2nd Minicon 5-year Not-a-plan

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A possibly useful set of information for Minicons 51-55, approved on or about XX XXX 2014 by:

  • No one yet, because this is a draft, but hopefully eventually the Minn-stf board, the Minicon 50 chairs and the Minicon 51 chair(s). Matt Strait is writing this, and currently it should be considered only his own opinions and not anything resembling an official statement from anyone.

Preamble

Because we are not very good at keeping records (although we're doing better), and also not very good at remembering which records we've kept, this document is not intended to be official policy, nor is it to be considered a good place to store information that absolutely needs to be known by some particular person. Nevertheless, by writing it, we hope to have organized our thoughts and created a situation where a group of people involved in Minicon all agreed on a bunch of statements at the same time. If other people read it and refer to it often, great. This document is a follow-up on the Minicon 5-year Not-a-plan, covering Minicons 46-50.

A mission statement of sorts

Minicon is an ever-changing thing, but let's say what we think Minicon is now and what we would like it to be for the next 5 years. Elaboration on these ideas occurs below.

  • Minicon is a general purpose science fiction convention that focuses on better-than-average food and pretty good diverse programming. Our core fandom is written-word SF, but we also welcome people with an interest in related genres — including fantasy, horror, and other types of speculative fiction — and media, including films, television, audio productions, etc. We welcome all forms of fannish interests and activities, including, but not limited to, gaming, non-fictional science, costuming, partying and music, from all sorts of people.

We would like to encourage Minicon's long trend of slow growth. We do not want Minicon to be bigger because we think bigger conventions are inherently better or to boost our egos, but because we think our community is worth sharing with more people, and because we benefit from economies of scale. Since Minicon has a large and stable core membership, we must weigh the interests of who is already attending strongly while also not stagnating. The key to doing this is to build on interests already present in our membership.

Long-standing Minicon policies

Minicon has no standing policies because each Minicon is independently organized under the auspices of Minn-stf and can do almost anything it likes, with only a very few restrictions given in the Mnstf bylaws. However, there are a few policies that have been adopted by all recent Minicons that would be very good for future Minicons to adopt. Here they are:

  • Everyone who attends Minicon pays for their membership, with the exception of current and former guests of honor (see below) and current honored guests. This includes the committee and the chairs. Case by case exceptions to this can be sparingly made. For instance, at Minicon 43, we comped two reporters who were there to follow Lois Bujold around. But we do *not* ever comp people for providing any sort of entertainment or education.
  • Former Minicon guests of honor get a free membership. This applies only to people who were labeled "guest of honor" or (for historical reasons) "toastmaster", but not "honored guest". A few times we've had group GoHs, such as The Bigg House. As a special case, these people do not have lifetime memberships.
  • We don't refund memberships for volunteer hours, however we may offer small non-monetary perks for volunteers.
  • We do not offer a la carte memberships, such as a "gaming badge". (Our goal is to build our community, not to provide space for unrelated communities and then enforce their separation.)

Minicon financials

Minicon is a fundraiser for MNstf. Minn-stf's yearly operating budget is dominated by meeting stipends and the cost of our storage locker.

To be written

Minicon positions

What do we know about people's commitment to staff various Minicon positions in the next 5 years? This list does not attempt to cover every single task that is done in the running of Minicon, but rather to hit the large and medium-large positions.

To be researched and written

Appendix: Stability of Minicon membership.

Basic analysis

These numbers come from analyzing the registration database for M43-M48. If there are no large shifts in culture, we can expect each Minicon to consist of:

People who will come the next year too: 65%, broken down into:

  • Hard core of long-time consistent members: 40%
  • Non-new people who aren't yet clearly hard core: 15%
  • First time members: 10%

People who won't come back the next year, 30%, broken down into:

  • First timers: 15%
  • People who have come more than once: 15%

And:

  • Occasional/returning members: 5%

Cutting the data up in a few more ways:

  • The overwhelming pattern is for people to come consistently for a long string of years, missing only one here and there. One sees people who have come throughout our recorded period, those who started coming and kept at it, and those who used to come and stopped abruptly.
  • People who miss more than one year in a row tend not to come back at all. Only 21 people out of a possible 709 have done this: 3%. Another few percent are the occasional members who have a long history with us but miss many years.
  • 25% of our members each year are there for the first time. Of these, 40% of come back.
  • Of the people who aren't one-timers, 15% stop coming each year.

Interpretation and Recommendations

Minicon is emphatically *not* made out of a different random group of people each year. Two out of three people at Minicon have been coming and will come again. We should weight their preferences accordingly. While it's find to design some fraction of our activities around what we think the 25% of first-time members might like, not much is going to hold up without significant existing interest from the other 75%.

Of the 15% of non-first time members who stop coming, I think it's safe to chalk a good portion of this up to moves, deaths, and non-fannish children who stop coming when they can make their own decisions. How much "a good portion" is, though, I don't know. The rest presumably leave because Minicon has ceased to be interesting or enjoyable to them. If there were some way to figure out the details of this, it would be of significant interest.

Less than half of first-timers ever come back. I don't think we should see this as a problem. Fandom isn't for everyone, and Minicon isn't either, even for people who are aligned with fandom. Some fraction (but it's very difficult to say what fraction) of these people are coming to see this year's GoH and have no interest in Minicon, or even perhaps fandom. We should of course be welcoming, but an expectation that everyone who comes once will be hooked is unrealistic.