Dear Boskone Community,
I am Erin Underwood, and many of you may be familiar with me as I have worked on programming for Boskone for nearly 15 years. So, when I tell you that we are doing things differently this year, I really mean that we are doing things differently, but we are also making our changes with the same community minded sensibility that we have always used when building our program. I recognize that with change comes uncertainty, and since we are a community, or really a SF/F/H family, it is important to communicate the changes as clearly and transparently as possible. That is why I am writing this letter and posting it publicly for all to see.
Should there be anything in this post that doesn’t come out quite right or any issues that come up during the next few months, I want you to know that I take full responsibility. I’m in charge this year, and I am sure we will make some errors along the way since we don’t know what we don’t know. However, I promise that we will do our best to fix issues and answer questions as soon as they come up. This letter is a first step in that process.
Thank you for listening and thank you for your understanding. So, here’s what we’re thinking:
What’s the Change?
We are unable to continue using Grenadine (our previous program database) and have switched to using Zambia. We are aware that Planorama is also available now, but it wasn’t ready when we began our work.
What Does this Change Mean for Boskone?
Changing program systems means that we no longer have access to all of our past data, but we were able to retain some of it. Changing program systems also means that our work processes do not match with the new system we are using. While Zambia could adapt in some ways, it simply can’t do everything Grenadine did and in the same way that Grenadine did it. So, we have made some updates to Zambia that will allow us to retain some of our work processes, but we are also having to change some of our processes to adapt to Zambia.
So, here’s what’s changing with our work processes:
Survey Email vs Program Invitation
Receiving an email with a link to fill in the Boskone 60 Program Survey is not an invitation to be on the program. The survey email will be sent first, and it will be sent to all potential program participants. This includes people Boskone would like to have on the program as well as to people who have asked to be considered for programming, but again, the survey email does not constitute an invitation to be on program. Potential program participants who receive the survey email can then 1) let us know if you are interested in being considered for programming and 2) share your program interests and experience with us.
This is a compromise that feels kind of uncomfortable to us, but we need to give it a try. We used to send out invitations to people we knew we wanted and survey emails to people who asked to be on the program, but who we weren’t sure would fit into the program. For a variety of reasons, we need to send the survey to everyone now and send invitations later
When Will Official Invitations be Sent?
Official invitations will be sent on a rolling basis over the next 2+ months, after we have had a chance to begin going through surveys to see who would be a good fit and how they may fit into the program. This part isn’t really that different from our past process. The only thing that is different is that surveys get sent first and then invitations get sent later.
What About People Who Don’t Get Invited?
There are always people who don’t fit into the program, but that’s a capacity problem. We only have so many rooms and so many hours in the day, and that puts a finite cap on the number of program participants who we can invite to be on the program. The decline letters will go out, as usual, toward the tail end of the program process.
Who is Receiving a Survey?
We were able to retain contact information from most of last year’s program participants and we have a Program Interest Form that we have been sharing publicly to collect contact information from people who want to be considered for programming. I am certain that some people who used to receive an invitation to participate in Boskone’s program will not receive a survey email. If you don’t receive an email it is not because we decided to remove you from programming. It is simply that we don’t have our old list and we don’t have your name in our new system. Please do not be upset that you didn’t receive a survey. Instead, please go to our Program Interest Form and share your contact information with us.
The cut off date for submitting your survey is November 15, 2022. So, please request your survey in time to submit it by November 15. If you wait until November 15 to ask for a survey, I can’t promise that we will be able to send you a survey, but we will try.
Who Will be Invited to be on Programming?
As usual, the answer is: As many people as possible. In a normal year, we would have a total of 225-250 people who have accepted our program invitation or asked to be considered for programming. This year, we are already close to hitting that number and surveys haven’t yet been sent at the time that I am writing this post. We have room for about 150-175 program participants and we will strive to accept as many people as possible.
Maybe we can accept more people if we reduce the number of items that each person has this year, but I don’t know that we have the resources to absorb a significant increase in program participants. That is something we will keep an eye on as we work this year.
Boskone has a long-long history of retaining past program participants year after year while also bringing in 50+/- new participants each year. We do this by being open about the fact that we ask some of our regulars to sit out some years, knowing that they will be invited back in the next year or two.
I want to be clear that people who don’t receive a program invitation are considered members of our community no matter what. We need and want you in our community, and we look forward to seeing you at Boskone this year and in the years to come whether you are on the program, watching from the audience, or helping with a volunteer role.
If you aren’t on the program this year, please consider volunteering to help out in other at-con volunteer roles. We always need more help! It’s a great way to meet new people and to feel intrinsically part of the convention and the community. In addition, you are also welcome to stop by Program Ops to see if any cancellations have come up. Sometimes we are able to accommodate last minute changes, and this is one way that we work to include as many people as possible in the program … even during the convention.
What to Put in Your Survey?
We have a number of new people on staff and (again) we do not have access to your past information. Please be sure to add your public bio to the profile page, and on the survey page, please add your professional experience, hobbies, areas of interest, etc so that we have everything we need to see how to fit you into the program.
Please remember that your professional experience, hobbies, and personal interest are what sets people apart. We get a lot of people who look the same on paper. For example I have seens hundreds of surveys in the past that say something along the lines of: SF author with 2-5 books published, stories printed in XYZ Magazine, lives in X city, and 3 cats.
While you need a bio that shares all of the basic required info for an author bio, you are so much more than just an author/artist/musician/scientist/publisher. So, be sure to mention in the other areas of the survey that you are also a firefighter, a trauma nurse, biologist, a party planner, a robotics enthusiast, an ex-green beret, a survivalist, a pastry baker, a mechanic, etc. You never know what ideas are being considered, and we may need an aviation expert on the same panel as a cartoonist and a medical doctor.
You Can Now Volunteer for Specific Program Sessions
With the switch to Zambia, we now have the ability to share a bunch of our own program ideas with you in advance, enabling you to volunteer sessions that interest you. We currently have nearly 100 items in the program system, and that number is going to continue to grow until November 15. So, potential program participants can volunteer for sessions the same day they fill in their survey, and they can return to Zambia anytime until November 15 to volunteer for new items that we have added.
In addition, we are asking our program participants to share their own session ideas via their survey. Therefore, as new surveys are received, we will also be adding new sessions to Zambia.
Adding You to Sessions
As usual, the Program Team may also add you to sessions that we think would be a great fit for you, based upon your survey data.
An Aside: Things Not to do When Filling Out Your Survey
Over the years, I’ve seen some strange things come through in surveys for Boskone as well as other conventions. While I try not to tell people how to fill out their survey, I think this might be a special moment in which I will offer a little advice.
- Please don’t just fill in your availability and the types of formats you want to do. If we don’t see your bio and other information about who you are as a person so that we can match you up with program sessions, it’s not likely we will be able to fit you into the program.
- Please don’t sign up for every session just because you can. Scorched earth session volunteering might make it “seem” like you have a better shot of getting on a program item, but it really sends the signal that you will say anything to be on programming, even if it’s not an area of expertise or interest for you. I am mentioning this because I have seen it happen many times in the past with other convention surveys. If you volunteer for a session, it should be a session you really like or a session that you can contribute to in substantial ways.
- Don’t be mean. Don’t be a smartass. It’s okay to be funny. We like funny, but mean and unkind comments shrouded in “funny” are not useful. We use your answers to get to know you, and if you come off as a smart ass who will talk over other people or diminish other people, I am going to have a hard time seeing how you can best fit into a program session. If you are willing to say something mean in a survey, you are likely willing to act that way during a program session. We are a community, a SF/F/H family of friends and colleagues. While Boskone has a really wide tent, we want everyone to be respectful to our family. Here is a link to Boskone’s policies, if you are curious. But really, it boils down to treating people how you want to be treated, even in a survey.
Online vs In-person Participation
Yes! We will have online, in-person, and hybrid sessions. So, whether you are in Tokyo or Boston, there is non reason not to ask to be considered for programming…and no reason not to buy a membership and join us in whatever venue works best for you.
Timelines and Deadlines for Boskone 60’s Program Process
- Oct 3-Nov 15: Surveys sent to potential program participants.
- Note: We’re late! The first batch of survey emails will be going out asap this week.
- Oct 3-Nov 15: Potential participants fill in surveys, suggest program ideas, and volunteer for sessions.
- Oct 15-Dec 15: Official Program Participant invitations sent, confirming program participation, on a rolling basis.
- Nov 15: Survey Due Date.
- Dec 15: Draft schedules sent to confirmed program participants.
- Dec 15-Jan 6: Confirmed participants approve schedules and have a chance to request additional sessions, if openings are available.
- Jan 8: Final program schedules sent to confirmed participants.
- Jan 13: Publication of Boskone 60 Program Schedule
Thank you for reading to the end. This is a long blog post, and I am sure that I still managed to miss some important items. I also worry that I have made some faux pas in my post that will upset someone. Still, I need to post this now with the information that I have available for you today. I will make updates as needed and I will answer questions as they come up. I hope that you have found some useful information here and that you have a better sense of what we are doing, why surveys are going out later than usual, and what you can expect over the next few months.
If you have any questions, please contact us at Program@boskone.org.
P.S. As feedback comes in about this post, I will update it to answer questions, address open issues, or adjust my choice of words to help better convey the spirit of the Boskone community and the intent of the program team as a whole.