NASFiC con report

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Keith F. Lynch

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Aug 26, 2020, 9:31:45 PM8/26/20
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The 2020 NASFiC is the third virtual con that I've interacted with.
(The first two were this year's Balticon and Newhere.) All three were
free. I won't say I've attended them. By "interacted" I'm excluding
any cons for which I've merely passively viewed events, such as
livestreamed Hugo award ceremonies. I have also attended 108 cons in
person (including one NASFiC), starting with the 1980 Disclave and
ending with last year's Philcon.

Like Balticon and unlike Newhere, much of the NASFiC's activity was on
Discord. I've been unable to sign up for a Discord account without
it demanding my birthday, which I'm unwilling to give. I'm also
unwilling to lie about it. Since Discord claims that question's
purpose is only to prove I'm over 13, for which my birth year suffices
since it was before 2007, and since nothing prevents a child from
lying about their birthday, they're either lying or incompetent. It's
my hope that all future virtual cons avoid using Discord until they
fix this. And that those cons not encourage fans to lie to Discord
about their birthdays. Or do cons really want to select for
dishonest members?

Other than a brief test to see if I could see and hear panels, the
first thing I viewed was the Prometheus Award ceremony, on Saturday.
It used Vimeo, which is sort of like Zoom's webinar mode except
without any text chat. C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher won for
_Alliance Rising_. Poul Anderson won the Hall of Fame award for
"Sam Hall." I don't know why the ceremony was at the NASFiC rather
than at the Worldcon.

Immediately after that ceremony, in the same "room," was "Visions of
SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards over Four Decades,
from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today." As the panel
approached the end of its hour, it was abruptly cut off without
notice as one of the panelists was talking.

My next event, on Sunday, was _Future of Policing: A Journey Planet
Fanzine Workshop_. I arrived a little too early, so I got a screen
that said "Our program will begin shortly... Please Stand By!" It
continued to say that until well after the event was due to begin.
Finally, I tried reloading the Vimeo web page, and the program
began in the middle. Not a well-thought-out user interface.

They were apparently taking questions from the audience via Discord.
I think they want audience members to contribute articles on the
subject of policing to their fanzine. If so, I certainly plan to
submit one, as I have strong opinions, based on personal experience
and lots of reading on the topic.

Vimeo, unlike Zoom, cuts off the beginnings of the names of panelists
who are on the left edge of the screen. Also, it has automatically
generated captioning which is distracting and inaccurate, hides the
names of the panelists who are on the bottom of the screen, and
apparently can't be turned off.

Two hours ahead of time, I signed up via the website for the
kaffeeklatsch with Eric Flint. I got no immediate indication or
feedback as to whether there was an opening or whether the event was
already full. A few minutes before the event was to begin I got two
emails, from two different people, providing the Zoom URL for the
event. This was my first truly interactive event at the con. It
went well. The author had a video background which I recognized
as GRRM's Hugo presentation from last month.

I logged into the dead dog party, another Zoom event, as soon as it
was scheduled to start at 4 pm. Except for a four-hour gap when I
went to my brother's house for dinner and video watching, I remained
until the event ended more than twelve hours later, at 4:20 am. It
had multiple breakout rooms, and fans were free to move among them
at will. It was nice being able to catch up with people I hadn't
seen in years. I told Brad Templeton that he's prominently mentioned
in a history of Google that I recently read, and Kevin Standlee that
his election work was mentioned in The Washington Post. (I'm a fairly
extreme extrovert. If interesting people are around, I can stay up
all weekend. If I'm alone, I'm likely to fall asleep at any hour.)

In retrospect, I see that the NASFiC had other Zoom parties I could
have also attended.

To get online I use an Apple laptop which I place on my bare chest as
I recline on my chaise. The screen is at the best distance for my
eyes, the keyboard is at an acceptable distance for my hands, and I
act as a human heat sink, since Zoom gets the computer hot, and it
was already quite warm in my room. The only disadvantage is that the
bottom half of my face isn't visible in the video, since the built-in
camera is at the top of the screen, and if I angle the screen down
to compensate I can't see the screen clearly. Also, if I'm back-lit
that annoys other viewers, and if I'm front-lit the resulting glare
annoys me. Maybe I should instead set up in the basement, where I'd
have my thousands of books as a backdrop.

Later I read in the Washington Post that Zoom had a several-hour total
failure on the east coast later on Monday morning. So perhaps it
would be best if virtual cons had backup plans in case of Zoom, Vimeo,
or Google Hangouts failures.

I've heard that the NASFiC plans to put videos of its events online.
--
Keith F. Lynch - http://keithlynch.net/
Please see http://keithlynch.net/email.html before emailing me.

Gary McGath

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Aug 28, 2020, 6:01:45 AM8/28/20
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On 8/26/20 9:31 PM, Keith F. Lynch wrote:

> Like Balticon and unlike Newhere, much of the NASFiC's activity was on
> Discord. I've been unable to sign up for a Discord account without
> it demanding my birthday, which I'm unwilling to give. I'm also
> unwilling to lie about it. Since Discord claims that question's
> purpose is only to prove I'm over 13, for which my birth year suffices
> since it was before 2007, and since nothing prevents a child from
> lying about their birthday, they're either lying or incompetent.

I've seen a lot of evidence that Discord is incompetent from a software
standpoint. Occasionally I get mysterious low-level error messages from
their site. It fails to remember changes in my notification settings; I
have to mute the Discord tab in my browser, or it constantly boops at
me. If I close the tab and re-open it, I have to log in again. Sometimes
I have to manually mark a channel as read, sometimes I don't; I have no
clue what the pattern is.

Some people have suggested I download the app instead of using the
browser version, but installing an app from people with such poor coding
skills strikes me as a really bad idea.


--
Gary McGath http://www.mcgath.com
The Magic Battery: A tale of magic and change in Reformation Germany
https://garymcgath.com/TMB
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