Ultimate when a con is crap: DashCon 2014 solicited people for money to pay the hotel bill while the con was running

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This will almost certainly be the ultimate Con Disaster story for our times, as least for a year or so. DashCon held over the weekend in Schaumberg, IL, was a first year show aimed at Tumblr culture, planned as a meet-up for Tumblr users and such favorites as Welcome to Night Vale, a transmedia podcast that is sort of a Lake Woebegone for Tumblr-ites, Baker Street Babes, cartoonists such as Noelle Stevenson and…Doug Jones? You know the guy who was in Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth.

WTNV Ultimate when a con is crap: DashCon 2014 solicited people for money to pay the hotel bill while the con was running

What actuallyy happened is that while 7000 attendees were expected, only about 1000 people showed up. But that’s the normal part of the tale. Everything else is so bizarre it’s hard to pick reality from social-media-fueled parody. What seems real enough is that on the Friday of the show, the organizers suddenly claimed that they had to pay $17,000 in hotel fees or else the show would not go on! Daily Dot picks up the story:

On July 11, with most attendees already on site, DashCon staff members dropped the bombshell that the convention would be thrown out of the hotel unless $17,000 was ponied before 10pm.

With virtually everyone at DashCon being obsessive users of social media, this news was posted all over Tumblr and Twitter within minutes, becoming the weekend’s main source of gossip and schadenfreude among Tumblr fans who weren’t attending the convention. The idea of crowdfunding $17,000 for an emergency hotel payment was also outlandish enough for people to start pointing out that even if this wasn’t a scam, it was certainly an indication of incompetence on the part of convention organizers.

Amazingly, DashCon did manage to raise $17,000 in cash and PayPal donations that evening, an impressive amount when you know that there were only an estimated 1,000 people at the convention on Friday night.

However with empty halls and half the guests—like Jones and Steam Powered Giraffe— not showing up, discontent on the floor soon grew, and since these are ave social media users, it didn’t stay on the floor, as io9 reports, NOTEL: DOug Jones did in fact attend  and it sounds like he went out of his way to be nice to the attendees who did show up. See comments.

This being a convention aimed at Tumblr users, who are by nature avid bloggers, unhappy attendees are taking their complaints and using their followers to spread their message of discontent far and wide. Even people who did not attend are spreading the message that this is a convention to be avoided. People who were involved in the planning stage are writing long manifestos about how this was a disaster that could have easily been foreseen, due to awful planning and sketchy details.

Some cooler heads are reminding readers that first year conventions are always a gamble, but that if a first year convention is a disaster of this magnitude, it is probably not worth going back in subsequent years.

In the end, though, DashCon is going to be most memorable for how quickly news of a fandom disaster can spread. Though DashCon expected 3,000-7,000 attendees, reports from on the ground estimate only about 500-1,000 people showed up. Yet look how quickly news of poor planning, possible fundraising scams, and inept staff have spread. When your audience is avid internet users, the margin for error is low. The three-day convention is not even over, and it’s already notorious in the Tumblr circles it hopes to draw from for attendees in future years.

 

The Geekiary has a long post with more details, including Welcome to Night Vale walking out when their hotel bill wasn’t paid and the controversy over the hotel bill, which seems to have been fueled by an obviously forged letter:

tumblr inline n8l98hdmW51r9pi4m Ultimate when a con is crap: DashCon 2014 solicited people for money to pay the hotel bill while the con was running
Whether the scamminess of DashCon is due to actual conmen or just general naiveté and incompetence is open to question on my end. I kind of lean towards the latter, as unhappy people on site were offered extra time in the “bouncy castle” which is shown in the above video. The idea that bouncy castle time would appease angry consumers seems to speak to a certain youthful brio, even as the sad nature of the castle itself speaks to a woeful lack of real world planning. 
Anyway just search for #dashcon and you’ll find much more, such as this long report on what went wrong. The dissolution will be televised tumbled about.

Comments

  1. R. Maheras says:

    I’ve been to a few “disaster cons,” but they were almost all small ones — with 20-25 dealers, at most. This sounds like it was much more ambitious than that… and you know the old saying, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

    Back in 1973, I drew ads for the organizers of what was going to be “Chicago Con I,” and it was going to take place downtown at the Midland Hotel on Adams Street. Two major guests were going to be Stan Lee and artist Mike Hinge. The organizers (none of who were involved in organizing what would become Chicago Comicon a couple of years later) ran the ads in three issues of “The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom,” but at some point their plans fell apart, and the con never happened.

    A smaller con I went to in Wilmington, Delaware, in the mid-1990s had so few attendees, dealers were practically begging the few who showed up to buy something. As someone who’d worn a dealer’s hat many, many times, I honestly felt their pain. I doubt any dealers made their expenses back. One dealer even pulled out a guitar and started serenading the almost empty hall with comics dealer blues.

    It’s nice to know that even in the Internet Age, some things never change.

  2. Michael P says:

    Dunning-Kruger strikes again.

  3. I just don’t see how something like this would work without some direct tie to Tumblr. Hell, I don’t think anyone could successfully pull of a non-affiliated Facebook event without ties to the company…even then it would still be creepy!

  4. Diane says:

    While a lot of your article speaks the truth, there is one glaring error in particular I would like to point out. Actor Doug Jones DID show up and he graciously spent all of Saturday at the con, entertaining and devoting himself to the hundreds of very disappointed con-goers. He even gave away autographs for free to anyone who attended his panel and took pictures (again for free) with anyone who asked him. He even showed up to the Time Crash dance party and started to dance with attendees. He made a lot of people very happy and helped to uplift spirits, so please, do NOT write falsities that he did not show up.

  5. Diane — thanks for the update — none of the stories I read were clear on whether Jones had shown up or not.

  6. Robby says:

    Hi, I also was at the convention and want to confirm that Jones was there. While the majority of the convention was a huge cluster (we gave up on Sunday and explored Chicago instead), Doug Jones was awesome! He was extremely kind, walking the halls and complimenting cosplayers on their outfits, and taking pics with anyone who asked. He spent extra time during Q & A, and was just a genuinely nice guy and appreciative of con goers. There were a few other decent panels, including an informative Stage Combat one, so it wasn’t a complete waste. Without these few bright spots though, I’d probably be demanding my money back.

  7. Neil Diamond says:

    Is it true someone peed in the pool? I’m actually writing something about this and I’m looking for confirmation. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  8. a james says:

    @Regular Syzed Mike : that was actually an issue early on, from what I’ve read. They tried to bill it as “Tumbl-con” and imitated tumblr’s look&feel for their promos…tumblr got wind and shot that down, so the con dropped the “tumbl” and thus became “Dash” con.
    Anyway, hearing from people who were involved about the whole financial mis-managment, WOW, it sounds shady as all get out. I was the post that inspired the con going around every so often and thought “yeah, fat chance!” It’s great to dream, but their dream was basically a SDCC-like multi-media con, run by constantly changing, mostly underage, people with no experience in large event planning at all.

  9. a james says:

    (sorry, I meant “I SAW the post” not “I WAS the post” hehheh…)

  10. Random jerk says:

    Your all fucking losers, the people hosting the event are fuckin losers too, get fucking lives, take a fucking bath and check the fuck Into reality. A fucking ball out and bounce house? Get the fuck real

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