Another year, another San Diego Comic Con, another week of teeth grinding and seeing things through green-tinted spectacles. Chances are that you are like me and are not attending the most wonderful geek event in the world and are stuck at home while all your geek friends are off having the best time ever. Without you.
Last year 126,000 people attended and all of them had a ball. Every single one of them was running around panels, rubbing shoulders with mega-names and getting parts of themselves signed by scantily-clad people. Every. Single. One. And if that wasn’t enough, they plastered pictures, blog posts, tweets, waves and fanfic all over the Internet about how great it all was. It’s enough to make you sick.
Actually, it was enough to make them sick. We can take some comfort in the fact that many of the people attending these types of events contract Con SARS of some description. Last year it was actually H1N1, but every year these nerd nirvanas are a breeding ground for disease. In the safety of your basement you will be immune to this. Hold on to that thought.
Your Online Con Survival Guide
1. Decide that attending SDCC in person is soooo last decade.
Online Cons are the way to go and so your decision to not get a ticket is a completely rational response to the fact that everything is on the Internet these days. Want to see the Joss Whedon Experience? Don’t worry – within seconds of it starting photos will start appearing and by the time the first geek has clawed their way out of the room the videos will be popping up all over the Internet.
2. Do your research
Map out the panels and events you most want to find out about. Just like those poor saps that haven’t caught on to the Internet, you need to know when and where your favourite events are going to be. Study the program guide and surf for interest groups. As Whedon fans we obviously want to know all about those types of events so Simon has a list here and other lists are about, too. I’m really interested in webseries so I’ll be using Tubefilter’s list by Jenni Powell to make sure I don’t miss anything.
If you are going to be at work during SDCC then you need to adapt the following advice to suit your needs. Make sure any email forwarding does not contravene your workplace rules and keep the obsessive checking to a minimum. No one wants to be on Failblog as the first person dismissed for observing an Online Con during a staff meeting.
Social Media icons (seen here)
3. Update your friend lists – Social Media 101
Are you on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Friendfeed etc? Are you following all the right people in the right places to get you the information you need? If you are not sure then do some research now. Search the places you go for people talking about SDCC and what they are saying. Look at the Official accounts and sites for the shows and creators you are interested in and make sure you are following all the relevant people. Check out fan sites for the same information. This is a great chance to expand your network. Be prepared!
4. Stock up on basics
Cons take it out of you physically, even if you are not physically present. Make sure you computer is set up properly so as to reduce the risk of RSI. Hydration is important – water is preferable over everything else but you are allowed a few two litres of your favourite (non-alcoholic) beverage for the duration. Alcohol is not a good idea – you do NOT want to fall asleep at your keyboard and miss something!
Nutrition-wise it’s best to imagine you are on a geek camping trip. Nothing that requires more than 2 minutes in the microwave is advisable. Keep a piece of fruit or two at your side because if you get desperate enough you will eat them and – hey presto! You can tell your mum the truth next time she asks whether you are eating enough fresh stuff. Chips, cookies, popcorn – these will be your staples. Dry cereal is also good. Make sure you keep the crumbs to a minimum to reduce the risk of keyboard-clog.
Basics like teabags, milk, bread, peanut butter and toilet roll should be purchased well in advance.
Yeah. Well. The Con only lasts five days and during that time you are not likely to see anyone else or leave the house. Use your discretion if you have to go out for more supplies, though. No one wants to be picked up for vagrancy and wi-fi in lock up is patchy at best.
6. Check your equipment
Is your router up to scratch? Is there space on your hard drive for photo and video downloads? Have you backed up your data? Basic housekeeping can save headaches later. Make sure to have brown paper bags and any inhalers within reach for the more exciting panels.
7. Set up your alerts
This could be searches and/or lists on Twitter, Google Alerts or people you know you get the inside story every time. Make sure you check all avenues regularly for updates and pass on any verified information down the line.
Whedonage Swag Bag from SDCC 2009
8. Know thy enemy
You will already know who amongst your friends are attending because they will have been going on about it for months already. There is no need to shun them, though. They are to be the foot soldiers in your Con Army. You need them and they need you. While your online contacts will provide you with lots of information and distraction, your friends will fill in all the juicy details and make it real for you.
What they are going to do for you: pick up extra swag on your behalf, hand out your information to relevant people, store up a million snippets of geek-out-goodery for you enjoy time and again when they return
What you are going to do for them: alert them of any last-minute changed to panels, signings or parties. You are likely to see changes before them. You can also help co-ordinate friends who lose each other. You will be the grateful receiver of swag, anecdotes and the pictures that can’t be put online.
Such is symbosis – everyone wins.
If all this looks too much like hard work then the best thing you can do is go offline for two weeks and catch up on all the books, films and TV shows you’ve been meaning to watch. By the end of July most of the SDCC-mania will have died down enough for you to safely return to the Internet. Or you could – brace yourself! – venture outside the safety of your enclosure and experience life unmediated by a screen.
For those about to embark on their own Online Con I salute you. I’ll be on Twitter, Facebook and Friendfeed checking out the action. We can do this. We can survive. We can Comic Con convincingly from the comfort of our chairs*. Qapla!**
*Imagine if it was the Cancún Comic Con? That phrase would have been even sweeter….
** You may argue about the spelling of this word amongst yourselves. I took a scientific poll (on Twitter) and the official Paramount spelling won.