. It’s one of two compromises to which I agreed to get the proposal to have a chance.

    I take your point about the political complexities of the bidding process but I’m not sure I agree that because this type of legislation has been tried before without success, it is doomed to universal failure. Times change, people change and I think making Worldcon more internationalist is more of a going political concern than it used to be.

    True. It has been more than forty years since the events in question. But OTOH, it’s a key thing to consider whether there really are non-US fan groups willing to run Worldcons in every alternate year. There may be, but there’s no guarantee of it happening reliably.

    Incidentally, there have been consecutive non-US Worldcons only twice in the entire history of the event, and in both cases, one of the members of the pair was Canadian (1994 Winnipeg followed by 1995 Glasgow and 2009 Montréal followed by 2010 Melbourne). I’m reminded of someone who found Worldcon in the mid-2000s that was outraged by the Australia bid because “that’s against the rules! which of course it was not. But she’d looked at the recent pattern (2002 USA, 2003 Canada, 2004 USA, 2005 UK, 2006 USA, 2007 Japan, 2008 USA, 2009 Canada,…) and assumed that the WSFS rules required that every other Worldcon be in the USA with other countries holding the others. As it happened, that period of time was “balanced,” but after that we got into a period where there simply weren’t that many non-US bids. We’re now seeing something of a growth in them as well, but these things are cyclic, and that’s why we have ended up with two (and potentially four) consecutive US Worldcons. You need both bidders willing to bid and voters willing to vote. The same moderately wealthy Americans you criticize are the very people whose goodwill you need to not only win Worldcon elections, but to run them. There were a whole lot of American accents coming from people in Loncon 3 staff/committee vests last weekend.

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  21. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 20, 2014 8:23 pm

    It takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm to hold a credible bid for a Worldcon and it takes a daunting amount more than that to hold the event itself. You cannot force these groups into existence, there needs to be a desire there to start with.

    I’m not really aware of any squashing of bids from outside North America happening in the last 15 years (the period of bidding I’ve followed most closely). Unless or until that is occurring, I don’t see how your proposal can be a positive change. It won’t create new groups, it will only create holes in the schedule that become difficult to fill and would most likely end up either filling them with groups ill prepared to do a good job.

    In the past 20 years we’ve seen a great shift towards more conventions outside North America…and while (as I think Kevin noted) it may be a bit cyclical and have a bit of ebb and flow….I think the general process is leading to more widespread conventions no matter what.

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  22. August 21, 2014 7:21 am

    I must admit that I’m not in the least bit convinced by the ‘But we won’t have enough bids!’ argument as we’ve currently got three international bids competing against each other that might still translate into four consecutive US Worldcons.

    Nor do I buy the argument that we need US based Worldcons because otherwise we won’t have the US-based fans to run them. How is that not an excellent argument for encouraging the Worldcon to leave America more often?

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  23. kastandlee permalink
    August 21, 2014 7:55 am

    we’ve currently got three international bids competing against each other that might still translate into four consecutive US Worldcons.

    People who think “vote splitting” works do not understand instant-runoff voting. OTOH, if DC does a good job of capturing second-preference votes, it might be able to win. Now if you assume that people who prefer non-US bids over US bids under all circumstances will divide their votes among the other three 2017 bids, the only wan DC can win is by a “knockout” — getting a majority of first-preference votes. Otherwise, they’re not likely to pick up enough votes to win on the subsequent rounds.

    There is a separate argument (I don’t subscribe to it myself) that says that we already have too few American Worldcons, and furthermore we don’t have enough American Worldcons in Major Eastern Cities near the publishing centers. This line of debate goes that Worldcon should be held mostly in Boston, Chicago, and LA (Anaheim, probably), with maybe one a decade in Exotic Foreign Cities like London. The backers of this argument don’t like the Worldcon being in Spokane or KC either.

    And don’t make the all-too-common mistake of assuming all Americans think alike. I’m a member of the board of directors of CanSMOF, Montreal’s parent non-profit corporation. I helped promote the previous Montreal bid and have helped with this one. While helping out at the Montreal table this past weekend, I had more than one European fan look oddly at me and say a version of, “But you’re an American! Why aren’t you supporting the DC bid?”

    I replied with variations of, “The US east coast is as far away from from me as Moscow is from Barcelona. I live in Nevada, over on the left side of the map. Just because it’s the same country doesn’t mean that every single American will blindly support any American bid with a chant of USA! USA!”

    Not ever American is a jingoistic idiot.

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  24. August 21, 2014 8:50 am

    Every American most definitely doesn’t automatically support an American bid over an international one. I’ve heard a good amount of comments along that line from US fans, not just, “I want to travel abroad,” but also, “I know I can’t go to Helsinki but I still support your bid because I think it benefits Worldcons as a whole,” and even several, “I’m from DC; I know what the weather is like in August. I’m voting Helsinki.”

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  25. August 21, 2014 11:42 am

    Speaking personally, every Worldcon should be held in my home town; I’ll accept Concord and Manchester as alternates because Hillsboro doesn’t really have the requisite facilities.

    I’d attend every one and work on every one. Economies of scale resulting from utilizing the same facilities (not to mention discounts resulting from signing multi-year contracts) would serve to lower sunk costs and a portion of that would certainly accrue to the attendees. Individual fans would also benefit economically as they’d never have to spend a dime on a bid party, flyers and all the other whatnots that go along with a bid. The convention itself would have more vendor space to sell (again potentially lowering costs) because there’d be no free bid tables needed. Worldcon might even be able to invest in a suite of equipment; there are other savings that would be realized through adopting this plan.

    Those real savings realized could then be redistributed as travel vouchers for those coming from outside the immediate region, say, anything over a four hour car trip. This subsidy could be used for airfare, hotel stays, gasoline & fares and ought to be more than enough to offset any dissatisfaction that those from outside the Worldcon corridor might experience over having to travel every year. I’d be more than happy to kick in floor space for up to a dozen traveling fans at my place – gratis – to further demonstrate my willingness to handle this issue in a fair and egalitarian manner. I’m pretty sure I could get other locals to do the same – but we’d have to be careful to not over do it because we still do need to fill hotel rooms.

    But that’s speaking personally. I travel to Worldcon when I can afford it; I buy a supporting membership when I can’t and can afford that. When Musk gets his vacuum tube train system built worldwide, this problem won’t be an issue.

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  26. Tom Galloway permalink
    August 21, 2014 12:35 pm

    “Nor do I buy the argument that we need US based Worldcons because otherwise we won’t have the US-based fans to run them. How is that not an excellent argument for encouraging the Worldcon to leave America more often?”

    Fine. Don’t buy it. Also don’t be surprised if a Worldcon collapses into a disaster even worse than Torcon, when a fair number of its organizers apparently acted like they were doing a local con and didn’t need any Americans (read: experienced people) to tell them how to run it.

    Running a Worldcon is different from the vast majority of other volunteer run cons due to its size and complexity. Since it’s held in a different place, and run by different people, every single time/year, it’s critical for the people running it in any given year to have gotten previous high level experience. And to not unsolve already solved problems (see: Loncon at-site Registration). And to listen to people who have experience and know what they’re talking about (Torcon almost didn’t have a Masquerade because they wanted to do something that I, as House Manager, told them was an actual physical danger to attendees based on my Worldcon experience. If they hadn’t changed things, and for a while it looked like they wouldn’t, I was going to call the Fire Marshall and shut them down. Instead, they did something that was merely stupid and egotistical, but that didn’t fall under my “Shut this down before it physically hurts someone” criteria).

    Yes, it’d be great to have a full set or three of folk from all over the place qualified to be Worldcon chairs and division heads, such that no American would be needed. We’re not even close yet.

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  27. Tom Galloway permalink
    August 21, 2014 12:50 pm

    “There is a separate argument (I don’t subscribe to it myself) that says that we already have too few American Worldcons, and furthermore we don’t have enough American Worldcons in Major Eastern Cities near the publishing centers. This line of debate goes that Worldcon should be held mostly in Boston, Chicago, and LA (Anaheim, probably), with maybe one a decade in Exotic Foreign Cities like London. The backers of this argument don’t like the Worldcon being in Spokane or KC either.”

    Kevin, if this is referring to me, it’s misrepresenting my argument (and if it’s not, you’ve not represented it : -)). I believe we need Worldcon to reasonably frequently be in the locations that have shown they attract the most people to Worldcon. Right now, we’ve got four “Tier 1” location areas; California (Bay Area, LA Area, maybe San Diego), Chicago, the BosWash corridor, and Britain. Personally, I’d like to see each of these areas hold one Worldcon a decade, since for Worldcon to stay Worldcon and significant, you need several things; 1) Make sure people have a chance to end up in the middle group between “Attend every year if at all possible” and “Attend only if within a 10 mile radius of my home”; if it’s too long outside an area, or too many consecutive years in smaller, more isolated, way the hell away from US/Britain, people will get out of the “Worldcon habit”; note that after the five years stretch of such sites from 07-11, both Chicago and San Antonio were about 20% less attended than the last time they were held there.

    It’s also traditional to hold a once a decade Worldcon in Australia/New Zealand (OK, none yet in NZ, but NZ’s bid is in the customary Aus time period). That’d leave five slots a decade for site outside those five, which could be second tier US or non-US sites.

    But you also want “tier 1” and other sites to intermingle and not bunch up. Again, ’07-’11 had too many sites in a row that were not Tier 1 and were relatively isolated from usual attendees.

    And the other reason this is important is that for Worldcon to stay Worldcon, and not turn into a big relaxacon (or, more likely, a small one), is that 2) a certain number of pros and a fair number of significant ones, also need to be able to attend. Otherwise, Worldcon won’t seem any different from any other largish regional at best, and attendance will slack off. And the tier 1 sites are the easiest for such to attend.

    It’s not that I’m against either non-US sites, or smaller US cities per se. I am against having too many Worldcons too close together in such, and in going way too long without holding Worldcons in our known and established big areas.

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  28. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 21, 2014 2:47 pm

    “I must admit that I’m not in the least bit convinced by the ‘But we won’t have enough bids!’ argument as we’ve currently got three international bids competing against each other that might still translate into four consecutive US Worldcons.”

    You missed the ending of my statement. I said we’d end up with groups ill prepared to do a good job being selected. The mere existence of 5 announced outside-of-the-US bids (Japan, Montreal, Helsinki, New Zealand, Paris) doesn’t speak against that statement at all. It would be folly to assume that every group that announces intention is prepared to succeed….the convention is too much hard work. If you disbelieve me for whatever reason, reach out to Norman Cates (the head of the NZ bid) and ask *him* for his feelings on this. As NZ is bidding they are also *figuring out* if they believe they will be able to be successful and they are not yet fully convinced. He’s pretty sober and thoughtful on the topic.

    The bidding process is how the voters meet the groups and make that judgement for themselves. Unless we see a substantial upswing in bids, if any of the current outside-the-US bids is found by the voters to be lacking, there is nothing to replace them with and your proposed rule would eliminate most of the ability to steer away from a failure.

    Competing bids are actually good for the process, it works to make every bid better. If we set up a system where one set of bidders is almost never going to be competed against, we are setting up a system that will very likely produce failures.

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  29. August 21, 2014 4:00 pm

    “Yes, it’d be great to have a full set or three of folk from all over the place qualified to be Worldcon chairs and division heads, such that no American would be needed. We’re not even close yet.”

    And you *will* never get there if you keep holding Worldcons in America. This isn’t just about the issues that genre culture has with diversity, it’s also about expanding the pool of potential con-runners. What you’re describing is effectively a catch-22 in which American Worldcons are deemed the safe bet because Americans are used to running Worldcons but because Americans are used to running Worldcons nobody else is.

    I agree with you about keeping Worldcons in big places though. For the sake of younger fans and for the visibility of the Worldcon name, I think it’s important that Worldcon stick close to big cities. Conventions in small American towns without international airports do nothing to enlarge the talent pool, nothing to bring in new fans.

    Like

  30. August 21, 2014 4:14 pm

    Dave — I’m under no illusions about the difficulty in staging a Worldcon bid. I’m sure it wasn’t lost on you that UK Fandom pretty much withdrew from the Internet over the last year or so as most of the energetic people in UK fandom were pouring all of their fannish energies into the convention. Not all local scenes have that level of energy or the requisite level of expertise.

    One thing that does worry me about your points about cons failing is that I suspect there may be a double standard at work here. For example, if you look at Denvention 3 it brought in less members than Montreal’s Anticipation and only a few more members than Nippon 2007, which was widely considered a failure albeit on financial grounds. Denvention 3 was a small Worldcon and Reno’s Renovation was not much better. Were these small Worldcons held against US Fandom? No. Would similarly small Worldcons be held against non-US Worldcons? You bet your arse they would!

    Based on discussions online and reading back through the Smoflist archive, I get the impression that many people consider US-based Worldcons to be the natural order of things with movement beyond the Continental US deemed an example of Worldcon being adventurous and expansionist. I think the success of LonCon3 poses a real challenge to that narrative and the received wisdom surrounding the bidding process needs to change accordingly.

    Like

  31. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 21, 2014 5:30 pm

    Given that I was a pretty highly placed staff member on Loncon 3, I think I have a much better view of what it took to get to where we were for L3 than most people. I was not committee, but I was included on quite a lot of committee business.

    L3 was wonderful and spectacular, but it is not something you should use as a baseline representation for *anything*. It had several “perfect storm” elements that all worked very well together. 1) Post-olympic economics left a facility in London that the event could *possibly* afford where none had existed in decades (certainly in the past 40 years of relatively sizable conventions from what had come previously). 2) returning to one of the handful of top tier world cities after being away for almost 60 years. 3) comparatively lesser destination cities both before and after. There is no doubt that the membership of both LoneStarCon 3 and Sasquan was (and will be) smaller from a large number of people deciding to skip one of those to be able to go to London.

    It really did help to skyrocket the L3 membership, but these are not factors that can be counted on repeatedly…and had L3 not managed the spectacular membership it attained, financial ruin to make Nippon 2007 look positively successful would have been possible. I don’t think such ruin would have been guaranteed, as there’s significant experience of running UK Worldcon budgets associated with L3 and I think things would have been scaled back enough to avoid catastrophe, but it would not have been nearly the convention we saw. To run in London, they had sunk costs in the convention center that were just about 2/3rds of the *total* budget for Chicon 7 (2 years earlier in Chicago). Chicon got it’s convention facilities *for free*, L3 started out in a half a million USD hole before it got to spend a dime on the convention. This may well be the only Worldcon London holds for the next 60 years. (Another bit of likely knowledge that helped push L3 membership up). If Excel can build it’s line of business, the costs will increase and it will go back to being something we can’t afford. Should the next UK convention return to Glasgow or some other UK city, I believe we’re fairly certain to see membership numbers like the previous two Glasgow Worldcons which are pretty much straight in line with other large US sites.

    Denvention 3 hit right at the peak of the US economic melt down. The fact that it was small was (by the time we got there) expected and would have been the same in *any* US city that year. Personally, I don’t think D3 helped themselves very much in how they advertised to try for new members, but even if they’d done a bang up job to make me happy in that regard, they would still have been small. Reno the next year was still in the same boat. Chicon 4 years later was STILL affected by the economic slowdown and it kept the numbers lower than was hoped for (though fairly better than D3 which hit right at the peak).

    If you’re not in the middle of the planning mix and getting an understanding of *all* the balls in the air that affect your attendance…it’s easy to focus on one or two things or even discount all the factors entirely as you seem to be doing.

    The simple fact is that the Worldcon community is actually pretty supportive of outside the US bids on the whole. Groups are free to decide they wish to try at any time and pretty much all of them will attract folks who know how things work who are willing to help if the groups want it (it’s not always wanted, every group gets to decide for themselves what they want). In the past 10 years we’ve had two outside the US bids beat US competition to win and one outside the US bid lose to US competition. I don’t think there’s a track record there of the US bids eating outside the US bids such that there’s no reason for folks outside the US to try. The winning percentage of outside the US bids who make it to the vote is staggeringly better than the winning percentage of US bids who make it to the vote. Yes, a lot of that has to do with the enormous disparity in the size of the pool when you compare the two groups, but it’s clearly not all that.

    Like

  32. August 21, 2014 7:57 pm

    Fascinating stuff Dave, thanks :-) Really appreciate your insight.

    I would be curious to know how many members L3 actually budgeted for as while it pulled in twice the number of members as recent Worldcons, I wonder whether the committee actually planned and budgeted for an average or a large Worldcon.

    Your point about venue costs is really interesting as I think the UK is quite poorly equipped when it comes to affordable convention centres of Worldcon proportions. Eastercons and Fantasycons seem to fit quite snugly into large regional hotels but step up a level and you’re looking at docklands, Birmingham, Earl’s Court and stuff that is either way too big, way too expensive or both.

    I agree that there are loads of one-off, situational factors that made L3 unique and it would be foolish to bank on those factors recurring. However, I do think that the success of L3 has to change the narrative regarding what is achievable with a Worldcon.

    If Worldcon stuck to cities the size of Boston and LA, could Worldcons regularly attract members in the 5-6000 region? If so then why should Worldcon ever select a city that struggles to bring in 4000?

    Denvention is an interesting case in point as surely the economy cut both ways? On the down side, people were less likely to travel to a Worldcon but on the plus-side it must have made convention centres comparatively cheap as well. One of the reasons why anime cons do well is that they tend to stick to large cities with large populations close to hand, meaning that local kids will happily take the bus and come in for the day before going back home to sleep. It seems to me that this is six of one and a half dozen of the other but comparing L3 with Denvention suggests that there must be some wisdom in holding Worldcon in a place where a large number of people might be able to turn up for the day. Spokane and Kansas City might be economically easier to handle but they’ll also be shipping in pretty much all of their fans meaning that it’ll be made up of fans who are already socially and economically invested in Worldcon.

    Loncon3 opened fandom up to hundreds of new people, I would like to think that we want to keep those gates as open as possible and it seems to me that back-to-back flyover state relaxacons is entirely the wrong direction in which to go.

    Like

  33. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 21, 2014 8:27 pm

    The choice of London as a site was predicated on being able to be at least one of the largest Worldcons ever. It was already known that we’d likely need 9,000 or more total memberships to make the site work. The bidders were well aware of London as a destination city and it’s history of not being held there for almost 60 years. If they didn’t believe there was a chance of being that large, they had alternate facilities they were exploring using (some in the UK, some on mainland Europe). Even after the choice of site, the membership curves were watched continuously and estimates were updated continuously.

    What wasn’t predicted at the time was the gouging effect that Loncon would have on LSC3’s or Sasquan’s memberships.

    As for why some conventions scale and Worldcon doesn’t…I think you might be skimming over the largest issue without noticing it. Do any of these anime conventions that scale large change city *every* year? If we planted Worldcon permanently in a large city there is no doubt it would grow to a size that dwarfs what we do now. People could make perpetual plans years in advance to attend even if they aren’t local….but moving sites continuously demolishes any chance to do that. The people who want to attend every year have a much higher burden than even the people who live remotely and want to attend a large anime con or Dragon*Con or SDCC…..in all those cases you are setting up a consistent pattern of “here is how I do it if I want to go to that con” and you can improve it every year if possible. For Worldcon not only is the committee reinvented every year, but so is the plan for how to get there for all the members. It *really does* act as a damper to keep things from growing very much.

    It might seem crazy, but I don’t believe the will of the group for Worldcon is to have the biggest convention ever, it’s to have the best celebration they can with the widest audience they can and to that end, continuously moving and going into cities and countries it’s either never been in or not been in for a long time is actively a good thing. This does mean that size is not the main goal and people who measure the events success only on that metric are missing the boat.

    Now, having been to Denvention 3 and Renovation and Chicon 7 and Aussiecon 4 and Loncon 3, I can tell you definitively that a smaller size Worldcon is not “a flyover state relaxacon”. Aussiecon 4 was maybe a third of the warm body count that Loncon 3 is likely to announce once that’s all determined….there is no way that you can say it was only 1/3rd of what Loncon 3 managed. Being smaller scales it back a bit, but not in a linear way. These aren’t relaxacons…they are every bit as engaging as Loncon 3 managed, just with a “slightly smaller menu”.

    Loncon deserves massive credit for what it did in terms of size and accomplishment. It was an AMAZING experience, but so are most other Worldcons. Loncon 3 did not reinvent the event.

    Like

  34. August 21, 2014 10:57 pm

    A couple of ideas from (far) outside the box:
    Elevate the NASFiC to “natcon” status for the US {Canada already has one).
    Hold a Natcon in the US every year.
    Divide the world up into zones – roughly one for each “continent”.
    Weight the zones based on an assessment of their perceived ability to host a Worldcon. Rotate the Worldcon through the zones that are on the ‘qualified’ list.
    Develop a procedure by which fan groups in a zone can demonstrate preparadness. As they are ready, add them to the rotation.
    NASFiC becomes a fully fledged WSFS event, with all voting and nominating privileges extended to members.
    Hugo awards travel with the Worldcon
    Have NASFiC remain in place for a 3-5 year period; rotate it in much the same manner as the old system for Worldcon
    Other “continents”, zones, countries’ “natcons” also become WSFS conventions with nominating and voting privileges (develop procedures for the same)
    When Worldcon rolls around to the US zone, NASFiC is Worldcon
    Yes – issues with scheduling would exsist and procedures for awards and awards themselves would eventually have to be modified as well.

    This is probably in an entirely different box….

    Like

  35. August 21, 2014 11:24 pm

    One of the reasons why anime cons do well is that they tend to stick to large cities with large populations close to hand

    That’s a contributing factor for some of the anime cons you’ve heard of. I assure that if you start looking at comprehensive lists of anime cons, you’ll see there are tons of them in more out-of-the-way places.

    Like

  36. August 22, 2014 6:31 am

    Dave — I agree that Worldcon’s migratory nature acts against the fannish instinct to pick a con and keep returning to it every year. However, if you’re right and the aim of Worldcon is not to make the biggest possible con but to reach out to new people then why does it keep returning to small regional US cities? Surely you’re more likely to find new people in larger towns? I can’t imagine there are more than a couple of hundred people in Spokane who are familiar with fandom and yet haven’t been to a convention but Paris? Rome? Manila? If the purpose of Worldcon is to bring the fandom circus to You, Wherever You Are then it makes no sense to keep returning to small city USA. In fact, returning to small city USA may well be actively harmful.

    I take your point about smaller Worldcons not necessarily being a waste of time but from the point of view of diversity and inclusivity, I think the community needs to start looking at Worldcons with less than 4000 members as a wasted opportunity and a failure rather than the best that can be achieved.

    Like

  37. August 22, 2014 6:32 am

    Steve — Funny.

    Like

  38. August 22, 2014 6:34 am

    Petrea — Absolutely… but they tend to do both. They have the smaller conventions held in small regional US cities and then they have the big conventions in big cities that reach out to new fans and existing fans travel to. By returning to small regional US cities, Worldcon is depriving itself of a bigger tent that invites more people in.

    Like

  39. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 22, 2014 2:42 pm

    Jonathan,

    I *think* you’re maybe supposing something about the nature of Worldcon that isn’t precisely true…and it seems like a reasonable assumption until you really get into things and understand how the group works.

    There is purposefully no central authority in Worldcon. Until you experience it, it’s hard to understand exactly how that shapes things. When you ponder “why does it choose to go to smaller cities”, it sounds like a reasonable question much like you’d ask of any corporation. Why does BP do this? Why does Disney do that? In those cases, there are central authorities making decisions and steering things in the direction that the corporation deems are in it’s interest. Even though it may not be *only* one person in charge, there is a central authority that it’s reasonable to think about as acting to steer the ship.

    In 75 years of existence, the Worldcon has avoided that like the plague. In general, the people most active in steering things started out all over the US and have spread to be all over the world and the net effect of these fans from all over meeting in this one space is that they are fine with collectively steering things through a constitution and a business meeting….there has yet to be a sufficient number of people who trust someone that is not themselves to allow anyone or any small group to be installed in a leadership position. Except, of course, in the case of the current year’s convention…that group is clearly in charge of running it’s event. Once the convention is done, however, that groups time at the wheel is done at it passes to the group running the next convention…but even then, those groups have no special power to change the rules of WSFS…only to designate the particulars of the convention.

    The business meeting is sort of like the US wild west of old….a place of armed people who don’t necessarily trust each other but will pull together for a common purpose when it’s needed.

    This means that Worldcon really is making *group* decisions…and by group I mean the whole body, not any small set of folks who could be seen as having any form of real power over things. When I speak about the group will for Worldcon, I am giving my best estimate from talking to the people who do things like vote in site selection and attend the business meeting (which, while it’s allowed that anyone who is a member can do these things, in practice it is a smaller subset that choose to engage is exercising their franchise). Worldcon doesn’t steer itself to small cities, cities have fans who believe their city can accomplish it and they convince the collective that they can do it well enough to win an election. The *group* bidding is at least as important and sometimes *more* important than the city being proposed….whatever group wins is being given the most stewardship of things that Worldcon allows, so it is a relatively high bar to prove to people that you’re worth the trust the group has proven over 75 years that it is reticent to hand out. There is no central authority that says it thinks Spokane or Reno or Chicago or London will be in our interest so we’ll push things in that direction….there is only the messy collective actions of the small groups that pop up bidding being judged as being worthy. What year and what city and what facility and what staff are being proposed in any particular bid is up to the people who want to bid it…not designated by Worldcon in any way…so the path it takes isn’t necessarily guided but over decades of history we’ve shown that there really is fandom in all these places.

    If you’re thinking that in these smaller locations we’re looking at only hundreds of fans….our experience is that you’re wrong. The rough thumbnail sketch of the membership makeup of any Worldcon breaks down in thirds. A third will come from all over the world no matter what, a third will come from the city that you’re being held in and a third will come from within a days travel of the city you’re being held in. Yes, these percentages fluctuate from year to year, but honestly the local area always provides thousands of members, no matter where we go. Sometimes it’s more, but it’s never only hundreds.

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  40. August 22, 2014 6:09 pm

    Another thing the “no-back-to-back-US-Worldcons” folk may not be considering is that the bid committees are financing their bid out of their own pockets and pocketbooks. Yes, they get some money from people willing to donate to the bid, but that doesn’t begin to compensate for the personal time most bid committees put into trying to win. One committee member confided to me that they’d spent over $5,000 working on the bid, and that didn’t include the cost of taking leave from their day job.

    So how many fans out there can afford to drop $5,000 and most of their paid leave to a bid?

    Like

  41. barackobamasuicidebomber permalink
    August 23, 2014 5:00 pm

    (So, minor point re what Lori’s saying … what does that $5,000 get spent on?? Is it a good use of fancash? Is some of it basically fandom marketing to fandom, and if so, could there be ways of tinkering with the system which makes the bid process less expensive? Maybe freeing up money for more interesting things?)

    Like

  42. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 23, 2014 8:04 pm

    Most of that cash is used in the form of paying for travel/lodging/living expenses/memberships for conventions you wouldn’t otherwise be at to promote your bid.

    There may be bid dues in there as well, and how much those are will completely depend on the bid (I have heard of bid dues that were only a couple hundred dollars, I have heard of bid dues that were over $1,000).

    The money the bid raises in dues and pre-supports and then spends will generally be focused on these areas:
    Marketing materials
    Advertising
    Party rooms
    Party supplies
    Bid table material/supplies.

    When you donate or support a bid, that is where your money *generally* goes (every bid works a bit different, so that isn’t a hard & fast rule).

    The bid members being there and working is generally on their own dime, although sometimes bid money will be used in that regard…but it’s usually very specific and unusual circumstances.

    The money the *bid* raises and spends is usually significantly smaller than the total amount spent by the bid members on non-covered expenses like travel/food/lodging.

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  43. kastandlee permalink
    August 23, 2014 10:01 pm

    Hard figures from more than a decade ago: The Bay Area in 2002 Worldcon bid that eventually turned into the 2002 Worldcon, ConJose, raised about USD30,000 in pre-supporting memberships of various flavors. (That includes the $300 dues that every member of the bid committee had to pay in order to join the committee.) That primarily was spent on publications, advertising, and parties at conventions. Indeed, over $5000 of that money was spend on the final night of the bid, that being how much it cost to cater a (not very good) party in an Australian hotel. (The 2002 Worldcon was selected in 1999 in Melbourne. Worldcons were selected 3 years in advance then and are now selected only 2 years in advance.)

    That does not include any of the personal expenses of any bid committee (or others helping out) who traveled to conventions they wouldn’t have attended to promote the bid. I didn’t keep great records, but I reckon that I personally spent about USD50,000 promoting the bid, and then on promoting the 2002 Worldcon after we won. That includes things like flying to Toronto for the weekend to try and sell memberships to people at Ad Astra because I got a relatively good deal from Northwest Airlines. (Yes, it would have been more cost-effective to just give the money I spent to the convention — but the point was to attract members, not just raise money.) It took me roughly ten years after ConJose to pay off the personal debt I ran up doing that. I don’t recommend it, but I’m not the only person who had done similar things.

    Note: ConJose didn’t reimburse me for those travel expenses. In general, Worldcons don’t pay off those kinds of expenses. You’re just expected to do it. Worldcons would cost even more than they already do if they had to try and cover people’s convention travel expenses like that.

    Like

  44. August 24, 2014 7:31 am

    Hi Dave —

    Your point about Worldcon lacking a centralised authority is well made and I do realise that there’s quite a large element of chaos at work here. I don’t for an instant think that WSFS has views and agendas but we still need a vocabulary for discussing the decision-making process and I supposed I’m talking about the business meeting and worldcon in much the same way as film critics blame directors for something that might well have been the product of hundreds of different people all working together.

    I agree that there’s no centralised authority pushing the Worldcon towards small regional US cities and so it’s kind of unfair to blame this fictional centralised authority for doing stuff that may be harmful to Worldcon in the long run.

    But isn’t this actually an argument for shaping the decision-making process by bringing in some rules banning back-to-back Worldcons in any single country? That way the random forces of WSFS decision-making would still make odd choices but we’d know that the urge to keep voting for Worldcons close to home and in familiar places would be offset by the constitutional need to keep taking Worldcon to new countries in order to reach out to new fans.

    I also think that imposing some sort of geographical order on the bidding process might be a good idea as it seems that corruption and horse-trading now completely rule the decision-making process. Nobody should have to spend $25,000 on parties in order to convince voters that they’re competent to run a Worldcon!

    The ability to raise cash in preparation for a bid is another way in which non-US bids are going to be hampered: If Boston want to make a bid then people will happily give them money as Boston has a track record of delivering large Worldcons and so the money seems like a ‘good investment’. Compare this to a potential bid by a city like Paris or Rome and even local fans might be reluctant to support the bid as they’ll look at the list of cities that Worldcon has visited and realise that the odds are so heavily stacked against them that the money is likely to be wasted.

    The fact is that a US bid is currently more likely to be deemed credible, more likely to accrue support and more likely to be selected as a venue. If Worldcon fandom is serious about bringing worldcon to the world then I think it needs to take a look at shaping the bidding process.

    Like

  45. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 24, 2014 8:40 pm

    I get where you’re coming from but I still am not convinced that what you are proposing is actually a good idea. The historical location where MOST of the bids have ever surfaced from is the US and there was an instituted rotation system to make sure to migrate the convention between the zone….and even that, with it’s massive surfeit of bids was responsible for the election of winning bids that weren’t seen as ready enough to host the convention (you may be able to use google-fu to pull out examples of folks screaming about the “wimpy zone”).

    As I said at the top, structural requirements like that are a guarantee that bids that are not ready will be selected and that isn’t good for anyone. Especially when you start talking about putting the Worldcon in a country it’s never been. The finances for Worldcon are already pretty frightening but what makes them mostly manageable is prior experience. When you translate it to someplace it hasn’t been before, you have *no* access to prior experience. You don’t have a good idea how many people will show up, you don’t have a good idea how much things will cost, you don’t have a good idea where your trouble points are. There are graphics available around showing when memberships were purchased for all sorts of prior Worldcons. Most of your big budget decisions need to be getting locked down 12 to 18 months in advance (even further in the case of convention centers). No Worldcon has more than a fraction of it’s membership at that point, the bulk of a Worldcon’s memberships usually show up in the last 3-9 months. The thing that lets you do this and not blow up your budget is setting reasonable expectations on future performance in terms of membership sales. New locations have no history to base performance expectations on, so it is almost entirely guesswork and it frequently will go wrong. It is almost entire the reason that Nippon 2007 ended where it did (with a substantial debt that it could not pay).

    Now, as for your thoughts on where and why people donate money to bids….I don’t doubt there are people out there who only support someplace they think the Worldcon is likely to be so that they’re not wasting their money. However, my bidding experience is that those people are actually only a small fraction of the people who donate to bids. I ran a bid where it was made clear to everyone that donating to the bid would get them *nothing*. If you gave money to our bid and we won, the only thing that was guaranteed was that it cost you more to go to our Worldcon than if you had just kept your money. We had *no* issue getting people to donate. More people make sure they’ve donated to EVERY bid they see (because they know it’s tough and they want to help no matter who it is) than pick and choose and only support some bids. Bids that represent a destination location (as quite a lot of outside-the-US bids do) get people going “Oh, I’d like to go there!” and donating whether the person believes they’ll ultimately be able to go or not. The biggest hurdle that bids generally face in getting money donated is actually the seriousness with which they treat the sales process. Your bid tables need people at them who are personable and good salesmen. I am fairly sure I could raise sufficient money to bid Chernobyl if I had a decent team of salesmen available at every table.

    This, however, leads us to your point about using this expensive process as a measuring stick for “are you ready to take on the Worldcon”. Do I think this is the best possible system? No, but I couldn’t tell you one that I think is better right now and I’ve been pondering this question intimately for more than a decade (and people who I think are staggeringly smarter than me have been pondering it for multiple decades). You can’t make it just about experience working on prior Worldcons because first, that cuts out new locations (not something I think is ultimately a good idea) and second because there are things about putting this all together that isn’t necessarily demonstrated by working in departments at Worldcon (or even necessarily divisions). To mount a credible bid, you need to put together a plan, assemble a team, keep that team motivated, negotiate with facilities (and *show your work* on that one), and hit deadlines for years. On the whole, it’s not a *bad* test of your ability to take on leading the 5 ring circus that is Worldcon.

    Would I like it to be cheaper? Yes. Would I like it to be better? Yes. I don’t yet have answers on either of those but I am willing to share my experience from inside both sides of the equation (bid and Worldcon leadership) to others because maybe they’ll come up with the insight I’ve missed to make a better process. A better process will help everyone.

    However, even if we improve the process, I think it’s unfair to suggest that the Worldcon community isn’t serious about being as Worldwide as can be managed. I think our long history shows that we do everything we believe is reasonably possible to nurture interest from new groups connecting to Worldcon from all over the globe. I have about 20 emails back and forth with consulates and an ambassadors assisting Chinese fans with getting visas to attend Chicon 7 and I believe almost every recent Worldcon chairman has that or something similar. We then do quite a lot to help those lunatics who think their dream is to take this on realize as much of their dream as possible.

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  46. Colin Harris permalink
    August 25, 2014 9:12 am

    Jonathan asked what Loncon 3 originally assumed about memberships when deciding whether London was a viable destination. The answer is “1000 more full memberships than Glasgow”. The 1995 and 2005 Worldcons both had around 4000 full attending adult members; we needed 5000 to make London work. That’s because (using round numbers) in the original discussions with ExCeL it was apparent that the venue would cost about £100K more than Glasgow, and full memberships average around £100 each.

    So back around 2010 the discussion was “the largest non-US Worldcons in history have had 4000 members, how confident are we that London will draw 5000, as anything less means we will lose money. One key data point was Eastercon which grows by 50% when it moves to London – typically around 1300-1400 warm bodies vs. around 800-900 for other locations. There were some other factors but our judgement overall was that 5000 was a realistic number. And broadly this was the number we budgeted on. We actually managed over 5500 which enabled us to take more space, have an orchestra and do various other things that were not in the original budget.

    Like

  47. Jared Dashoff permalink
    August 25, 2014 2:38 pm

    First, I am very excited by the general interest in Worldcon bidding, both for this non-back-to-back US Worldcon proposal and against it. I think that only through discussion and interest in bidding and Worldcon as whole, will we make Worldcon a better/bigger/stronger convention.

    I think it might be helpful to try and list out what goes into bidding, and, more importantly, chosing a bid site and year, as a way to explain, to why you get four bids in a year and one bid (KC, Dublin, London) in a year running unopposed and why US bids end up competing against international bids, even if we REALLY want to go to a given international city or like international based Worldcons on the whole.

    1. SITE!!! The number one rule in real estate is location, location, location. Now, I am not a hotel contract negotiator and I don’t play one on TV. I am also not a CC contract negotiator. However, I have lived with a Worldcon basically being run out of my house, from start to finish. I also have been staff/committee on several bids and Worldcons, and I eavesdrop really well. CCs are EXPENSIVE. The reason you may never see another Philadelphia Worldcon (besides the other stuff which I can explain in detail in a post not in this thread) is that the the Pennsylvania CC is trying to cover the costs of its (IMO unneeded) expansion by upping space rentals. It is just too expensive. The same can be said for the DC convention center, which is why the DC bid is at the Marriott Wardman Park and not the convention center (the MWP has free exhibit space if the room block is met, which is, Dave can verify, traditional with hotels with large exhibit halls).

    Finding a convention center/hotel/combo that a bid can reasonably budget to afford is the prime criterion for picking a year to bid. DC, I know, picked 2017 because in researching and RFPing various sites, it was 2017 for the site or nothing.

    2. Committee. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you (unless it is overruled by rule 1). Fandom is a community, and, for the most part, we like to work together. Speaking personally, I grew up in fandom and I count much of it as family. Worldcon takes A LOT of people to run, and A LOT more people to run well. If you don’t have a good bid committee and the opportunity to bring in more people should you win, you are up some proverbial creek without a propulsion device. This is why people are hesitant to run against bids that they would need to pull from unless it is necessary because the CC/hotel/combo says we can give you a deal, but it’s only for this year.

    That being said, I have never, even when it was Philly v. Boston, seen a non-friendly bid competition. Bidders know that competition breeds better Worldcons on the whole and none of us, at least from my knowledge, takes it as a slight if we are forced to bid against someone.

    3. Vote reading. As has been mentioned, bidding is a time suck and expensive. No one bids unless they think they have a chance of winning. NZ is still figuring out if they can, which is why they pinned far out. Site Selection voting comes from WSFS members, which means Worldcon members. Knowing how close knit fandom can be, even if you are new, potential bidders should and do try and figure out if there is a there there. Does someone, anyone, want a Worldcon here. (Speaking personally again, Philly could get a great deal, have a great committee, and still not win because of intangibles) (and no, Dave, Kevin, Mike, Petrea, Colin, etc. Just No.)

    I am sure that the more experienced bidders, fans, former Worldcon-chairs can add a bit more here, but the point I think is that it’s not that US bids/voters want to keep Worldcon in the US, or there is some WSFS cabal, or we think we are special and you need to have us on your bid/eventual con committee, international fandom is outside WSFS and we look down on them, or anything. It is just a matter of circumstance that leads to when bids bid and how conventions go off.

    I, for one, welcome more bids from non-US cities and more competition, and I think it will be good for Worldcon in the end.

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  48. August 25, 2014 2:45 pm

    A point no one has yet made is that Worldcons can’t get much bigger and remain Worldcons. The reason Worldcon membership numbers have been bumping along at 5,000 or so for nearly four decades now is that you can’t run a convention much bigger than that without full-time paid staff. Loncon 3 relied heavily on a few committee and staff members who were (for various reasons) not working in the six months leading up to the convention. If we don’t want Worldconrunning to become a hobby predominantly engaged in by the idle rich or by retired people then we can’t have bigger Worldcons unless we’re prepared to change them utterly — because if the committee are getting paid, then why wouldn’t the volunteers and programme participants want to get paid as well?

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  49. Ann Totusek permalink
    August 25, 2014 3:57 pm

    Chernobyl? .

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  50. Ann Totusek permalink
    August 25, 2014 3:57 pm

    Throws $20 at Dave, runs.

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  51. August 25, 2014 4:29 pm

    One thing that can be difficult to grok about Worldcon site selection is that the decision is made by the 700-1500 members of the community that can be persuaded to put down their money and vote for the choice they believe in. It’s not a small cabal, or an open public vote, it’s something in between.

    I don’t agree with rules that would further limit the allowed sites for a Worldcon; it’s difficult enough with the 800km minimum distance from the site selection location (which, btw, is why the Paris bid was for 2023 rather than ’21; Dublin-Paris is 780km). Adding further rules would not end up being fair, as the current Worldcon “scene” is so clearly in flux that I can’t imagine any actual agreement being reached before said agreement is already out of date.

    What I do think of as a worthy goal is the education and enlargement of “Worldcon fandom”, for which Loncon was an excellent thing. As has been mentioned in the thread above by a number of people, there are plenty of active and vocal American conrunners that consider Worldcons outside the USA to be an excellent thing—but on the other hand, they’re not the only ones who vote. So many of the voters are in fact American that nationalist trends do end up showing through.

    Take for instance last year’s vote for the 2015 Worldcon, where it was between Helsinki, Orlando and Spokane (this might be a good time to note I chaired the Helsinki in 2015 bid, and am the chair of the Helsinki in 2017 bid); Spokane won on the third round, when the 2nd-place votes of Orlando were allocated to them by a wide enough margin to overtake the until-then leading Helsinki bid. My interpretation of that result is that our attempt to position ourselves as a good 2nd choice to the rather divergent US Worldcon bids either failed completely, or that it didn’t really matter all that much to American voters who preferred one of the US sites, and thought of Helsinki as just too far away.

    Which all adds up to a process by which we end up with Worldcons in non-top-tier US cities. So much of the electorate is American that non-US bids are put to multiple disadvantages that they need to overcome, and that’s Difficult.

    Furthermore, it should be noted that conventions in general and the concept of paying to participate in decisionmaking are behaviours that are far more closely aligned with North American culture than with pretty much anywhere else in the world. It makes it difficult to persuade non-Americans to participate in the process at the site selection stage, even when they absolutely would help organise a Worldcon if it were happening in their general vicinity.

    Having been on the committee for Loncon (Head of Hospitality, i.e. the Fan Village), I do agree with many above that it isn’t a small undertaking, and should not be taken on lightly. The experience of those that have been through it before (many more than once) was invaluable, but there was also a heck of a lot that was created out of whole cloth for this convention, out of restrictions, ideas and opportunities that haven’t been faced by US Worldcons. Some of that may even change how future American Worldcons are put together. If we continue to let the Worldcon remain a mostly-US thing, we’re effectively saying that this kind of change is too scary, and that we should keep it safe, and American. I don’t quite agree.

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  52. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 25, 2014 5:05 pm

    From experience it’s not easy to get US folks who are not continually linked to the process to pay money to vote either, I don’t know that I agree it’s any harder a proposition in the outside world. Yes, US fans make up a pretty hefty fraction of the people who usually vote in site selection….but it’s not easy to get folks on the outside to join. The list of my convention running friends who were clearly going to join in if Chicago won but did not participate in the vote is more than an order of magnitude larger than the number of votes Chicago lost by for the ’08 bid.

    As for how the votes split after sites are eliminated during the counting….there’s all kinds of scenarios that can make your head go crazy….you just need to keep in mind that the largest fraction *were* likely just registering their preference, nothing more sinister than that.

    As for how difficult things are to overcome for international bids…I won’t be so patronizing as to pretend that I *really* get all the issues you face…but in terms of marketing over the course of years I think the most important thing for a successful international bid is getting good folks in the US willing to join you to help reduce the amount of international travel required for bid appearances you want to make. From my outside view, it sure seems like you get a fair number of US folks walking around with your gear on….I just have no idea how that translates into “can you work a US convention for us”

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  53. August 25, 2014 5:42 pm

    Thanks for the responses all… really fascinating stuff!

    Dave — I don’t doubt that it’s a massive under-taking: A masterclass in project management with added non-profit and political motivation problems. Con-running is a very specific set of skills and it makes perfect sense to me that con-running has become its own sub-culture with its own conventions and internal political wranglings.

    I must ask though… how much of an issue is ‘you haven’t run a Worldcon before?’ For example, I can imagine a situation in which a foreign bid might pitch for Worldcon on the understanding that they’ve been running similar-sized cons for years but because they’re outside of the Worldcon-centric con-running world, they’ll be deemed to be lacking in experience despite the fact that they might very well have the project-management skills.

    I ask as this strikes me as an area where non-Anglo bidders would be at a pretty obvious disadvantage.

    I don’t doubt that Worldcon and fandom as a whole are very serious about making the bidding process as open as possible. I imagine even the most die-hard US fans would be more than happy to see successful non-US Worldcons take place on a regular basis. I don’t doubt the good will or the good intentions… what I doubt is the system and prejudice tends to survive far better in systems than it does in the hearts and minds of human beings.

    It’s comparable to the issue surrounding the visibility of women and non-white people in the field. Aside from Vox Day, nobody is explicitly anti-woman or white supremacist, it’s just that it’s incredibly easy to wind up getting bound to systems that disadvantage certain groups.

    I don’t think there’s a conspiracy and I don’t think that there’s some unspoken form of nationalism at work… I just think that putting a no back-to-back Worldcons rule in place might help to encourage the existing system to better reflect the values that most people consciously hold :-)

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  54. August 25, 2014 5:46 pm

    Hi Jared :-)

    I think you’re right that a good deal more clarity would help everyone from actual bidders to people with an unhealthy interest in how fandom functions as a social system (which would be me).

    I was talking about this on Twitter recently and Niall Harrison pointed out that putting your money into a bid translates into a supporting membership. I had no idea that this was the case! In fact, despite being a member of Loncon, I thought you had to go and vote in person!

    More clarity on the bidding process as well as the voting process would benefit the entire community. One of the big changes in the past couple of years is that online fandom has moved from a position of ambivalent disinterest in Worldcon to a position of real interest and affection. This explains the rising numbers in supporting memberships and it would be lovely to see a similar process take place in regards to bidding.

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  55. August 25, 2014 5:49 pm

    Hi Colin :-)

    Fascinating numbers… I had no idea that the London bump was so large! Mind you, that does play into another one of my pet subjects: the BSFA’s slow transformation into an entirely London-based organisation.

    Lots of little SF clubs and meetings exist across the UK but almost none of them are promoted by the BSFA and so are allowed to drift on without the potential injection of energy and good will that ties to wider fandom might create.

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  56. August 25, 2014 5:54 pm

    Mike —

    With respect, I think that’s a straw-man argument.

    I have profound misgivings about the idea of professionally-run conventions. I think they have their place and real upsides but I also think that they encourage the creation of distinctly ‘un-fannish’ values such as a hard and fast distinction between professionals and shit-munching consumers.

    I see a lot of that attitude among industry-oriented book bloggers and it saddens me.

    If someone were to argue that Worldcon should be run as a professional concern, I would speak out against it as loudly as anyone and while you may be right that a systematically huge Worldcon would be difficult to maintain without a professional full-time con-running class, I don’t think we’re there yet and arguing against a more inclusive worldcon on the grounds that it necessarily involves creeping professionalism is an argument I find completely unconvincing.

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  57. August 25, 2014 5:55 pm

    Ann — Hey… don’t laugh, I’m pretty sure last year’s Eurocon organised a day-trip to Chernobyl.

    Chernobyl 2255! We can make it happen!

    Like

  58. August 25, 2014 6:04 pm

    Hi Eemeli :-)

    That’s a really interesting response, many thanks.

    I think that people don’t participate in these things because it feels so incredibly far away. the only reason that I’ve taken an interest in this is because I reacted to the recent culture wars in fandom by seeking to understand the institutions of fandom and that encouraged me to sign up to mainling lists, read old minutes and crawl through old fanzines.

    Ask your average SF-loving consumer to make sense of this and it feels too much like heavily politicised homework. Making things more clear, more open and more accessible really does make a big difference in how likely people are to actually care.

    You mention that getting involved in this type of thing is quite a USian thing to do and that reminded me of a book called Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam about what he sees as the decline of social institutions. I have always had my issues with fandom and I have always felt like an outsider (more for reasons to do with me rather than fandom) and I think that these types of social institution are incredibly rare and valuable. In an age where everything is about money, there’s something incredibly noble about a bunch of people getting together and organising dozens of massive conventions because they believe in their culture. I think that’s incredibly beautiful and that’s sort of why I give a shit about the process.

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  59. Jared Dashoff permalink
    August 25, 2014 6:11 pm

    Eemeli, I completely agree that the Site Selection fee is a hurdle. And, as Dave points out, it is a hurdle that exists for US bids, too. My roommate, for example, took serious convincing to pay the total sum of $80 ($40 for a Sasquan Supporting Membership and (I am assuming) $40 for the Site Selection fee) and that was only after it was made clear that he gets a supporting membership for whoever wins for 2017, and he has been to cons before.

    The other hurdle I see is the presupport. Said roommate suggested we just move to Kickstarter and eliminate the hours it takes to set up Paypal, maintain a database, make sure everyone who should gets tshirts, etc. I said, sure, but Kickstarter makes you promise you will give Joe who gives you $150 a free membership in 2017, and if we don’t win, I can’t promise that. He didn’t understand you don’t get a free conversion at whoever wins, that if you Friend a bid that loses, it’s lost money. I am sure that is a hurdle for international bids, too, possibly moreso, but it is a problem for everyone when reaching out to non-Worldcon fandom, and everyone wants to reach out to non-Worldcon fandom–for votes and because the whole point of this endeavor is to make Worldcon inclusive of all fandom and grow.

    I think the way we term the financials and economics of WSFS is a boondoggle and creates issues across the board. I would actually, if either of us have a free moment in Spokane (HA!) to sit down and have a conversation with you about that, so we can have as many perspectives included as possible.

    Also, I have only heard of a few of the full cloth ideas that just, for whatever reason, didn’t work at Loncon, and I have heard of the stuff that really worked, and I would love to talk to you, and others, Colin included (way to go on the Art Program, sir) about the ideas and what works, because, you’re right, this stuff should go down in the records somewhere and be used at future Worldcons, where ever they are.

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  60. Jared Dashoff permalink
    August 25, 2014 7:01 pm

    Jonathan, to your question to Dave, no one ever said we don’t want anyone who hasn’t run a Worldcon before bidding. Dave didn’t even Chair (read RUN) a Worldcon until he did. (No offense, Dave, just parsing words because I do that.) Save Vince Docherty, I don’t think anyone is insane enough to RUN two of them. It does help to be taken seriously as a Worldcon bid to have people on your committee who know what is expected of Worldcon, however. It is not just size. Worldcon, for better or worse, is a different culture than most regional or national cons. It just is.

    That being said, that person doesn’t have to be local. Plenty of Past Worldcon Chairs, Chair’s Cabinet Members, Division Heads, Area Heads and Department Heads do this routinely and, if they aren’t already signed up for a bid, are willing to help out whomever, so long as the pitch to them is good. Plus, that gets you boots on the ground outside of your local area.

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  61. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 25, 2014 7:32 pm

    I don’t think lack of prior Worldcon experience is the worst detraction unless you run into a group who is uninterested in any assistance from folks with experience. As Jared notes (and I would have had I gotten here first), the fact that I had almost no Worldcon experience and was selected as our chairman should we win did not seem to play out as any real negative contributing to our loss….it was mostly other factors.

    Groups who treat the process soberly and work to pull people in who have the experience they need should not really run afoul of any real amount of votes against them for lack of prior experience. It’s just if you make it clear that assistance from those with prior experience is what you’re looking for…then the voters tend to get skittish and worry about a convention failure in some large way.

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  62. Dave McCarty permalink
    August 25, 2014 7:33 pm

    er, make that “assistance from those with prior experience is *not* what you’re looking for”.

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  63. James Bacon permalink
    August 26, 2014 9:21 am

    I would prefer if there was no legal imposition on the frequency of US Worldcons.

    I think the process is tough, it needs understanding but it works. The democratic element is difficult, the decision is up to so many, but that is what needs to be done. The competition or threat of it is healthy. It makes a team work collectively towards a goal, winning a bid is no where as hard as running the convention. It’s a good test.

    It’s beyond belief for me, that my country (Ireland) can bid and try and win the right to host this huge celebration. It’s an incredible oppurtunity that is rare in the culture I love. It’s a gift.

    As a person involved with the London bid, I can tell you that hundreds of people not from London or Britain helped to make that bid win.

    People (world con experienced folk) want and will help. How you want them to. If fans from countries ‘want’ to bid for a worldcon – they are welcomed.

    As a person who wants to bring worldcon to countries outside the US, I think the discussion should be more on how those countries achieve that.

    Cold analysis of success and failure can be hurtful. But we learn from failure. This is why I asked Helen Montgomery to publicly explain in Dublin 2019 ‘The Chicago 12’ to illustrate the importance of voting.

    There is strategy. Some succeed. Some fail. Understanding that may be more productive.

    When, who, where, why and how – all feed into the process.

    I also wish that US cons could be in destination cities as I think that would attract more fans from outside the US and I would have loved a back to back European couple of cons – as after 2 Worldcons – I’m sure we’d have hooked many Europeans and they’d have traveled anywhere for the 3rd.

    But impossing that would be as equally undesirable. To me at least.

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  64. Dave O permalink
    August 26, 2014 7:05 pm

    Not entirely wishing to defend Spokane, as it’s only 250 miles away and even I’m not sure I can be arsed to attend, but essentially, it is there because it couldn’t sort out a location in Seattle. The traditional Labor Day weekend is when Seattle hosts a massive music festival so the hotels are all sold out. The WA State Convention Centre is expensive and hard to deal with because, frankly, 10,000 person medical conferences are much easier to deal with for them. And Seattle fandom was split on whether the NW is all that good a location in the first place…

    So it ended up in Spokane, as far as I can tell, largely by accident really because the team who REALLY wanted a Seattle Worldcon got stuck with it as a location.

    However… I am told that Eastern Washington has played host to SF conventions that have had huge memberships of YA, Comic, Anime and other fans who’ve driven hours just to be there – partly because there isn’t a lot to do in Eastern Washington and partly because it’s one of those places where a 4 hour drive is a thing you do for a day out. So there might be a bit more to Spokane and KC than we’re giving them credit for.

    Now, on the flipside of that, having only been going to Worldcons on anything resembling a regular basis since 2005, some of the most fun I’ve had was actually at Renovation, so in some regards I do feel that small Worldcons can be far easier for people to engage with than something the size of Loncon. I had a lot of fun at Loncon but didn’t seen anywhere near as many authors or other people I’d expect to see as the scale was just too large. So, again, I’d counter that actually small regional US cons can be more effective as a place to meet and hang out with people you’d otherwise never see than large ones in major cities where the scale will make it impractical. Even without his current fame, I doubt I’d have had the chat I had to George RR Martin anywhere else but Reno.

    Also, to echo some of the other comments. While I helped out on aspects of the London bid, I didn’t do anything with the actual convention because my work got in the way and by the time I landed in London I was basically burned out and couldn’t even help with bid parties. Having a convention requires that you have people who are prepared to basically have 2 full time jobs for years and then work long days when the convention is on so that people have a good time. The crews of people to make that happen have to happen organically or they just won’t happen at all. If that means that some decades we have more US teams prepared to take it on than European or Asian ones then that’s going to be how it is. The unpalatable alternative would be to take it out of fan hands altogether and have a team running things.

    Finally, at a risk of sounding American, which I’m not, the US isn’t necessarily any easier to get around and to for people than anywhere else on earth. Driving to Spokane, which is almost certainly how I’ll get there, isn’t significantly faster than flying back to London. Orlando is, in fact, worse to get to from Seattle than the UK, or, for that matter, Helsinki.

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  65. zer_netmouse permalink
    September 1, 2014 1:46 am

    Regarding the question of “how much of an issue is ‘you haven’t run a Worldcon before?’” I think it really is an issue if your bid committee does not include people who have volunteered on previous Worldcons, both because they then lack an easy way of demonstrating a familiarity with the challenges and traditions that are particular to Worldcons, and because their names will then be unfamiliar to that core of Worldcon voters that also actively volunteer on a regular basis (what are sometimes known as ‘the floating Worldcon Committee’). Best would be to recruit people who have volunteered at moderate-to-high levels at multiple Worldcons to join your committee, and/or encourage your bid committee members to volunteer themselves at upcoming worldcons –or other large regionals in the area where your bid vote will take place. Look at previous Worldcons and NASFiCs and you will find we have department heads from all over the place, including other countries.

    If you want to succeed as a non-US Worldcon that hopes to be of a significant size, obviously you’re hoping to attract a significant portion of Worldcon regulars. I think any bid should also be thinking very seriously about how to tap into the know-how and helpfulness of those regulars, both because their time and input can help you succeed and because people who are committed to helping will be likewise more committed to attending, as well as to convincing friends and whatnot to attend with them.

    I think non-US Worldcon bids should try to avoid (as much as possible) being represented by US fans who are not themselves planning to attend the convention. You want your volunteers to be able to sincerely invite people to “support our convention, and then come!” from the position of their own intention to be there. That said, I think non-native-English-speaking bid committees should work hard to get volunteers at their bid parties and tables who speak English fluently. Having bid representatives who only speak halting English and cannot quickly and easily answer questions about the bid does not do a good job of convincing people they will be comfortable at the event and have a good time.

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  66. September 5, 2014 3:41 am

    I think more people would vote if it were easier. I’ve paid the money to vote for 2017 but am unlikely to be able to attend the con in person due to health issues to participate in voting. I don’t understand why it can’t be set up just like voting for the Hugos.

    It would also help if there were links to the various bidders online so people could easily learn more and support if they aren’t attending cons where bidding tables are set up.

    I’m not sure I can add anything to the discussion on Worldcon being more international. I do think it would be a good idea but I suspect getting something passed would be painful if not impossible.

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  67. kastandlee permalink
    September 5, 2014 3:52 am

    @Tasha Turner: You do not need to attend the Worldcon in person to cast your site selection vote. You can vote by mail as well as in person. If you mean “why can’t there be online voting?” the answer is “There can, but it requires the agreement of all of the parties involved, which means the administering Worldcon and all of the bids on the ballot.” Hugo voting is easier, because only one party (the current Worldcon) is involved. With site selection, you have a minimum of two (and for 2017, it looks like five) parties involved, all of whom have to agree to the setup being used for voting.

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  68. kastandlee permalink
    September 5, 2014 3:54 am

    @Tasha Turner: At http://worldcon.org/, under the tab Worldcon and NASFIC Bids, there is a page of links to bids.

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  69. zer_netmouse permalink
    September 5, 2014 1:13 pm

    If we did site selection online, that would make it a lot easier for the bid that wins to process the registrations – everyone who votes gets a supporting membership in the winning convention. That’s a lot of data entry when the ballots are all paper.

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  70. zer_netmouse permalink
    September 5, 2014 1:14 pm

    http://worldcon.org/bids/ does attempt to maintain links to all upcoming bids online.

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  71. September 5, 2014 6:46 pm

    @kastandlee I’m fairly new (3-4 years) to Worldcons (usually supporting due to health) & have forgotten to send in my site selection except one year when a friend a friend was running bid. This year by the time I remembered it was too late to mail in. Next year I will be reminded by Crystal but I’d prefer a better method. I don’t remember if I got a reminder of mail-in deadline for site selection this year from con.

    I understand that each of the bidders would have to agree but as zer_netmouse points out it would save the winning bidder a lot of time inputting people’s info into system for supporting membership. I’m not sure the perceived downside other than resistance to change and possibly not wanting many of the people who didn’t attend in person voting on where Worldcon would be in the future.

    I’m pretty sure a number of newbies had no idea they could vote by mail for site selection. Certainly in the many post I read leading up to Worldcon I didn’t see it addressed. I’m not sure if Crystal’s post went up in time for people to get their mail-in votes for this years bids. I don’t believe her post made any mention of this year. I believe it was that post that led me to spend 1-2 hours looking into voting this year only to find out I was too late but I don’t remember if I read the post when it came out.

    @zer_netmouse that’s a helpful link. I’m not sure if I was able to find it easily when I was looking for site selection information on the Worldcon site this year or if I found it too late to help.

    I find the Worldcon site can be hard for someone not steeped in the culture to find answers to “simple” (in my mind) questions. The words I think of are frequently different from “Worldcon language”. A “translation” page might help newbies – Laymans terms & the Worldcon terms they’d be found under. Of course you’d need a few newbies involved to put it together. I used to drive my companies crazy when I was a tech writer with the size of my index (30 pages in 6pt of a 550 page training manual) as I used every word someone & other similar software might think of/use to look up something while most other tech writers just defined terms used by software they were writing about & used.

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  72. kastandlee permalink
    September 5, 2014 7:06 pm

    @TashaTurner I understand, and your concerns are similar to those people who say that “I didn’t know there was a Business Meeting and that every attending member could attend and vote and you should tell people more about it.” Worldcons do tell people about both site selection and the business meeting. It’s in their progress report. It’s on their web sites. It’s printed on the ballot. While I think I’m one of the most vocal people trying to explain how WSFS works to people, I also am concerned that if Worldcons spent much more of their effort on this stuff, people would simply tune it out. How interested would you be with a current Worldcon’s web site that, instead of leading with “Here are all of our guests and activities and things to do, isn’t it wonderful?” led with “Here’s a bunch of technical details about attending Business Meetings and voting on Worldcon sites”? Even as a WSFS rules wonk, I recognize that the latter would be significantly off-putting to most people.

    (Loncon 3 was actually very generous in that the Newsletter ran an entire extra issue early in the convention about the Business Meeting, and I don’t think it changed the attendance. In fact, considering that over 7500 people attended, measured as a percentage of attendance, the Business Meeting shrank this year, as turnout was about the same absolute number as most North American and British Worldcons I’ve attended, and I’ve been at all of them since 1989. But I digress.)

    The reason it takes the unanimous consent of the administering Worldcon and all of the bids on the ballot is twofold:

    Money: Because you have to buy an Advance Supporting Membership in the Worldcon on whose site you’re selecting, there has to be a mechanism for collecting that money. Online voting almost certainly means some of that money has to be skimmed off to pay for the collection process, unless you’re expecting the administering Worldcon to eat those charges. This means that every bidder has to agree just how much of what is potentially their money (if they win) gets eaten by service charges.
    Security: Site Selection is not counted the way the Hugo Awards are. The Hugo Awards have a “Trusted Administrator” model, whereby an individual (or small group of individuals) are the ones who get to see the individual ballots and see how they were cast. Site Selection is run by a “Trust No One” model, whereby all of the bidders get to see the ballots as they are being counted.

    So far, nobody has come up with an online voting process that satisfies both of these conditions to the satisfaction of all of the groups who have to agree. Until that happens, you’ll have to stick to paper ballots through postal mail and in person. If you think this is trivial, pretend that you’ve spent the last four years, hundreds (probably thousands) of hours, and thousands of dollars promoting your Worldcon bid, and that you need to be convinced that any system a Worldcon uses doesn’t drain away all of my convention’s start-up money and that it’s not susceptible to being spoofed or hacked.

    While the Hugo Awards are important, it’s unlikely that any Hugo Award is worth a million dollars. Worldcon budgets are now on the order of $1.5 million. The stakes are very high here and have to be treated accordingly.

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  73. zer_netmouse permalink
    September 5, 2014 7:25 pm

    Kevin, it’s true that site selection voting appears in pubs, but that’s not nearly the same as pushing it to the front page of the web site, for instance. Often, the ballot itself is not released until the summer, and the deadlines are not even necessarily released until then. This is, of course, largely an artifact of the structure you are discussing, where the bids collaborate and have to select variations on, for instance, how much they are going to charge for a full registration if someone votes/what the voting fee will be. There usually is someone on the Worldcon concom managing the site selection, though. If they were given more authority, and the deadline for getting everything approved we pushed back for the bid committees, I doubt anyone would really have a problem with it.

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  74. kastandlee permalink
    September 5, 2014 8:00 pm

    @zer_netmouse As the person who authored the original language that generalized being able to do electronic voting — there was an opinion among some that it wasn’t legal unless explicitly permitted — I assure you that a majority of the members of the WSFS Business Meeting did have a problem with e-voting for Site Selection. They explicitly amended my proposal to make Site Selection a special case, because they explicitly don’t trust e-voting for Site Selection. The original proposal was debated and changed to its current form at the 2010 WSFS Main Business Meeting. (The debate starts at about 52:30.) Now technically, I’m the person who proposed the change in the proposal that requires the bids to agree as well as the administering Worldcon; however, if you watch the debate, you’ll see that I did so in order to turn aside a proposal that would have prohibited e-voting for site-selection entirely.

    To accomplish unanimous agreement on procedures for e-voting for site selection today would almost certainly require that the filing deadline be pushed back another three months or maybe even back to the end of the previous Worldcon, as it once was. That would give all of the affected parties enough time to negotiate the procedures for conducting e-voting.

    Historical note: The filing deadline was moved to 180 days out because of the 1993 Worldcon site selection (held in 1990 in The Hague; Worldcons were selected three years in advance at that time), where a significant number of people were so dismayed with the three filed bids (San Francisco, Phoenix, Zagreb) that they launched the Hawaii in ’93 write-in bid (which placed second to San Francisco, beating the other two bids on the ballot). Had the current rules been in place, Hawaii would have been on the ballot, and that might have been enough for them to have won the election.

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  75. September 5, 2014 10:49 pm

    Oh I know so much about business meetings after 2 years of reading blogs posts about various meetings as well as trying to read and understand the meeting rules. I understand your frustration when you feel like you are doing so much to inform people & yet we/newbies say “I didn’t know” and make suggestions that may have been suggested & discarded or tried at some point in the past.

    I can imagine the lack of trusting someone (seems to be a general con problem – trust no one or give too much trust). I’m not going to get into debate on creating secure systems for voting – my husband is the software security expert not me. I’m also not going to discuss conspiracy theories that seem to come up yearly from where I’m sitting.

    Printed pubs in a digital age… Links on front page, clearly labelled tabs, the info inside the pubs made easier to find online (not read PDF or you aren’t interested enough) would IMHO all help. Yes this takes volunteers with skill, interest, reliability, and for the con to trust them. Yes some of the time I read the progress reports I’m mailed. Other times the person who sorts mail in my house doesn’t get them to me. Other times I have too much going on and they get set aside to be read later and well I’m sure you know how that goes.

    I must say one of the most frustrating parts of discussing problems/alternatives is when 15-30+ year examples are brought out. It’s like people and technology can’t possibly have changed or that we can’t look at the outcome of that & say “well ok I see the fear/concern that year but over the long-term it doesn’t look like that is working”. One wonders do most supporting members not care about site selection or are the way they are informed & the method for them to vote not working? How could we find out? Can’t trust an online survey can we? But if we try to survey them using the same method as letting them know how to participate how will we know they didn’t respond because the paper didn’t do its job or because they have no interest? Plus it would take 2-3 years to do a survey (I’m assuming it would require approvals/business meeting) and then if it shows a need for change another 2-3 (again approvals/business meetings) years before change could be implemented and 4-6 years is plenty of time for technology to change again. So would the proposal have been written to deal with new technology as it changes or would we then be out-of-date as soon as change is implemented.

    I accept I’m a biased outsider looking in. One whose health prevents me from being active. So it’s probably unfair for me to participate. But I do have a husband I’d like to see attending Worldcon because I think he’d have fun. He’s less likely to participate in all this stuff. If it’s at a place he can attend or a friends bid wins & I convince him to go I know he’ll be glad he did.

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  76. kastandlee permalink
    September 5, 2014 11:08 pm

    There’s nothing preventing a Worldcon from surveying its members. They don’t need the Business Meeting’s permission, so it wouldn’t take the 2-3 years you suggest. Whether any other Worldcon would want to implement any of the results of such a survey is up to that individual Worldcon.

    When you talk of 2-3 years for changes, remember that the only things that require that much time legally are changes to the Hugo Awards, to Worldcon Site Selection, and to the Business Meeting. Those are the only things regulated by the WSFS Constitution. Everything else about Worldcon is up to the individual Worldcon committees.

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  77. September 6, 2014 6:04 pm

    Thanks for your responses all :-) Apologies for going quiet, I’ve been locked out of the house by building work.

    Kevin — Thanks for the inside scoop on the business meeting attitude towards e-voting on site selection. Why do you think that people are particularly resistant to e-voting in this instance? Or is it simply that certain people aren’t fans of e-voting in general and this is just another line in the sand?

    Tasha — I completely share your frustration… one of the things that fascinates me about Worldcon is the fact that they have their own system of rhetoric. I don’t mean the procedures surrounding the business meeting but rather the way that old arguments seem to solidify into fact so all someone needs to do to ‘refute’ an argument is to wheel out some 20 year-old rebuttal that is accepted as final inside the business meeting but makes little or no sense outside of it.

    My favourite examples of this is when Cheryl Morgan appeared on the Coode Street podcast and would say “… ah yes, but then x would happen” and the host would be rather puzzled as to why x was a problem at all.

    Another example of that type of rhetoric is that because trying to guide site selection has been tried unsuccessfully in the past, it should never be tried again… despite the fact that the people bidding are from an entirely different generation, as are the people voting! ‘We tried it in the 80s’ doesn’t really work as an argument for not trying something similar now.

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  78. kastandlee permalink
    September 6, 2014 6:36 pm

    In general, I think there is a conservative core of regular Business Meeting attendees (who tend to be older and financially well off enough to attend every Worldcon and who attend all Business Meetings) who are deeply conservative in the sense of “resistant to change.” (I don’t mean in mundane political terms; insofar as I know those opinions, the “conservatives” are all over the board.) I wouldn’t actually make them out as an absolute majority of the regular attendees, but because they’re there every year and they have legitimate experience and influence (this hardcore anti-change group includes more than one past Worldcon chair), they can sway a lot of people to their side. As I noted above, they came within three people of banning e-voting for site selection entirely, and I think the failed to do so only because of my counter-proposal to make e-voting difficult but not impossible. And these people are not stupid or incompetent: if you go review that video, you’ll see the chair of the 1989 Worldcon — possibly one of the most successful Worldcons ever, and certainly one of the most influential upon current Worldcons — opposing the idea of e-voting for site selection.

    [Significant bias notice: Mark and I have locked horns on quite a few issues, and I’ve deliberately campaigned against him the last time he stood for election to the WSFS Mark Protection Committee, even though I’m the person who originally nominated him the first time he was elected to it. I cannot be considered a dispassionate observer in this matter. OTOH, we’ve also managed to work together on things on which we do agree, because we both, in our own ways, care very much for the institution of Worldcon.]

    It’s legitimate to say, “Yes, we tried [thing] X years ago and it didn’t work, but conditions are significantly different now for [reasons], so we should try it again.” But when anything fails once, it’s that much harder to try again, even twenty years later. The Business Meeting attendees are in general the members of WSFS who have been to the most Worldcons. (Robert Silverberg excepted; I think the second-longest-consecutive-years string belongs to Ben Yalow, whose bow tie is the symbol for “SMOF Zone.”) This means their memories are long, and if you want to try something that’s already failed once, you have to persuade people that conditions are sufficiently different that it won’t fail now.

    Actually, I’m sympathetic to the “but things are different now” approach that I authored the change to WSFS’s procedural rules that was mostly lost in the rounding. (Heck, I didn’t mention it myself that much in my write-ups because I expect it causes most people’s eyes to glaze over.) For the last 25 or so years, the procedural motion “Objection to Consideration” (squash new proposals without debate upon initial introduction by a 2/3 vote) has dropped like a 16-ton weight on many ideas that were innovative or repeats of something from a generation before, giving the proponents not even a chance to say what’s new. We changed the rules this year to raise the required vote on OTC to 3/4 (so in general it will only kill truly odious motions like attempts to censure people or the like, which are rare). We then repurposed the procedural motion “Postpone Indefinitely,” which had previously been banned because in its ordinary form it was being used to renew debate by people who had exhausted their right to speak. PI kills a targeted motion for the duration of the current Worldcon. In its newly-allowed form, it’s now in order at the Preliminary Business Meeting, and allows four minutes of debate time: two minutes per side. This gives the proponents of a proposal two minutes to explain why their idea is worth discussing even if we tried it once before a generation ago. If after the proponents and opponents take their two minute shots, the meeting still votes (2/3 required) to kill the proposal, well, the proponents cannot say they didn’t have a chance to even speak to it anymore. This may seem like a minor reform, but I see it as a way for people wanting to propose new (or renewed) ideas to get a foot in the door.

    Finally, what do you mean by “trying to guide site selection has been tried unsuccessfully in the past…”? I’m puzzled by what you’re referring to.

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  79. Tammy Coxen permalink
    September 6, 2014 8:16 pm

    Solving the online voting problem for site selection is a much harder problem than it looks like from the outside. Some SMOF (I think it was Ben Yalow or Mark Olson) told me about having discussed it in detail with Bruce Schneier (who knows a thing or two about security and voting systems), and Schneier agreed that it’s actually a really difficult problem to solve because of the “trust no one” dynamic and need for all parties to be assured that the results are fair and accurate. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to find a solution, and you’re right – the bidders have changed, and maybe they’d be willing to trust an administrator – but it’s by no means sheer obstinacy holding us back in this particular instance.

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  80. Dave McCarty permalink
    September 6, 2014 9:54 pm

    Tammy, that was me. I had several conversations with Bruce about online site selection balloting (as I was chairman of the first convention where it could have mattered, we were trying to figure out if there was some way to do it that we were missing).

    Speaking as a former bidder who dedicated years of his life to a bid that lost by 12 votes….the “trust no-one” dynamic is what made it possible to sleep at night after the loss. Everything that happened in that vote happened in front of my eyes and I could challenge any piece of it that felt hinky.

    That system allowed *me* (the loser) to call the race over before either the winning bid or the administrator were sure of the result. I think it’s easy for folks who haven’t put their life into a bid to say that it’s no big deal to trust other people….but honestly, it’s a huge deal.

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  81. Glenn Glazer permalink
    September 7, 2014 3:41 pm

    By way of qualifications on this discussion, I have a Masters in Computer Science in Cryptography and Security (UCLA ’07). I did my thesis on a short-range, real time modification of the Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange Protocol for physical presence authentication of mobile devices.

    Back in 2012 when I had more cycles to pay attention to this, I had an email conversation with Bruce Schneier (who I was introduced to much earlier by my mentor, Whit Diffie), David Chaum, Ron Rivest and Filip Zagorski on the subject. In particular, my conversation with Bruce was much more optimistic than the one described above, leading to a recommendation of using the Remotegrity (now called Scantegrity) system which is actually used for real elections in the US. I didn’t pursue it further because it isn’t a “pure” internet voting solution, rather you can mail in ballots or you can do a combination of mail and internet voting.

    That, however, does not mean and there is no proof of the idea that a pure internet WSFS voting system couldn’t be built. Rather, it would take some rather hard work by people with rather specialized skill sets like mine on a project that would likely take years to implement. This is vastly more technical than, say, spinning up a registration system.

    All that said, I think a lot of the rhetoric is completely overblown and the requirements inflated by people who just don’t want it to happen. In my evaluation, given how it works and what is at stake (the site of the Worldcon, not the election of a president), a few modifications to the Hugo voting and counting systems which is already done by e-voting, would suffice. The idea that site selection requires a significantly higher bar of authentication and verification than Hugos strikes me as absurd and is patently absurd to most people outside of the con running communities. Most publishers, authors and readers care much more about the results of the Hugos than the where the Worldcon will be.

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  82. Dave McCarty permalink
    September 7, 2014 7:19 pm

    Thanks for the excellent example of my point, Glenn!

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  83. September 7, 2014 10:12 pm

    I don’t follow why security is such a major barrier to online site selection.

    WSFS already allows people to register online and then both nominate and vote for the Hugos. Given that this process already involves taking in tens of thousands of dollars and determining the winners of a major literary award, surely the relevant security problems have all been cleared?

    Isn’t this quite obviously bullshit designed to keep site selection in the hands of people interested enough to attend to the various hurdles leading to site selection?

    I can respect someone who argues that you need to know ‘This’ much about how Worldcons are run in order to make an educated guess about site selection but I don’t buy the idea that WSFS’s online security isn’t good enough to allow online voting. Either you believe in an open democratic system (in which case you make it as easy to vote as possible) or you don’t.

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  84. September 7, 2014 10:26 pm

    Kevin — I don’t blame anyone for having a long memory… I just find it puzzling the way that certain (occasionally hypothetical) outcomes are allowed to harden into necessary fact: If we do x, then y will happen, therefore we must never do x. It is one of the peculiarities of WSFS political rhetoric :-)

    I did actually pick up on your proposed changes to the WSFS procedures and think it’s an entirely good thing. Though legitimate, the use of OTC to shut down the discussion about the YA Hugo at a time when people turned up specifically to discuss the issue made the business meeting look insular and closed-minded. Raising the bar for a successful OTC is definitely a step in the right direction and you deserve a lot of credit for making a positive change to the way that the WSFS does business.

    Regarding guiding the site selection process, I was referring to your suggestion on August 20th that an abortive attempt had been made to regulate the selection process by preventing two consecutive non-North American Worldcons as well as the suggestion that non-US bidders had requested that no system be imposed as they couldn’t guarantee being able to deliver a non-US Worldcon every other year.

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  85. Glenn Glazer permalink
    September 7, 2014 10:55 pm

    Jonathan,

    “I don’t follow why security is such a major barrier to online site selection.”

    That’s my point, neither do I.

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  86. kastandlee permalink
    September 8, 2014 3:29 am

    I was referring to your suggestion on August 20th that an abortive attempt had been made to regulate the selection process by preventing two consecutive non-North American Worldcons…

    Oh, right. But that happened around 1970. The only reason I even know about it is because Ben Yalow told me about it. And because it was repealed the year after it passed and therefore never had any practical effect, hardly anyone at all knows or cares about it.

    The major constraint on non-US Worldcon bids is bid committees willing to promote bids. While at one time most (not all) serious non-US bids were looked at as delicate flowers, so US bidders got out of their way, a series of successful non-US bids have shown that they can and should be treated equally; thus, you don’t see US bids getting out of the way of non-US bids anymore. To some extent, this should be seen as a sign of success, proving that non-US bids don’t have to be treated with kid gloves the way they once were.

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  87. kastandlee permalink
    September 8, 2014 3:36 am

    WSFS already allows people to register online and then both nominate and vote for the Hugos. Given that this process already involves taking in tens of thousands of dollars and determining the winners of a major literary award, surely the relevant security problems have all been cleared?

    That’s because the Hugos and Site Selection have different security models. As I mentioned above, the Hugo Awards security model is “Trust the Administrator” and assume that the Administrator won’t meddle with the results. The Site Selection model is “Trust Nobody,” requiring that all of the parties have equal access to the ballot papers for review.

    (I say this as one of the people who got stuck during the Fourteen Hour Ballot Count caused by taking this trust-no-one model to extremes in 1991; none of the votes had been validated when we started counting. It took us twelve hours to painstakingly confirm that each vote had been cast by an eligible member, and about two to count the 2,107 ballots. Winnipeg won by a whisker; their margin of victory was less than the number of No Preference/Blank ballots. After that, people wised up and started checking voters off as the ballots were received, so it usually only takes a couple of hours, even in a complex election like the three-way race in 2013.)

    These are significantly different models. For online voting to work, you’d have to have a consensus from the bidders to adopt the Trust-the-Administrator model, I think. While this is possible, it hasn’t happened yet. You want it to happen, you have to get all of the bidders for a given year to agree to it. That’s the challenge.

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  88. Glenn Glazer permalink
    September 8, 2014 4:09 am

    And as I said before, that don’t trust anyone model is way overspecified given the nature of what we are decided and, if people step back for a bit, a sober evaluation of exactly what the risks are.

    We’re talking about where a convention will be.

    We aren’t talking about electing a president or nuclear disarmament or something else with consequences as serious as that.

    Perspective. Without it, we are constructing Fort Knox to secure a broken toggle switch.

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  89. kastandlee permalink
    September 8, 2014 4:20 am

    Glenn: I happen to agree with you. However, heretofore, a practical majority of the people who actually attend and vote at the Business Meeting do not agree, yet. In absolute terms, it’s not a large number of people, but until they change their minds or until a larger number of regular attendees more prepared to trust administrators starts showing up, things aren’t going to change.

    IMO, most of the regular Business Meeting attendees care more about Worldcon site selection and the Business Meeting than they do the Hugo Awards. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the Hugos, only that it’s a tertiary interest. The people with deep and abiding interest in the Hugo Awards tend to only show up when their specific interests are affected, whereas the Site Selection/Business Meeting Fandom types are there every year.

    There are about 50 hard-core attendees. Change the minds of at least half of them and you’re probably going to carry the day. But I stopped trying on this particular issue after 2010 because not enough time has gone by for people to get more used to the idea of online voting being the norm, not the exception, notwithstanding that nearly ever Hugo ballot was cast that way this year.

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  90. Tero Ykspetäjä permalink
    September 8, 2014 6:16 am

    “There are about 50 hard-core attendees. Change the minds of at least half of them and you’re probably going to carry the day.”

    I think the easier (and quicker) way would be to find a few dozen new people willing to consistently show up and argue & vote for the change. (Not that I’m saying that is easy either.)

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  91. September 8, 2014 7:01 am

    Is there any history of fraud in the site selection process?

    I ask as there does seem to be a double standard at work here: If you want to become a Worldcon member then people are quite happy for you to pay and register online but if you want to become a member of a particular Worldcon before that site has been selected then apparently you can only register in person as the security is nowhere near good enough.

    That doesn’t make much sense…

    I ask if there’s a history of fraud because I’m trying to work out whether the Trust No One people are reacting to some specific problem or whether the security theatre is just an excuse to prevent power being transferred away from the business meeting fans towards the community as a whole.

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  92. Glenn Glazer permalink
    September 8, 2014 1:42 pm

    “Is there any history of fraud in the site selection process?”

    It is hard to say. There have been occasional stories of things like sequential check numbers enclosed with voting forms or a hotel having been talked out of having their entire staff vote, but no (AFAIK) clear cut case of fraud.

    I think a lot of it is security theatre, but not for the reasons you state. Bidding can be intensely competitive. It has destroyed friendships, marriages and so on. In that environment, trust is not so easy. Conversely, there have joyously been many friendly bids and this has been the trend, more or less, of late. I am hoping that the Fan Feuds of Old are behind us and that the future holds more easygoing, trusting sets of bidders who don’t need the theatre.

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  93. kastandlee permalink
    September 8, 2014 2:01 pm

    Is there any history of fraud in the site selection process?

    None of which I’m aware. Nobody has suggested any of it to me. (Unless you consider it “fraud” when your opponent gets out the votes for their own site legitimately; it’s often difficult to maintain perspective when you’re inside of a bid. Try bidding for a Worldcon and you’ll probably start realizing what you mean.

    I ask as there does seem to be a double standard at work here…That doesn’t make much sense…

    Actually, it does, if you understand just how intensely independent individual Worldcon committees can be. Once you are a seated Worldcon, you are quite independent except in a small number of functions that are regulated by WSFS. Your individual Worldcon has all of the responsibility and therefore all of the risk. But Site Selection is about another Worldcon, and people don’t trust other Worldcons to manage their own election very much.

    I ask if there’s a history of fraud because I’m trying to work out whether the Trust No One people are reacting to some specific problem or whether the security theatre is just an excuse to prevent power being transferred away from the business meeting fans towards the community as a whole.

    1. Business Meeting-attending fans aren’t the one voting on where the site is held. They used to be, but it hasn’t been that way for over forty year. There are literally thousands of people voting on site selection. I think the peak vote was over 2800 one year. Only a couple hundred people at most regularly participate in the Business Meeting.
    2. The “security theatre” isn’t really theatre, actually. Any sort of automation would be more susceptible to fraud than the existing system. (Indeed, pretty much any hints of impropriety, such as the potential irregularities of the 1989 Hugo Award election, have been caught entirely by individual human beings reviewing ballots, not by any sort of automation.) It’s more a case of individuals imagining worst-case scenarios and projecting their worst fears onto everyone else.
    3. The influence of “Business Meeting fandom” is because they are far more concerned with site selection than the Hugo Awards, and they tend to assume that everyone else shares their concern. As I said above, the $1.5M enterprise that is a modern Worldcon is considered much higher stakes than a Hugo Award ever will be. (And it’s unlikely that a Hugo Award is ever going to be worth a million dollars to an author’s career.) Therefore, they collectively assume that everyone else is ready to commit all sorts of fraud if they get a chance to do so, and therefore they want to keep the process sufficiently open — and the current trust-no-one ballot process is sufficiently manual and open that anyone can easily audit it — that there’s never going to be a question that whoever won did so legitimately, not because they figured out some tricky way of fooling a computer. Like Glenn, I consider this concern overblown, but the practical matter is that for now, a majority of the people who turn up and vote are sufficiently worried about it that they’ve so far blocked e-voting.

    When enough members who vote have changed their minds, things will change. Not before that. It doesn’t matter if 99% of the members trust e-voting if they don’t turn up and vote. Direct democracy is like that.

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  94. September 8, 2014 3:46 pm

    Jonathan, there’s a matter semantics involved–

    …but if you want to become a member of a particular Worldcon before that site has been selected then apparently you can only register in person as the security is nowhere near good enough.

    You can’t become a member of a particular worldcon until one has actually been selected. By paying the site selection fee, you automatically become a supporting member of whichever one wins the race. If you don’t like that one, you can always sell that membership.

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