While you were comfortably relaxing in your home over the weekend, a group of Tumblr bloggers tried to hold a convention. The result was DashCon, one of the most glorious shitshows to ever amuse bored Internet users.
Why the fuck do I care about anything that happens on Tumblr What is DashCon you probably asked yourself, noticing the hashtags that popped up on social media over the weekend. In short, DashCon — held in Schaumburg, Illinois — was a convention put on by Tumblr users that attempted to be an assemblage of various fandoms from the social networking site. The planners started working on DashCon in 2013, using Indie GoGo to raise money. DashCon tickets were offered pre-sale for $65, with weekend passes at the door advertised at $80. In addition, tickets were available to some panels at an additional fee. Via DashCon's website:
DashCon aims to be the largest gathering of Tumblr users to date, concentrating on the particulars of this stand out social media site. DashCon will be a place where Tumblr users can express common site wide interests, in both fashion, art, science, and in the world of geekery. Specifically, the side of Tumblr we have garnered interest from has been the geekery side. This side comprises mostly of people who religiously follow various television shows, movie series, and book series. Notable groups within this 'geekery' side would be those who follow BBC's Sherlock, CWs Supernatural, and JK Rowling's Harry Potter. In addition to bringing together these groups, we are also very interested in promoting and helping with two common issues found within Tumblr users, mainly, depression and anxiety. We wish to provide informational programming about healthy ways to deal with these conditions
That all sounds really noble and fun. But planning a major convention that involves gathering thousands of people from all over the country requires a lot more skill and finesse than reblogging a couple of gifs of Tom Hiddleston. It's important to note that this was not an official Tumblr convention sanctioned by the social media site. Organizers were reportedly prohibited from using the name "Tumblr" in any planning and promotional materials. ("DashCon" was named for the "dashboard" Tumblr users are greeted with when they use the site.)
Here's a roundup of some of the panels that were planned:
- Shipping 101: OTP? BroTP? NOTP? OT3? Your basics...and not so basics on all things shipping! 18+
- Can You Knot: Exploring the Omegaverse (18+): A growing subset within fandoms! Topics such as gender roles, gendered language, and the six gender system will be discussed among many other topics.
- British Men with...CHEEKBONES: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, David Tennant...we all know how addicted you are to those faces and those impeccable cheekbones. Fangirl with others over how much you can't live without those, and others, beautiful faces.
- BDSM 101: A panel to discuss the truth of BDSM and to clear up the misconceptions set forth by popular fiction and a fear of the unknown. 18+
- Hetalia Jeopardy: The infamous game show but with Hetalia! The show, characters, the history, and everything else you can think of! Prizes will be given.
- Sherlock Fandom: We Did WHAT?: A glimpse into the craziness that has always embodied the Sherlockians, whether you were forcing ACD to resurrect your hero, or drawing John having intimate relations with a tuna in a scarf. A no holds barred panel, be prepared for anything and everything. 18+
Things started to go wrong almost immediately. Convention goers reported a myriad of problems as DashCon kicked off. (This post from Tumblr user Augustine Sycamore sums up the biggest issues during the planning and execution.) Attendance was low. People couldn't get WIFI at the hotel. Early reports surfaced that young teens were allowed into 18-and-up only panels (this was disputed by panel moderators and people at the convention). The game room had one console and television.
But so what—you're here to cosplay and meet up with some other like-minded Tumblr users and discuss issues that are near and dear to your heart, not lounge in some swanky hall. It's no big deal that you don't have money to quite pull off the original event you envisioned. At least not until people and businesses remind you that you cannot pay for their services and time with your feels.
Rumors swirled that the venue (the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel) and planners were clashing over unpaid fees. In a since deleted post, DashCon planners began asking for donations via their website, telling readers the event would be cancelled if they didn't raise $17,000.
Hello dashcon please help! The upper management of the hotel is threatening to shut down dashcon, unless we give them $17,000 by 10 p.m. Central Time tonight. Please go to DashCon.org and click the Donate button and give her anything you can. Unless we get this by tonight everything is cancelled. We suspect it's due to the fact that upper management doesn't like the people at the con. Please please donate what you can!!! Thank you, we have an hour!
A video posted to YouTube shows event organizers asking for donations:
To protest the threat of being kicked out, people were reportedly singing "Do You Hear the People Sing" from Les Miserables and holding up the three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games. Tumblr user ChiaThingy provided excellent play-by-play for much of the action:
18. Quotes of the night,
"I just don't know how this could happen."
"I hate the staff, hoW COULD THEY DO THIS TO US."
"I'm not crying, I was JUST IN THE POOL."
19. Evidently staff is used to people attending for MODEL TRAIN CONVENTIONS? holy shit nothing can prepare you for this oh my god.
20. LMFAO PEOPLE'S MOMS ARE CALLING THE HOTEL TO DEMAND INFORMATION oh my god
21. Various fandoms called upon and cheers result.
22. Carry on my wayward son is played, massive sing along occurs. Mockingjay sign again. Now we're singing les mis?
26. jfc people saying "TWEET MISHA" "tweet john green." "tweet mark ruffalo." pls no tumblr what are you doing
Tweet. Mark. Ruffalo.
But the worst sign of impending doom was when guests from Welcome to Night Vale, a popular podcast (and probably the convention's biggest draw), dropped out of the convention and publicly explained why:
We tried very hard to make this happen. We took a full break in the middle of our July tour to attend this small fan-based event. We paid for our own hotel and plane fare, and were very excited to be part of this intimate fan gathering. But after a morning of discussion, organizers were unable to pay for the costs of travel and performing.
The Baker Street Babes, a feminist Sherlock Holmes fan site, were extremely vocal about how uncomfortable they were with the donation plea and the fact that they had not gotten paid yet for their attendance. (They have since updated their original post to indicate planners are now working with them to sort out payment. However, after that, another update from them indicated they were not getting reimbursed.)
The fundraising effort generated a lot of controversy (which has not shown any signs of dying down) and this moment when word broke that they had supposedly raised enough money to stay and attendees started singing "We Are The Champions." I could not make this up if I tried:
So what to do about guests who paid extra for access to panels that no longer existed? They were offered an extra hour in the ball pit. For reference, this was the ball pit:
That is not a joke or a phony picture cooked up by 4Chan to make the event look bad. This is actually what was at the convention. (There was a bouncy house, too.) A lot of people were pretty pissed or disappointed about the experience, and soon blog posts began cropping up detailing what was going on.
Tumblr and Twitter users wasted no time in thoughtfully contemplating the deeper societal issues surrounding the problematic issues at Dashcon. Just kidding; they made a lot of jokes and memes about it:
Has Israel tried ending the conflict by offering palestinians an extra hour in the ballpit? #dashcon
— Aaron Cooper (@ayayroncooper) July 14, 2014
— #ISurvivedDashCon (@rareunearthly) July 12, 2014
"Getting an Extra Hour in the Ball Pit" is officially the new doge, in case you were wondering.
There were some bright spots. Doug Jones, an actor from the Hellboy franchise and Pan's Labyrinth showed up for a meet and greet. Event planners offered an explanation about the debacle with the hotel and say they do plan to start paying people back who donated via Paypal over the weekend. As several people have pointed out, events like this require a lot of word of mouth and usually a few years to build up enough interest to make it profitable enough to stage at a major venue. Without the promotional powers of Tumblr or a similar sponsor, it's hard to make something of this size and scope work. This may be a case of young and/or naive people who have probably attended a lot of conventions thinking it looked easy to do. But even the most seasoned event planners require years of training and experience to be able to pull off successful conventions without having a nervous breakdown. It's easy to blow it off as one big joke, but there were people who paid a lot of money to come to this convention (including tickets, accommodations, travel, etc). Hopefully, everyone involved in planning events like this learns a lesson from what happened at DashCon, so people who actually care and want to support it aren't screwed over and disappointed.
Next time, maybe just try tweeting Mark Ruffalo.
Images via Tumblr.