SDCC11: This year, it’s all about the security

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Welcome to San Diego Comic-Con, where as usual, all the wifi and 3G networks are positively JAMMED, and just getting online is an ordeal — especially at our hotel, which comes complete with a ghost but the WORST paid for wifi we’ve ever encountered. We’ve been forced to repair to the Spike Lounge on 5th Ave. — many thanks to the main guy who let us in with our tales of wifi woe.

This year’s con is wilder than ever — everywhere you look there’s a parade or a circus breaking out. IGN has some kind of incredibly annoying and loud installation right by the Hilton Gaslamp; Marvel’s Monster trucks are roaming down Harbor Ave., loud as a jet fighter. We haven’t been on the floor since Preview Night — preferring to skulk in the alley ways and panel rooms of Old Con.

One of the big changes this year is the use of wristbands for exhibitors. This has cracked down on the people who would just borrow an exhibitor’s badge to get in early or stay late. It’s one of those little perks that rule benders have been taking advantage of for years — and it’s about to end.

The change is, we’re told, the harbinger of even stricter procedures next year — eventually, it’s been rumored, the con will employ RFID radio wave technology for badges — which will cut down on any attempted counterfeiting but make bagde — or wristband — switched harder than ever.

While there has been a smattering of grumbling over the ever more increased security, it is inevitable and necessary. As we keep pointing out, this is an event that people will camp out for for two nights. They’ll do anything to get in — including grab a badge.

This event has spiraled into a level of intensity and weirdness that requires ever increasing watchfulness.

Comments

  1. It’s insane here. Comic book part seems to be dwindling, while the comic book character part increases. Just not in comic books. And since when did everyone decide to come in costume? Had lunch at Lou & Mickey’s while 4 douchebags at the next table talked “Hollywood” shop talk. Gak!

  2. How does the RFID tag prevent swapping?

    What would be great is if the RFID badge could be scanned prior to Big Room events. An attendee can register/reserve for a limited number of panels, and the event won’t be overbooked. Then, when attendees queue, an agent with an RFID reader can scan each badge in advance, making sure only those with reservations are in line. Five minutes before the panel commences, all outstanding reservations are canceled, a head count is tabulated instantly, and bystanders can enter until the occupancy is met.

    The American Library Association conferences use key cards. An exhibitor swipes the card, then harvests the attendee data later for further marketing. (No collecting and scanning business cards!) Something similar can be done with RFID, either overtly (May I scan your badge?) or deliberately (Enter our booth, we’re collecting your data.)

    Of course, a QR code would serve the same purpose, and be much cheaper to implement. (A cell phone can scan the badge, instead of using a radio receiver.)

  3. The camping is seriously getting out of hand. It’s not just hall H now. I saw folks camped for ballroom 20 and pre-reg for 2012! People burned a whole day just so they could go next year. Crazy.

  4. If the con wants to double prices I will promise to spend twice as much on the show floor.

    It’s just too crowded. The exhibit floor in particular is not fun and heaven help us if there is a fire or other emergency out there.

    The line-ups for the more popular panels are thoroughly demoralizing.

  5. NateInNY says:

    They should cut back on the number of passes given to the press and studios. The majority of people I know that went got their tickets for free from studio pals. That bites. Unless of course they give me one, then it’s pretty cool.

  6. I’ve been thinking a lot about this today. I just don’t see the problem with “badge-swapping”. It’s not like you’re sneaking an extra body in, you’re just switching one body for the other.

    What is Comic-Con losing out on?

    I get that it’s a non-profit event, but with prices increasing I can’t help but wonder…. Why do people pay so much to go?

    Oh yeah, because if they don’t, they’re left out of the party. Comic-Con now seems to draw it’s power on “FOMO”. Or in sales & marketing speak: Fear of missing out.

    But the thing is, what are they REALLY paying for?

    Why do we people have to pay for the opportunity to be marketed to for four days?

    Why pay for the chance to be a walking advertisement with a “free” bag that essentially turns you into a moving billboard?

    Why pay to spend your time listening to a studio shill their latest products/projects? Or listen to someone promote their latest book that you are then expected to go out and give them money for later?

    Would you pay for the chance to watch the commercials between tv shows? No.

    So, why pay for the chance to essentially walk inside one giant commercial: a.k.a. Comic-Con?

    But really: Studios, Exhibitors, Advertisers… if you want to assault me with your sales and marketing noise, I don’t want to have to pay for your right to do it.

    It’s time the fans maybe took a look at what they’re buying with their registration fee. What are they really gaining from it?

    If only Comic-Con could be free. Silly, I know. But then it wouldn’t matter if you had a badge or not. Why pay to attend ANY Expo? The companies want to EXPOse me to their stuff, then it seems they’re ones who need ME there, and not vice-versa.

    What is the value in it after all? Who is getting more out of this deal?

    I think the fans are starting to end up on the losing end of the bargain.

    Something’s gotta change. Just doesn’t seem right anymore.

  7. Christopher, it’s true that attendees are bombarded by advertising and shilling on all sides at San Diego Comic Con. But there are other things available at Comic Con. Some of us cartoonists actually try to give the attendees a valuable experience. When someone buys a book of my work, I offer to sign it and I almost always draw a quick sketch inside it. I hope the buyer is pleased by this. It’s not something he or she could usually get buying the book in a local store. I try to answer questions people ask when they stop at my booth. I say thank you to those who tell me they like my work. I don’t know whether my efforts make it worth it to anybody, but I know I’m not alone in trying to make the experience a good one for the attendees.

    However, I do see long lines at Comic Con. And I heard a lot of complaining this year about the new policy for selling tickets for next year. These sorts of things don’t help the attendees have a good experience.

    Maybe making entry free would help things. But I’m not sure of that at all. The LA Book Expo is free. I exhibited there one year and have no plans to return. Just wasn’t a very rewarding experience–financially and personally. The San Diego Comic Con, as much as I dread the crowds and hard work and lack of sleep, is personally very rewarding and sometimes financially rewarding. Is this because those interested enough to pay to get in are the ones attending? I suspect the answer is at least partly yes.

    And to everyone reading: Hated the wristbands. The only time any of the doorkeepers asked to see mine was when I was carrying a heavy box and the band was stuffed up my sleeve, making it really awkward when I had to struggle to tug it down my arm for the doorkeeper to see.

  8. Thanks for the insight Eric. Definitely something to consider.

    It’s interesting that you bring up the LA Book Expo. Are you referring to the LA Times Festival of Books? That’s the model I actually had in mind when thinking that Comic-Con could be a free event. With something like a naming rights or presenting sponsor to help offset some (obviously not all) of the revenue lost from eliminating registration fees.

    I’ve read that the LA Times Festival of Books attracts 140,000 people, which is MORE than Comic-Con.

    I’ve attended it as fan, never exhibited, and agree it wasn’t as personally rewarding, but it was also a somewhat different type of event than Comic-Con with a slightly different focus and audience.

    They also have tickets for panels which are free (plus some sort of service charge). Comic-Con fans would probably throw a fit if they had to pay for tickets, but it could help solve some the long lines & camping out related to the dreaded Hall H of Comic-Con.

    I wonder…

    Would fans be willing to pay for tickets to premium Comic-Con panels, in exchange not having to pay for a badge to attend the convention?

  9. RFID radio wave is fine, but drop the wrist band in 2012. It can be easily duplicated, simply cut and taped together on someone else’s wrist.

    Also, I’d suggest making the exhibitors only go through one door/hall at all times. (door G) thus, the technology can be simplified in one area and training security can be specialized. Currently, security is asked to look for 5 types of badges (the *day* attendee, the 4-day attendee, the Pro, the Exhibitor and the Press).

    Have the Exhibitors go through only one gate. I know it sucks, but like Heidi said, this show demands that kind of attention to detail and security.

  10. Yes, Christopher, I meant the LA Times Festival of Books. I’m not surprised the attendance is higher than Comic Con. Comic Con’s audience is limited by the fire marshall. The LA Times Festival is open-air, and I think a lot of the attendees don’t have a vital interest in the festival. A lot of them are just looking for something interesting and different to look at on a weekend afternoon. It’s easy to be casual about the LA Times Festival because it’s free. One has to be more dedicated to attend Comic Con since access is more difficult.

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