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[personal profile] tommo
I was going to post this as a reply on someone else's journal, but I think it's an interesting enough point to be a post of it's own.

I've been wondering whether the job of programmer should really be divided up further than it currently is. Have a head programmer to run and timetable the whole thing and generally be in charge, but then have sub-programmers responsible for different streams. You could have a media fan organising some TV and movie panels, a lit fan organising some book panels, avid gamer for gaming panels, anime buff for anime panels, and so on. And the head programmer gives them each a certain number of panel slots they have to fill up. I think that could result in a much more well-balanced programme.

What do people think? It'd swell the numbers in a committee somewhat, but I think if it was done well and everyone involved put in the required effort, you'd probably end up with a stellar programme. And it'd take some of the burden away from the head programmer, who tends to do a hell of a lot of work putting it all together.

Date: 2009-04-16 04:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That sounds kind of like the way GenghisCon is doing it (at least this year).
We have a gaming stream person, a video stream person and a panel stream person and then a program co-ordinator to make it all work together nicely.

On a SwanCon scale that sounds like a really cool idea, it would certainly help to get things in balance more. I'm not sure how the rules of committee works in SwanCon but if bloat was an issue then perhaps it could be run as a subcommittee with the head programmer reporting back?

Date: 2009-04-16 04:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, having a subcommittee with a single reporting figurehead would probably work best.

The way I'm envisioning it, you'd have sub-programmers for:

Video Gaming
Academic Stream

With possibly some crossover, if you had people who were knowledgable in multiple fields. They'd all have an allocated number of slots of fill, and then the head programmer (who could be one of the sub-programmers) could take all their work and put it together into the final programme.

Given that programmers typically end up having to devise a sizeable amount of the programme themselves, areas they don't know much about will typically be neglected (anime, for example, has been horribly neglected every year except - finally! - this one). This would hopefully sidestep that issue and give renewed focus to all of these areas at once.

Date: 2009-04-16 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The big problem I see is we barely get enough committee volunteers to run a minimalist convention, let alone one with multiple programmers...

Date: 2009-04-16 04:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sure, it's going to be harder to find half a dozen people than just one, but with the appropriate leg-work being done well in advance, I think it'd be achievable.

Also, people will probably be happier to volunteer if their job is smaller and quite clearly defined. Hardly anyone ever wants to be programmer, but "comics sub-programmer" doesn't sound like nearly as much bother.

Date: 2009-04-16 04:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Guess I have been on one too many dysfunctional Swancon committees :-)

Date: 2009-04-16 04:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Me too.

Sometimes the same ones.

That said, I'd certainly be much more likely to put my hand up if the requirement was "find people and topics to fill these 25 slots" than I would to do a committee position wholesale.

Date: 2009-04-16 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Haha, yes, that'll certainly taint your view of things :)

It'd be a difficult experiment, but if it worked I think the resulting programme would be really, really good. The reason we get so many "Intro to Anime" panels is because we have lots of programmers who don't know about anime. Imagine how great it'd be having a knowledgable anime fan organising the (and I'm picking a random number here) 6 anime panels you want in the programme. It really has the potential to deliver a programme with no oversights and minimal filler.

Date: 2009-04-16 04:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You'd need a head programmer with the ability to veto their subcommittee's choices though.

Date: 2009-04-16 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Absolutely. And you'd have to have sub-programmers who are willing to submit to the head programmer's authority. Egos would need to be kept in check.

Of course, if it all blows up and the sub-programmers bail out, then you're just left with one programmer doing it themselves, which is the way it normally is anyway.

Date: 2009-04-16 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have no experience whatsoever to draw on obviously, but it should probably be noted that if it blows up and all the subprogrammers bail out then it won't be QUITE the same as it normally is, because the time frame will probably be a lot shorter for that person, and their stress levels will be higher :P

Date: 2009-04-16 05:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I know. Although programmers tend to be awfully stressed by that stage anyway ;)

Date: 2009-04-16 03:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Maybe a project team with a head programmer, with content developers generating content under the programmer's supervision (in addition to the stuff that usually comes out of the open programming meetings - IMHO essential both to get the ball rolling and to give the community a chance for feedback).

Date: 2009-04-16 04:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree with at least having a consultant for each of the areas so that the programmer ends up with some idea about what each area needs.

This year certainly benefited from having a gamer running the gaming stream/room.

Date: 2009-04-16 04:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I like the idea but find it difficult to imagine in practice.

Date: 2009-04-16 05:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As was said, this is the way GenghisCon has always done it.

The downsides are that:
a) You create cracks for people/panels/etc to fall into
b) You need a lot of communication to make sure keynote things don't get scheduled at the same time
c) It makes the final week before the timetable is published that much harder

Date: 2009-04-16 05:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
a) That could be an issue, which is why you'd want someone very capable as your head programmer, to make sure nothing gets missed.

b) I wouldn't do it that way - I'd have all sub-programmers submit their list of panels to the head programmer, who'd schedule the whole thing themselves.

c) Between my response to (b) and just making sure you're ready ahead of time, I don't think this is an inevitability.

Date: 2009-04-16 05:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
From the sound of it, you're envisaging advisors and recruiters who assist the one scheduler, rather than the actual stream-runners that GenghisCon has.

My comment about the final week relates to the final confirmation of all of the panellists / game runners / etc (and the last-minute changes that can entail). If there is only one scheduler, who handles all of those confirmations and re-juggles themselves, then no, that's no harder.

I think this has a lot of merit. Timetabling is a "too many cooks" job, and recruiting is a "the more the merrier" job.

This probably doesn't need to be a formal arrangement - the programmer can have deputies who do all this stuff without being committee members, if they want.

Date: 2009-04-16 05:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This probably doesn't need to be a formal arrangement - the programmer can have deputies who do all this stuff without being committee members, if they want.

This is almost certainly the way to do it, methinks.

Date: 2009-04-16 06:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is a type of project management.

I think if you do this you effectively need a bit more ahead of time commitment, i.e. all the sub-programmers agreeing to finalise the panels they're organising and the majority of the panellists by some date in advance of the con, say a month. At this time all the work not done and responsibilities are transferred to the main programmer, without necessarily needing a guilt factor or what have you.

That way you get what you can out of the process without having to rely on flaky people at the last minute.

The uber-programmer would need that time remaining to rebalance the varying efforts of the volunteer minions. And they would vary.

Date: 2009-04-16 06:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, you'd definitely want a very reliable, driven person running the project, who was happy to pick up all the slack on the home stretch. And I'd recommend 2 months in advance :)

Date: 2009-04-16 01:49 pm (UTC)
alias_sqbr: the symbol pi on a pretty background (Default)
From: [personal profile] alias_sqbr
Thinking about the unwieldy list your next post has created, any individual person could wear multiple hats. Just a thought.

Date: 2009-04-16 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The role of programmer as I've always seen it (and seen it done effectively over the years) is to:
1. Cater to as many broad categories as possible without personal bias (aesthetic bias is theoretically ok) and
2. Allow for the study, expression and promotion of SF culture in as many ways as possible within the 100-150 slots available over the duration of the con.

Essential for the former is the willingness to outsource development on items on topics out of the programmer's (presumably formidable) range of knowledge - and the willingness to recognise when something may be awry in the balance of the program (says someone who fell into programming as a result of the latter).

Fortunately open programming meetings have been relatively regular in the past - and now [ profile] shrydar's wonderful work on the website has taken the community collaboration aspect of running the con that extra step further I believe we're seeing significant improvements.

For management purposes I'd prefer multiple programmers (maybe two) with the Convenor (or maybe the Vice - someone senior and logisticy) having final say on what goes on where and when.
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