tikiwanderer (I think) introduced the concept of community vs professional to the debate and that has helped me clarify my own thinking on the topic. [Aside: I'd like to apologise to Tiki for the fairly flippant rant comment that was, in retrospect, an inappropriate attempt to add humour to a serious and useful post.]
I am firmly on the side of a community, of a broad church that accepts varying interests and provides a showcase for them all. See this post for my generally positive attitude to kids at the con.
There are lots of things that happen at SwanCon that I don't particularly care for - but many other people really enjoy them so I wouldn't want to see those aspects lost. Besides I might have a passing interest in some of them and wander along to see if there is anything to it. I can only do that if it is there in the first place.
However I don't want to see single aspects take over a program, even briefly. I have been to a number of conventions where the attitude to some major events (especially maskobalos and/or banquets) is that the major event must be the only game in town while it is on. Nothing is allowed to be programmed against it. Gah. Basically this means that if you don't like that event, or have a limited tolerance for it, you're basically going to be bored all night [Aside: I was tempted to use, ah, stronger language there. :)]. It gets worse if the major event is charged for separately (and, yes, I've seen that happen).
Personally, I like checking out the costumes at the Maskobalo etc under photography friendly conditions but don't want to spend too much time in a nightclub like environment. That being the case I'd like to wander away after maybe an hour or so knowing that there's something else to do. Hell, I'd even volunteer to be the something else even if the attendance is such as to turn a panel into more of a themed conversation (which I vaguely recall has happened at least once and been a highlight of the convention for me too).
So what parts of the community interest me the most? In no particular order:
- A well lit bar/restaurant/lounge area where I can sit and chat with people and buy them the occasional drink [Aside: on which subject I damn well expect mikeyob to be there at least once so I can do so. :)]
- A gaming room with a community of gamers who welcome new people into games with a variety of games on hand. This is one of my favourite ways of catching up with friends I see all too rarely so this is hardly surprising.
- A fun auction where there is a good vibe in a room filled with laughter and raising money for good causes along the way. That I help out at auctions at every con that has one is not an accident.
- Entertaining panels like Trailer Park where the snark is fabulous. I may never actually see the movies but I enjoy the show.
- Other panels on a variety of topics that interest me.
- Doing panels on topics that interest me. I may not be the most interesting speaker but I do like to contribute occasionally and I do have fun doing it.
- A quick look at the masquerade
For the most part things like the Jedi Academy stuff and the Awards Ceremony don't really interest me much [Aside: yes, yes, I'm fully aware of the irony of that given that I'm coordinating the Chronos Awards. A foolish consistency etc, etc]. For me these fall into the category of they should be there but not to the point of completely dominating the program at any one point in time.
But what about conventions solely focussed on a single, tightly defined, target audience? The reaction from me is likely to be "Meh. I'm sure it's nice for the target audience but I'll go interstate to SwanCon instead."
Happy to take comments and respond in as much detail as I have time for. :)