Tag Archives: Long

Looking Back at WonderCon 2014

Like I'm Being WatchedThis year at WonderCon (April 18-20) was the year that I missed a lot of things. It’s not at the SDCC level where you have to assume you won’t get to what you want unless you’re really lucky, or deliberately go for the less popular events. Even if you’re at the very end of a long line, or arriving five minutes before, you might still make it into the room. Mostly, I got there late two days out of three, and spent most of Saturday finding things for a three-year-old to do (more about that later).

WonderCon is settling in at Anaheim. The crowds are coming even on Friday, and parking…well, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than the first year, when they sent people out to Anaheim Stadium for overflow, and a lot simpler than San Diego’s collection of dozens of tiny parking lots scattered around downtown. After the first day following signs from lot to lot to lot, I just went straight to the Garden Walk structure for the next two days. It’s a bit of a hike, but not much worse than parking at the far end of the Toy Story lot, and the time you save waiting to get into the lot will probably make up for the extra 5-10 minutes on foot. (But if you leave the con before sunset, make sure you walk out to Katella along the convention center, where there’s shade, and not along Harbor, where there’s a wide street to let the sun reach you and a wall to reflect the heat right at you.) Continue reading

It Came from the Long Beach Comic & Horror Con 2013

Jurassic Park SUVComics, costumes and cars…writers and artists…Young Justice and scenery by the sea. I had a good time at Long Beach Comic and Horror Con on Saturday, though I felt like something was missing. At first I wasn’t sure what, but by the end of the day I realized two things:

  1. I didn’t have any real goals for the convention, which was why it felt so aimless.
  2. I wished I had time to come back for a second day to do the things I thought of late in the afternoon.

Skip to the photos if you want, or read on.

The con is starting to feel like two conventions. No, not comics and horror. Five years on, it’s still the most comics-focused “comic con” I’ve attended. I find myself wondering why they still have “Horror” in the name. No, the two cons are: costumes in the lobby and around the edge of the main floor, and books-and-art inside. There were cosplayers I saw repeatedly in the lobby and wondered whether they ever managed to make it downstairs at all. Continue reading

I Survived Comic-Con 2013!

And this year, that’s saying something. (I’ll get into that later.)

Gru's Floating Minion

Sometime Thursday afternoon or Friday morning I concluded that we’d remember this year’s trip more for the circumstances around it than for the con itself. I had no idea.

For starters: We had tickets for Thursday and Friday, and planned to drive into town Wednesday afternoon and drive home Friday evening. Sure, Comic-Con is stressful, but we always used to drive home Sunday evening and I was fine.

Of course, most of those times we weren’t bringing a toddler along.

Under Pressure

Comic-Con is a stressful, high-pressure, taxing experience. Vacationing with a small child is also a stressful, high-pressure, taxing experience. And so many little things went wrong the first two days: Leaving the stroller behind and having to buy a cheap one on the way, the leg cramp in stop-and-go traffic, having to search for outlets to plug in the lamps in our hotel room (and having to unplug them in order to charge more than one phone at a time), the fit at dinner that had strangers commenting on how J must be tired (actually, ma’am, he acts like this regardless of sleep quotient). Getting out too late to take the shuttle back and having to take the trolley instead (though that actually worked out fine, as J loved the idea)…at which point we learned that the routes had changed since we last rode the trolley, and we got off one stop too early to make the transfer.

Thursday morning we had everything planned out: We’d go to breakfast at Broken Yolk Cafe, then pick up our badges, then I’d take J around while Katie tried to catch the first big panel of the day. So what happened? We missed the shuttle because they moved the stop from where it had been last time we stayed on this route. Then I ordered blueberry crepes and managed to spill them on my shirt and shorts. They went into the con while I went back to the hotel to change clothes and try to rinse out the blueberry syrup before it stained.

And the first taste of Comic-Con is always overwhelming. Always. Add in these circumstances and you won’t be surprised that when I finally caught up an hour and a half later, Katie was ready to swear off ever coming back.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Always bring spare clothes. (Done, fortunately.)
  2. Don’t start the con with a breakfast that might stain if it spills.
  3. If you’re bringing a small child, find some way that you can start the con without them, then bring them in later.

Overheard: “It was! It was! It was Reptar!”

Settling In

Fortunately, things improved over the course of the day, and the rest of Thursday actually went pretty well. Friday, on the other hand…well, we’ll get to that.

Continue reading

A Weekend at WonderCon 2013 in Anaheim

Outside WonderCon 2013 at the Anaheim Convention Center

WonderCon 2013 returned to Anaheim after last year’s experiment, and the event felt more solid this year. As much as I hope they’ll be able to return to San Francisco, they’ve shown that they can put on a really good convention in Anaheim as well.

The Anaheim Venue

Since last year, the Anaheim Convention Center has replaced a long driveway between hotels with an extended pedestrian area, with fountains at either end. This turned out to be fantastic for the convention, because it gave people a place to hang out, visit, hold photo shoots, and more. This was also where five food trucks set up shop to handle the lunch rush, which added not just supply but more variety. Compare to San Diego, where most exits from the convention center make you cross a driveway, a major street, and two sets of railroad tracks, one for freight and one for the trolley, before you get to any sort of open space, and even that has been co-opted by off-site events.

Outside the Con

Another difference from San Diego: The sections of the main hall are separated by permanent walls, including the food courts…and as I discovered on Friday, an atrium. That atrium was a bit of a shock the first time I walked into it, because it gave me an overwhelming sense of deja vu, like I’d just walked out of WonderCon 2013 and into WorldCon 1996. I could swear it’s left over from before the major remodeling they did in the late 1990s.

Continue reading

Who Owns Your Online Profile? Thoughts on Instagram, Facebook, and Blogging

Spectrum on the Floor (Not Pink Floyd)

You’ve probably heard about Instagram’s new terms of service, which claim the right to sell your photos. [Update: Instagram has posted a “that’s not what we meant!” statement and promised to revise that section.]

To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

Monetization is one thing, but selling my creative output, using it or my likeness for advertising, without my permission? That’s stepping over the line. Add this to the recent decision to hide image previews from Twitter, and a pattern emerges of a service that was once open and free starting to close ranks.

I’m not personally worried about Instagram in particular. I’ve only really dabbled in it over the last few months, treating it most of the time as a first draft for Flickr. I have maybe 50 photos and a handful of followers, and most of the people I follow there are also on other networks. If Instagram doesn’t back down or clarify the language [Update: they did], I can easily repost the photos I want to keep online and go somewhere else.

I am worried about the trend it highlights: You can’t always rely on social media.

And I am worried about the fact that these changes were announced after the Facebook acquisition went through, and after Facebook revised their terms so that they no longer have to put new terms of service to a vote. I’ve got a lot more invested in Facebook than I have in Instagram.

Where Have All The Photos Gone?

GloomI used to blog about web browsers at Spread Firefox and Opera Watch. Both sites are long gone. Countless articles I’ve linked to have vanished as publishers restructured or went out of business.

I’ve got an extensive LiveJournal from a few years back. It’s still there, but when I let my paid account lapse, I started moving over some of the less personal, more tech- and entertainment-focused posts (like convention reports) to this site, just in case a BOFH deletes it, or they change their terms of service to something unacceptable.

The question “Who owns your data?” has been repeated so often over the years that I can’t look up the post I’m thinking about, which advocated open file formats over proprietary ones (like Microsoft Office) on the basis that you should always be able to find a reader for a text document, but if you lose access to Word, or if Microsoft decides to drop support for an older format, you’re at their mercy.

The problem with social networks as services is that, like with those proprietary file types, you’re at their mercy. Want to search for a three-year-old Tweet? Tough. Facebook changed their privacy settings again? Oops. Twitter decides they don’t want apps like yours to exist, so they close off part of their API? Bye! The site you posted all your photos to decides to close up shop? *Poof!* There go your photos.

So What’s the Alternative?

Train ArrivingWhen it comes down to it, the only way to be sure you aren’t going to be exploited or abandoned is to do it yourself.

Blogging is basically the same as social networking, except distributed:

  • People publish written posts, photos, videos, and more.
  • Other people comment on them.
  • You can “share” a post by linking to it, and pingbacks/trackbacks will let them know you’ve done so.
  • You can subscribe to someone’s updates through RSS, and services like RSSCloud and PubSubHubub can make updates appear quickly.
  • Services like OpenId make it possible to authenticate visitors, which means you can start locking down who gets to see what.

The upside is that you, not Facebook or Google or Twitter, have full control of your content. The downside is that you have to exercise that control. You have to maintain the infrastructure, you have to guard against attackers, you have to filter out spam, you have to do your own backups, and you have to know at least something about the system under the hood.

We keep going to social networks because they’re so damn convenient. They take care of all that, and make your stuff easier for people to discover as a bonus.

But when you leave the network — or when it leaves you — what happens to all your photos, status updates, rants, raves, and commentary?

Who owns your profile?