FIYAHcon Revisited

Shortly after the last issue went live, LD Lewis posted a fascinating blog about the origins and internal workings of the convention. I thought it was worth revisiting my con report because there’s a lot of good stuff in there.

On the origins side, I was absolutely delighted that they made my friend Yasser Bahjatt a Guest of Honour. He’s had a tough year, and deserves a little recognition for what he’s doing for Arabic SF&F.

I’m also very pleased at the constructive attitude that the FIYAHCON committee took towards the idea of an out-of-time-zone Fringe event. All of my interactions with the CoNZealand committee regarding Fringe were also very positive, but the reaction of SMOFdom at large was fairly childish.

More importantly, however, Lewis’s post breaks down what it cost to put on FIYAHCON. That included what software they used, and how much it cost them. This sort of information should be invaluable to other people considering a virtual convention. Many people out there in fandom will assume that all virtual conventions should be free to attend, and you can put one on very cheaply (as FutureCon proved). However, other things cost money.

Live captions, for example, cost almost $5000. That’s a fair chunk of cash, but if you are serious about accessibility it is something you need to do, and something that will naturally constrain the quantity of programming that you can offer.

Providing a broadcast system to wrap your Zoom panels also costs money, as does Zoom itself. FIYAHCON opted for Business level accounts on Zoom, which gives a maximum audience of 300 rather than 100 at the Professional level. It doesn’t cost a huge amount more, so that was probably wise. However, I once did a Worldcon event in a room that seated 900 people and was packed out (I was interviewing Neil Gaiman). Of course with that size you’d go to webinar format rather than meeting, and having a broadcast wrapping will give you a much bigger audience capacity, but this shows that the problem of sizing programme items doesn’t go away in the virtual world.

For their workshops they used Whereby, a video conferencing system that I’d never even heard of before. It is entirely browser-based, which has advantages of accessibility for technology-impaired attendees. I’m not sure what else it gives you, but I’m interested to find out because we surely need better software solutions.

I’d like to thank FIYAHCON for being so transparent about what was involved on putting on the event. I note that there will be a panel on virtual conventions at SMOFcon this year. If I were running it, I would have invited FIYAHCON to participate.