2014 Natcon BM minutes

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This article includes the minutes of the Business Meeting of the 53nd National Australian SF Convention (the Natcon in 2014), which took place at Continuum 10 in Melbourne, in The Carousel Room of Intercontinental Melbourne (The Rialto), 495 Collins Street, at 10.00am, Monday, 09 June, 2014.

These minutes should be considered unofficial, having yet to be approved by the 2015 NatCon Business Meeting.

Agenda

An agenda was produced, circulated to various email lists and made available to attendees.

Minutes

Chair: Julian Warner
Minute taker: PRK

Present:

Meeting Opened

1. Confirmation of the Minutes of the Previous Meeting.

2. Business Arising from the Previous Meeting.

3. Natcon Standing Committee Report

4. Site Selection for the 2016 National Convention

5. Ditmar Subcommittee report

6. Convention Reports

a. 2013 – Conflux 9
b. 2014 – Continuum 10
c. 2015 – Swancon 40

7. Selection of the Standing Committee

8. Motions on Notice

  • Motion
That the Business Meeting instruct the Standing Committee to develop additions to the Rules which specify the conditions under which Nominations and Awards may be declined and potential nominees may withdraw themselves from consideration, as well as a mechanism for recording such instances and informing the community, including in relation to the Eligibility List.
Proposed: Jeremy Byrne
Discussion:
The general position in the past has been that nominations could not be declined and awards could only be refused. However, the Greg Egan precedent stands in contrast, and further consideration is justified by recent requests from the community. Inconclusive discussion of this matter took place on the Standing Committee list in late April (where it was noted that a distinction should be made between withdrawal or declining of nominations and "corrections of the record" regarding the involvement of individuals in nominated group activity). The issue may be worthy of wider consultation, and certain options may lead to an increase in the responsibilities of the Standing Committee.

9. General Business


Notes

Meeting opened at 10:05am. 09/06/2014


Attending Jeremy Byrne, Julian Warner, Julia Svaganovic, Peter Lyons, PRK, Bill Wright, Rose Mitchell, Amee Lindorff, Carey Handfield, Sue-Anne Barber,

Chair: Julian Warner


Previous minutes reviewed.

Jeremy apologies for a lack of printed minutes and notes they're available on the Wiki Sites. Jeremy reads some of the minutes out.

Minutes confirmed by general acclamation.


Business Arising:

Calendar for Ditmar running - Exists in rough form in the Wiki. Intent is for it to become automated to send reminders, etc.

Linking of Nominations - Manual at the moment, intent is to try and automate it. Rough scripts to parse the emails which are sent.

Decisions made around the rules are documented on the wiki.

Cultural Baggage is also documented in an ongoing fashion on the website.

Permanent page for the Ditmars / Natcon is ongoing.

Voter packet will be discussed in general business.


Natcon Standing Committee Report


Jeremy: This year has been a bit disappointing, not much happened other than the very basics.

Pevious meeting didn't give any specific instructions for projects that have been on the table.

Bare minimum was done, but projects weren't moved along.

An infusion of new blood and enthusiasm is needed - it's been the same people other than the con chairs who are there to represent the con, not do the work.

In summary didn't do a lot.

Peter: We did progress through the calendar fairly quickly.

Jeremy: We built in a lot of slack into the calendar and used some of it to complete everything.

Peter: When were the final ditmar results received?

Jeremy: Sunday before the convention. The con seemed to think that was okay.

Julia: We managed this year, trophies engraved, but an extra week would have been nice to have the time. More time is less stress. Two weeks should be more than enough time. Gives time to correct any errors on the plaques.

Jeremy: Original calendar had results on the Thursday (1 week before con). Need to look earlier, but not too early.

Julian: Too early

Rose: Too early and there isn't time to review all the works.

Julian: Let's push into business meeting - more people & how to publicise.

Bill: And where to find the bodies.

Peter: Question from Amanda (Continuum Awards Runner) on how to run the awards.

Jeremy: Polled from around the group to provide to Amanda, probaby needs to be put into the "cultural baggage" wiki - Ditmar Running Guide.

Julia: If you're not familiar with the awards, which order should be used other than local awards before national ones. General guide for ordering of

Jeremy: Committee feels this should be left to the convention, but should look at providing a default, and can then vary to their own taste. A job the committee needs to pick up and provide the defaults. People used to know year to year, but not always these days.

Julia: Lots of new blood.

Rose: Politics that go with it that we don't want documented.

Bill: Yes, lots of lore.

Julian thanks Jeremy for the standing committee report.


Site Selection:


Amee Introduces herself, based in brisbane, was here for fact finding mission for bidding process and viability of a convention in Brisbane. Has received lots of interest in a Brisbane convention. Has community interest, but that's as far as the process has progressed. No set date yet. Weekends are established.

PRK notes NatCon has first dibs on Easter. Swancon can move if required.

Amee doesn't want to set a precedent of inconveniencing Swancon for Easter.

Rose asks aout publich holidays in Brisbane.

Aimee - end of October is a public holiday, or end of August for Exhibition holiday. Thinking end of July or late August.

Rose - great to go to Brisbane in winter.

Amee - Yes, a bit wet, but heading into spring in August and don't clash with any of the major book fairs or world fantasy, so can share with writers' festivals. October is another option but can clash with book fairs and worldcons, and Genrecon is establishing itself every second year for October, so can be in the off year with that when people expect it.

Amee - So far committee is only me. Interest in others, but not a firm committee yet.

Julian: In absence of any other interest / bids, can a firm bid be put to the standing committee who can be authorised to make a decision.

Amee - Time table?

Julian - A year out is okay, but not less than that.

Rose - A year out is good for negotiating with other conventions.

Amee - Working on end of this year, gives at least 12 months to 18 months.

Jeremy - Is there a 2016 committee?

Julia - No, Continuum 11 is formed, no real Continuum 12. May look at a Continuum 13.

Jeremy - Noone from Conflux here who's able.

Julian - Swancon

PRK - Bid exists, would run the Natcon if required, but not planning to bid for it.

Jeremy - Would be 2 in a row, better somewhere else.

PRK - Yes, Swancon would be a backup but nice to be elsewhere to share.

Amee - Is aware of that and has had lots of conversations with people about running it.

Jeremy - Do we have contact details for Amee?

Amee - Yes, sent to ASFF.

Jeremy - NatCon is different to ASFF. Let's create a contact address.

Bill - secretary@natcon.org.au

General agreement.

Peter - Do we have a bid process on the wiki?

Jeremy - Believe we do, will check and confirm.

Julian - As an adjunct, can we move that the Natcon standing subcommittee take on the busienss of determining the 2016 Natcon?

Bill - Can we note Brisbane has the right of first refusal.

moved Jeremy, seconded Peter, motion carried.


Ditmar Subcommittee Report:

Jeremy: Consisted of 3 people. Ran according to a fairly generous timetable which had to be cut back into a bit. Encountered no particular issues. Minor issues with software which resulted in redoing of work that should have been sorted last year. Hopefully won't impact this year. Still labouring under inability to properly lock down text for wording as no linking between eligibility list and nomination form. Different wording in nominatino process = eye by eye matching of nominations. Determining rules such as wheter nomination for specific article counts as nomination for collected works that contain the specific work.

Voting numbers down from last year, continuing to decline. About 80 people voted. Not a great subset of the wider fannish community.

Peter: How does this compare to time before the previous natcon could also vote?

Jeremy: Difficult to say, would need to analyse the figures.

Rose: Anecdotally it's the same people who vote form year to year, so only a marginal increase.

Jeremy: Standing commitee feels more work is needed to promote the ditmars, but been saying that for quite a while. No strategy.

Bill: Coming from left field - change happening in people's reading habbits. Reading online, fewer books read by young people, losing the younger generation completely. How do we reach these people?

PRK: Not just Ditmars - Chronos & Tin Ducks too. Need to do more than just tell people to nominate and vote, but why it's important.

Jeremy suggest we discuss as other business.

Rose: Electorate is the members of the current and previous natcon - small electorate.

Jeremy: Procedures are now at the stage nominating can be handled by one or two people and voting by one person. Have been running the software and process for 6 or 7 years and that system has been checked against Open STV and found no discrepancies, so running purely on existing system which is quick to produce results. It produces fancy results which aren't distributed. Should we distribute them?

Bill: Breaking it up by state would help, to work out where voters are and how they vary by state. Break them up regionally or by writing group.

Julian: Leave that to further discussion.

Julian thanks Jeremy for the report.


Convention reports:

Informal notification from Conflux that they couldn't send a representative this year to report.

Requirements aren't communicated to bids in a formal sense, perhaps that needs to be looked at. Would be nice to hand a fact sheet over. Expect that we'd also adhere to a set of requirements to communicate.

Julian: Limited business between conventions. Handover of Ditmar voting members.

Jeremy: Hapzard.

Peter: Need to remind conventions.

Rose: Should be required by each convention to hand over membership list at end of the year. Not all info, just memberships.

Jeremy: Conflux sent a list of memberships which were incomplete - didn't include day members - resulted in doubt on eligibility of some members to vote.

Rose: Do day members vote?

Jeremy: Yes, any membership equal or greater than a supporting membership is eligible to vote.

Julia: With comped memberships, do they get voting rights?

Julian: If they're a full member of the convention, then yes.

Jeremy: Yes, we should clarify that on the committee and codify it. Currently rules would say no.

PRK: Disputes comped memberships have no value - they have a value but aren't paid by the comped member.

Jeremy: Moved standing commmittee be instructed ot codify the eligibilty of complimentary memberships in voting. Moved Jeremy, Seconded Rose. Carried.


Julia - Continuum X has about 220 - 230 memberships including day memberships. Have included cub memberships (free) but helps in numbers. A YA membership as well for 13 - 18, had a few but not many come through. Targetted schools. Hoping to continue building on that. New venue for us, happy with the venue for layout.

Julian - was it expensive?

Julia - It came in on budget.

PRK - Do people want numbers?

Julia - $24k including guest rooms. Hotel was enthusiastic and wanted to get us in for weekend business. Staff have been great.

Rose: Bar prices are outrageous.

Julia: Yes, nice hotel with expensive drinks or less nice with cheap drinks.

Bill: Outside eateries are difficult to find. If we do have a hotel without obvious outside eateries there should be solid information in the reg desk for people on where to go.

Julia: We're a block away from Southern Cross, 711 across the road.

Rose: Flinders St restaurants too. Commendations to the commitee for running a great convention.

Julia: Thank you. Very happy with the ditmars, George & Narelle did a great job.

Amee: Programme good too.

Julia: Yes, programme team did great.

Bill: Got through Awards in good time.

Julia: Started a bit late, but all good. Haven't done the financials but think break even or a small surplus.


PRK: Swancon 40 has a committee, and launched at Swancon 39. Guests are John Scalzi, Kylie Chan & Antony Pierce. Venue still being selected.

Jeremy: ANything the committee would expect form the Natcons Committee?

PRK: List of everything that's expected and timelines.

Jeremy: Probaby worth summarising in general business.


Selection of the Standing Committee

Currently 3 Con chairs, Terry Sellen, Jeremy Byrne, Peter Lyons, David Cake, Patrick Keunig (stepped down),

Julian asks if Julia wishes to continue as rep for Continuum X.

Julia says she will, but will not be able to make the meeting. Will nominate someone.

Julian asks about Swancon.

PRK says Kathleen Griffiths will be the rep for Swancon 40.

Julian asks if anyone wants to withdraw.

Peter spoke to Dave, would like to maintain membership and chairship but would like someone else to maintain Ditmars as he won't have enough time.

Jeremy will nominate for the committee.

Peter is happy to nominate for the committee.

PRK would like to nominate for the committee.

Julian will stay on as an observer.

Rose declines to nominate.

Julian can we vote on a block on those nominations?

Jeremy unless any objections.

Julian asks for any objections, none, all nominations accepted.


Ditmar Subcommittee

Jeremy: This is collated from NatCon members as long as they don't have any conflicts.

Julian: Coped well with volume of work through the year. Current committee numbers are okay?

Jeremy: Yes. Mostly rote, and then press releases, communications, etc.

Peter: Would like to be shown how to do things.

Jeremy: Yes, worth doing a handover for documentation and training purposes.

Peter: Nomination scripts should be handed on to someone as well.

Jeremy: Yes, scripts and voting platform need to be better documented and made available.

Peter: PHP Scripts?

Jeremy: Yes, straight forward. Sticking with a standard language as known by a broad set of web programming.

Julian: We can trust the Ditmar subcommittee to coopt people when and as needed?

Jeremy: Standing Committee can, and Ditmar can source from standing committee. Would be nice to have a pool of fannish techincal people to draw on, but don't know how to do that. People who have the skill base to do things haven't.


Motions on Notice:

"That the Business Meeting instruct the Standing Committee to develop additions to the Rules which specify the conditions under which Nominations and Awards may be declined and potential nominees may withdraw themselves from consideration, as well as a mechanism for recording such instances and informing the community, including in relation to the Eligibility List."

Jeremy: Didn't have a clear set of guidelines when someone asked how to withdraw. Greg Egan withdrew from the Ditmars before the Standing Committee was formed. Other people who've won several and want to withdraw so others can be nominated.

General comments on incidents when people have wanted to withdraw.

Jeremy: That stands as a precedent for this, and so the motion is calling for a formal recogintion and documentation process for withdrawals.

Julian: Wants to add a codicil, that the rules be developed and presented for decision at the next business meeting.

Jeremy: Accepts wording to that affect as the proposer.

"That the Business Meeting instruct the Standing Committee to develop additions to the Rules, for ratification at the next Business Meeting, which specify the conditions under which Nominations and Awards may be declined and potential nominees may withdraw themselves from consideration, as well as a mechanism for recording such instances and informing the community, including in relation to the Eligibility List."

Moved Jeremy,

Peter: Is there a feeling people should be able to withdraw their nominations?

Jeremy: In discussion on the standing committee, people have suggested it may be appropriate to adopt a Hugo style approach to offer withdrawal at the nomination process before the ballot is produced.

Julian: Nice, but takes more work.

Jeremy: Ongoing issue of the business meeting requiring the standing committee to do more work, but not resourced sufficiently.

Rose: Before standing committee took over, various natcon committees quietly contacted the nominees and asked for permission to accept. Believes this is how it should go to avoid people politicising against the award.

Jeremy: Optimal position to contact nominees. Also want people to opt out permanently or temporarily, and then how to retract the withdrawal if they later choose. Discussion later on other aspects.

Julian: How do you get public debate on this? Not one location.

Peter: Natcon list.

Jeremy: No discussion on the list for 4 or 5 years.

Peter: Eidolist

Jeremy: Gets some discussion, older fans.

Rose: Make a new forum?

Jeremy: Natcon list seems the appropriate place.

Julian: Difficult in advertising the list. People don't know about getting on it.

Jeremy: Press Releases spam most of the lists I'm aware of. Should be on most of the lists, including writers. Is wider distribution required? ASFF?

PRK: Suggested AU podcasts - Writer & Critic, Galactic Suburbia, Galactic Chat, etc.

Rose: Suggests workshop this separately.

Jeremy: WHere are young people these days to reach?

Amee: Supanova. One of the most vibrant and dynamic media fan groups. Facebook & Twitter.

PRK: Supanova audience should be targetted for award nomination / votings, but not cration.

Julian: SHould we vote?

Moved Jeremy, seconded Rose, Carried.



General Business:

Automated Calendar for Committee:

Jeremy: Original suggestion was to set up a google clendar with alerts that remidns the standing committee of things that need to be done on an ongoing basis. Currently a copy of the previous calendar, dates updated, posted on Wiki, manually check it to see what needs to be done. Advantage of auto calendar is noone needs to remember - Google will remind people. Could be established by a non technical person as it's fairly simple.

Julian: Would this tie in with automated notifcations to convention committees?

Julia: It woudl be very helpful, especially when you're prioritising and/or updating todo lists, etc.

Peter: Took calendar and put into personal Google calendar.

Jeremy: Could integrate it in the website, but better to use a third party one which works.

Rose: Surprised we don't have a critical deadline that's handed over each year.

Jeremy: This is a piece of critical infrastructure we're lacking, and needs someone to take it on.

Julia: Could the concoms assist with this? They'll have tech and website people, and should also have a responsiblity to assist with the Natcon.

Jeremy: There's a WA based mailing list for SF Tech, which could be expanded.

PRK: I think that's WASFF / Swancon related. Perhaps look at creating a new one nationally.


Further Automation of Eligibility List:

Jeremy: Ongoing work bounced back and forth between business meeting and standing subcommittee. A bit controversial. Is there a sense that it shouldn't be automated? System exists for randomly worded nominations to match nominations with each other. Allows variations to be presented and tied together by eye. Alternate is the eligibility list Thomas Bull and community maintain could be grabbed and put into dropdown boxes to allow selection from a standard set of wording for each nominaton. Argument against that indicates only things on the eligibilty list are eligible. Proposal of an "Other" that allows any additional nominations to be submitted.

Julia: Given the size of the short story list, it woudl be impossible to find the one you want on the list.

Jeremy: There are widgets that could "fill" matching text as you type. A possibility but doesn't get around the sense that if it's not on the list it's not eligible.

Rose: Believes a human should review it all.

Jeremy: Better to allow free-form nominations?

Rose: Correct title is important. Spelling of names, etc are better human tied together.

Jeremy: A lot of people cut & paste from the eligibility list.

Rose: At the end of the process, a human needs to check.

PRK: If do that, we add a step to the process. Nominations x weeks out to ensure eligibily list is ready for population into drop downs for nominations.

Jeremy: Useful to do anyway. Will add to the calendar.

Peter: Possibly worth putting the whole timeline out.

Jeremy: Feels there isn't a great deal of enthusiasm for it.

PRK: I think we should try it and see what kick back we get.

Jeremy: Requires a fair bit of tech development to be done. Need to find an enthusiastic person to take that on.

Jeremy: Try Julia's suggestion of future con technical people and combine with national SF Tech list.

PRK: Is there any way we can tie in to local con awards, if it makes it easier for concoms to run awards it may get more buy in and resources. Add the state to the eligibility list, and use the infrastructure for state based awards.

Jeremy: Worth considering.


Documenting Processes:

Jeremy: One of the things being handled reasonably well. Each year check the list if the thing is on the list, otherwise add it to build the list of specific tasks that need to be achieved. It's still technical though - to what extent do we need to document this?

Peter: Someone else needs to try and use the documentations to do tasks, and then find out what needs to be added.

Jeremy: Quite a good idea.


Cultural Baggage:

Julian: Should I volunteer to get it started.

Jeremy: Swancon is getting started continuing to populate it. Was it national?

Rose: Yes, Robin Clarke wrote it in a way that transferred to different conventions.

Jeremy: A bunch of Redbook material is on the Wiki, largely by WA fans for Swancon related.

Julian: Publicise that we're updating it.


Pack of nominated works:

Julian: A lot of work.

Jeremy: If we find people to do it, yes, but it's a huge amount of work.

Julian: Including podcasts.

Julia: Everyone can access free podcasts, etc. More important to get works that aren't freely available. Continuum had a link to everything, even if to buy not free.

Jeremy: That was great, who did it?

Julia: Me.

Jeremy: Wnat to do in future?

Julia: Takig time off.

Rose: Do not understand things freely available are in the Hugo Packet.

Jeremy: Convenience.

Rose: It's a waste of bandwidth.

Julia: If you want people to read and vote, you need to make it easier for them. If you see a list and have to hunt for it, it adds barriers.

Jeremy: People try to add links to the wiki. Some value in the con taking the nomination list, but initially wiki should have links to as many people as possible.

Julia: Huge job.

JEremy: A great deal of work.

Julia: Don't need for elegible, but more useful for voting.

Rose: Voter's Packet has been done in the past by Ju for an 200x Swancon. Not sure how successful it was.

Peter: Modify timeline to allow time to contact publisher.

Jeremy: Same could be done for the publisherss.

Julian: Or the authors.

Peter: Particularly if we're contact nominees to confirm them. Ask at the same time.

PRK: Very useful to ask author for contact at publishers for permission.


Recruitment:

Jeremy: We can second people as needed, it's difficult finding appropriate people.

Rose: Easier to recruit people for a specific task. People take it on board as it's definied and finite.

Jeremy: Maybe we put out a press release on the project centric work and ask if people are intersted, please get in touch.



Website:

Jeremy: Do we need a website.

Julia: If you want to reach people, you need a website. Had trouble finding pages on the Wiki.

Amee agreed.

Jeremy: Wiki was a WASFF Project initially, but used by the Standing Committee for

Julian: Lacks intro page.

Julia: Unless have specific link to the nominations or eligibility list, can't find the lists from the front page.

Jeremy: Due to the history, wiki doesn't have specific link to this committee, but used by this committee to store things.

Julian: Tieing back to a national SF Tech group.

Jeremy: Difficult to resource / unable to take on additional responsibilities.

Peter: Would love to do more website work, but depends on schedules.

Julian: SHould PRK look at it?

PRK: Needs to get a priority list to then start picking things off?

Jeremy: Will be sent to Standing Committee list. Risk of it being just a black hole.

Julian: Main issues are around publicising.

Peter: Is a blog not too bad an idea:

Julia: Yes, needed.

Rose: Be willing to take on board publicity. Has the newtork, just needs the material.

Jeremy: Would you be willing to join the list for that?

Rose: Get a bit cranky when things don't move along.

Jeremy: That could be advantageous. Shall we second Rose?

Jeremy moves to second rose. Peter seconded. Carried.


No other business.

Julian thanks the secretary for minutes, and declares the meeting closed at 12pm.

Additional information

  • All positions on the Standing Committee of the Natcon Business Meeting will be up for re-election by the meeting.
  • All bids for the 2016 National Australian Science Fiction Convention should be received by the Business Meeting chair (or, given that a chair has not been appointed prior to the publication of this Agenda, any member of the 2013 Standing Committee) before the start of the meeting, and representatives of the bid should be prepared to address the meeting.