This past weekend saw possibly the biggest PR disaster in fandom history. Some Tumblr users, looking to bring the experience of the website’s many fandoms into the real world, ran a successful Indiegogo campaign for what became known as Dashcon, after the fact that the primary component of Tumblr is the dashboard.
Although a first-year con is always a difficult, precarious thing to pull off, if done professionally and smartly, it can work really well. Example: last fall, I attended the first ever GrandCon which, after the first day, had so many walk-in attendees that they were already making plans to relocate to a hotel next year, rather than the convention center they were already at.
Throughout, the GrandCon staff–I should note that GrandCon was run by the same people who run Gencon–were well-organized and helpful.
Dashcon, 5 days after the dust has settled, appears to have been NONE of those things.
The Daily Dot has a comprehensive writeup, but short version: the first night of the con not only saw a vastly smaller crowd than what con organizers had anticipated, but barely any events or panels–with those that were there hastily organized. There was basically no vending area. Guests that were promised didn’t show up and those that did were forced to pay their own fees (something that any con that tries to attract guests certainly should NOT be doing).
In the most egregious example, Welcome To Night Vale,one of the most popular podcasts on the planet, took time out of their busy European touring schedule to bring their entire crew out to Dashcon purely to support fans. They found out upon arriving that they were expected to pay their own room fare and were only to be paid after they had performed. They promptly walked out in disgust.
The thing that’ll make Dashcon truly infamous though is the “$17,000” thing. See, Friday night, the con organizers told everybody assembled–a crowd of 1,000 people, it must be said–that the hotel was going to kick them out by the end of the night unless they paid $17,000, something they said had just been thrust upon them and had never been brought up in prior meetings between con organizers and staff. Further news reports have since revealed that the hotel, when contacted, had no idea what these people were talking about.
They got the money–because Tumblr users, by and large (and I know I’m generalizing), all wear their hearts on their sleeves–and then encouraged attendees to rail against the hotel staff by singing songs from Les Miserables and throwing salutes from The Hunger Games and organizing sit-ins.
Yeah…taking parts of narratives where people are killed by the government and railing against mimimum-wage hotel staff? TOTALLY CLASSY THING TO DO.
The most embarrassing thing? This was held in my backyard–Schaumberg, Ill., a fairly decent drive from where I live, but still close. The hotel in question is probably used to dealing with all kinds of noteworthy events. This will reflect badly on them, but at the end of the day, it’s the con organizers–who were probably scam artists all along, in one way or another–who are the absolute worst.
The second most embarrassing thing? I actually kinda wanted to go to this, both because it’d have been nice to go to a local con and because one of my favorite podcasts was going to be there. That would have been awesome.
In the end? I’m glad I kept my $50. And I’m reminded more than ever of why I don’t use Tumblr.