More info comes. Hang on to your flux capacitors, this post will look half made for a little while. I save as I go.
I am not crew or mod, just so we're clear on this.
I'm not a "veteran" (10+ years) per se, but this was my seventh TG. As such, I feel I can make up my mind on the various subtle differences between each party, even though I realize I have no way (or real need) of knowing how every decision is made, and how every action by hosts and various organizers is explained. This is my one and last disclaimer, and it can and will be extended if need be to allow me to speak freely within reason and normal conversational etiquette...
I have trawled the website for a "suggestions box", and as no such box has been found neither here on the forums nor on the main site, I feel it's about time somebody made one. So this is it.
In this thread, until the responsible parties create a proper channel for receiving and replying to suggestions and feedback, you as a participant can post serious, well worded complaints, suggestions or miscellanea (random stuff) regarding how this year's TG was arranged.
In addition, I would like you to ask questions to the hosts, as long as all questions, and all suggestions etc. are written in a POLITE AND DECENT MANNER. No "sucking" or "sh*t" or "f*king terrible" in this thread please. Only serious posts.
I would like to start out by congratulating the organizers on a (nearly) finished party. All the hard work and hours of planning are not invisible to us participants.
Furthermore, I want to say that for the most part, I have felt both safe and happy, during this year's event.
But I have to ask a few questions and concerns, and I think they should be public, because I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.
There was very little information regarding what the RFID-tags in the wristbands were to be used for. I for one, am not very happy with being tagged digitally, and only sparingly use my real name online, never give out my phone number unless I have to, don't use facebook etc. At this event, I have gathered that the tags were used for fire safety purposes. In case of an emergency evacuation, the tags would help in finding who had made it outside, and who was still inside. This information could technically be useful, if the scanners were at all reliable. But there is indeed a huge difference between "the tag is for fire safety" and "this is for your own protection". One is reasonable and just, the other is a carte blanche to use and release information as anyone sees fit.
In the case that the tags were used to, quote unquote "improve participant experience" by finding out how many where in the ship at any time, in order to plan future events based more on actual user data, this has not come across, and I am not comfortable while being in the gray area that is speculation.
"Speculation" brings me onto my next point.
In previous years, all crew has appeared briefed on most subjects they may be asked, and if not, have known where to redirect querying participants. In many cases this year, this has probably been true, but the divide between "crew" and "participant" has never felt greater. I understand that there are many things going on behind the scenes, and that crew is therefore often busy doing "crew stuff". But where is the participant ombudsman? Previously, the ombudsman has been seen walking around, speaking to as many people as possible. There was never any doubt where to go if you had a sensitive issue, or whether you would be taken seriously if you did. Heck, there wasn't even the feeling that "only so and so serious things may be brought to the ombudsman" that is this year. she/he was there for YOU, the participant. Not for the crew. So to put it in plain terms: the ombudsman MUST be visible, and MUST during the party be equally available as any other division of the crew. If need be, expand the position in numbers to cover more ground.
The websites are often touted as having the "only official information". As such, this year they have more resembled a clickbait newspaper than an official information organ. Content is untidy and one dimensionally presented (it only goes down), there have been few "sticky" articles, and finding content again hasn't been intuitive. There is a separate suggestions form for the website, so I'll leave it at that for now.
(also, the "info board" showed that nerdswim was on thursday, while the website and history now show it was on friday. Dissonance between the few official channels available is not fortunate.)
Speakers and lectures:
In previous years, (and I know my overuse of this term has probably already put me on somebody's badlist) there have been a plethora of incredibly interesting lectures, events and speeches, made by people from all sides of the computing world. From copyright lawyers to pirate party organizers. From microsoft engineers to grayhat hackers. The topics covered by this incredible ensemble of people has ranged from "why pirating hurts the <insert client here> business" to "how to break into NSA using a toothpick and a car battery".
Largely, this year speeches and lectures have either been in the teeny tiny creativia area, or in the auditorium. Subjects have overlapped in different locations at concurrent times, and although some events were announced over the PA system, the lack of things happening on stage has caused the other talks to suffer, in my humble opinion.
This year, there have been some speeches, some lectures and some gameshows, but the stage has mostly been disused. I have no doubt it is one of the more expensive pieces of rented hardware this year, judging from the mad volume supplied during concerts. Use the stage for talks! It's an immediate eye catcher for anyone who walks through the Ship, and as such is perfect for "big ticket" people, and subjects that appear to be of common interest. So: use the stage more. It has huge projected screens and there is no lack of entertaining things to do with it.
This was, unless I've grossly misunderstood the value of a recognized artist, probably the single largest expense this year, barring hardware and utilities. For some, it was a good decision to have a concert each day. For others, this was mostly a nuisance. I am not opposed to concerts at The Gathering as a concept. It's a refreshing diversion from the usual fare. But one every single night seems a bit overkill to me. It is no doubt meant to impress both participants and viewers online with how much cool stuff happens here, but if there is any possibility of rerouting "performing artist pay" into any other post on the budget, I am sure the results will reflect in future submitted suggestions. In short: less concerts, more action.
Which decorations? The theme for the year was no doubt based on the year in "back to the future II" and I've seen flux capacitors mentioned once. On a 404 page. That, i believe, concludes the play on time travel, retrofuturism etc. Previous years have proven to be rife with excellent uses of the theme, such as the year my avatar was made, when there were "icicles" and "fire" in various areas of the Ship. During Submerged (2010) giant luminescent jellyfish crowned the party. During The End of the Universe (2012) the Whale was seen floating in the air, and there was an actual restaurant that served beef. (well played, really)
There are probably copyright concerns in using effects and subjects from a big movie, and these can put a stop to well intentioned decorations and such. However, NO decorations is never better than FEW decorations.
Why use Twitch? When streaming internally, the feed is delayed with varying degrees depending on a multitude of factors. Me and two other participants next to me were watching the same feed, on current computers, and the feed was visibly delayed a couple seconds differently for all of us.
I cannot see why using an external server to host an internal feed makes sense, and why the feed isn't split in two parts, one hosted locally, and one externally for other viewers.
Previously, the Chillout Lounge has been a vast area for relaxation, respite and recuperation. There has been fresh fruit in abundance, water refills and no lack of distractions. There have been cinemas in makeshift dark rooms, two floor setups with differing uses, boardgames for loan, consoles for play etc. This year, it was merely a corner of a turn, with a carpet and some tables and chairs. I am maybe one who complains, but honestly, this seems both rushed and like poor planning. No matter what interpretation of "chill" you choose, an open area that is no different from the cafe apart from food selection, does not fill most people's definition of relaxing. Where did the bean bags go? The couches?
So... Many... Sponsored... Items...
This is a computer party, not a lan party. Not a LOL/CSGO/Starcraft tournament. Not an Esport masterclass. A computer party.
So lay off the sponsor sauce, bring back the cheesy demos and nerdy references, please stop pandering to the gamers over the rest of us, and good luck.
That's all I can think of now.
Thanks for reading if you got all the way to the bottom without missing the easter egg.
TL;DR: I have issues with the way things are run. I want to air these issues and have them heard. Many things can be changed. Many things have good reasons. I want a dialogue. Kthxbai.
Thank you all who were here, either in person or spirit. And thanks to all organizers and hosts and sponsors for this year's easter holiday. I WILL come back, come hell or high water. Actually, especially then.
See you all next year, for the best TG EVER.