ConFusion, Eastercon 2021

I have spent the weekend at the online Eastercon. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about it’s a convention that has run for over 70 years. It is run by teams, it’s a participant convention not a ticketed festival. It’s a community. It has traditions.

I don’t usually write convention reports (although I love reading them) but this year I have had Thoughts.

As this report really doesn’t belong here, you can now find it at Ansible. If you need a Word file or another format, please email me.

And to make the obvious response: we all screw up. It’s how you understand your screw ups that matters

3 thoughts on “ConFusion, Eastercon 2021

  1. I have to read your comments again (and again), but from what I’ve read so far, you’re absolutely right! I didn’t know when the event was going to be, it just popped up on my Feed on my YouTube Homepage, and I didn’t know when it streamed because the event kept relaunching. That’s my short version of what happened during this virtual conference.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nile

    Thank you for that pdf con report.

    I was entirely unable to engage with the software at Eastercon and, after a short period of experimentation, I just walked away from the usability problems.

    For some, these problems would have been an insuperable usability barrier; for me, they were a constant cognitive overhead, an unrelenting source of distraction and irritation that moved the con away from being something I would do for pleasure, to being something that I would only do because I’m paid to.

    Often, something that I am paid to fix.

    An observation: the most aggressive and obnoxious objections to advice about accessibility come from able-bodied people who have never had to carry luggage up a flight of stairs in a railway station, and have an alarming inability to empathise with anyone who does – let alone the lesser mortals who have minor impairments and disabilities that fall short of being ‘The Disabled’ but are, nonetheless, a constant source of delay and dismay and inordinate effort in an environment with poor accessibility.

    And these accessibility objectors never notice how much easier it is – even when healthy, agile and unecumbered – to move and work and socialise in both real and virtual spaces that were built to be accessible.

    The lesson that accessibility is intrinsic to good design and to good management is lost on them.

    It follows that the lesson they can draw, that access barriers arise from bad design and bad management, is unthinkable to them.

    For the avoidance of doubt: I use ‘unthinkable’ in its literal sense, that they cannot and will not think it.

    Further, any advice or evidence or proof, even their conviction in a court of law, will only serve to annoy them, in an escalating pattern of denial and angry ‘refutations’ that have no basis in fact, backed up by vindictive misuses of their authority and extremely effective attempts to exclude you from all further discussion.

    You will guess, from this, that I have long and bitter experience of bad design in software, and of the organisational failings that result in access barriers becoming the unquestioned norm in systems that we use for business processes at work.

    The choice of losing friends or walking away, this Eastercon, is a welcome change from the commercial reality of losing goodwill from managers and colleagues, combined with being sidelined and replaced, and eventually walking out.


  3. I’ve never been to Eastercon, but I’ve been to plenty of other conventions, including a number of virtual ones over the past year. Lessons learned:

    – Use the most common software (here, Zoom & Discord) rather than making people learn something new. Virtual is already a barrier, and better the known problems than the unknown.

    – Virtual cons are fine for programme (talking heads or presentations) but the are terrible for exhibits, vendor/art sales, and socializing.

    – Most cons are very bad with communication and blind to their own shortcomings, and the pandemic has added another excuse for them to procrastinate around.


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