Bibliophile Lass (bibliogirl) wrote,
Bibliophile Lass

A letter to the organisers of GenCon UK

Hi folks,

I've just been to the GenConUK site with the intention of registering for the convention - a necessity, since I'm running an event there - and have a few issues I would like to raise.

1) Online registration

I would like to take my hat off to the genius who decided that registering online would be best achieved by having a ZIP file which should be downloaded from the Web site. Most people are (justifiably) twitchy about downloading executable files from the Internet, especially files which are not signed by their creators. In many companies, it is a disciplinary offence to install unauthorised software on your computer; you have therefore removed the possibility for employees of such companies to book for the convention from work. (One might raise the question of whether they should be doing so during work hours anyhow, to which I reply "lunchtime".)

I cannot fathom why a simple, browser-based solution, such as was used for GenCon US last year, was not considered appropriate. While I realise that a different team was running that event, this is by no means rocket science; a browser-based form, probably with a database at its back end (so that events could be updated more easily), and with a secured area for credit card details. There are many GenConUK attendees who could have produced you such a system (myself and my co-writers among them).

2) Forms

So, let us move to the possibility of registering via a form, rather than online. Less convenient, but also less intrusive to one's computer (and potentially less dangerous to one's job). I note that the last date for acceptance of forms is March 7th; Friday week. Quite soon, really, and six weeks before the convention starts. Has this been publicised _anywhere_ other than on the convention site? Has anyone studied the usual booking patterns for GenCon UK? (Especially given that the convention itself is taking place several months earlier than usual.)

2a) PDF form

I wondered initially if this item had been mislabelled, since it appeared not to be a form, but an event schedule. I still cannot find an actual form within the PDF to book the events - an event listing, yes, but no actual form. The PDF itself fails to display correctly in both versions of Acrobat available to me (3.0 and 5.0); many of the the 'first occurrences' of multiple-run events shows up as a red box with no text.

All of the short-form dates within it have been written in US notation (e.g. 4/19/03) despite this purporting to be a European event.

2b) Text form

This actually does appear to be a registration form - hurrah! It says at the top that it will be accepted until March 21st, though, which contradicts the information on the main site (that the forms can only be accepted until March 7th, as noted above).

No listing of events is provided, which is acceptable until you consider that this means downloading the PDF discussed above. Since you offer the text-only form as an alternative for those on slow connections, would it not also have been sensible to provide them an alternative method of getting event listings? Such as, for example, a set of web pages listing events by date, or type?

The payment options available on this form are also very strange. Credit card details are reasonable enough (though it would have been a good idea to suggest to people that emailing their credit card details to you in cleartext is a bad idea).

Cheques: firstly, what is an 'NSF' cheque? Secondly, why is it necessary for people to mail cheques to a US address for an event which is taking place in the UK? I find this unreasonable, especially given your deadlines for registration. It is also not stated whether registration forms must be _posted_ by March 7th or _received_ by March 7th - the latter, if true, would mean that the deadline was probably tomorrow or thereabouts.

I'm considering suggesting to my co-writers that we should scale back our events, because frankly you've put so many hurdles in the way of people trying to book for GenCon UK - and therefore wanting to give you money! - that I would expect attendance to be significantly lower this year.

I look forward to receiving your comments.


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