Webmastering the Worldcon, Part 2

Chaz Boston Baden, smofsweb@bostonbaden.com
Rev. 05-Apr-1997

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Basic Services and Philosophy

For L.A.con III, we used several aspects of the Internet. The day of the FTP site, as with the day of the BBS, is in decline (although not gone forever). But that's where the L.A.con III on-line presence started: in a file download directory on Netcom. One directory, a few files, more files as time went by.

Coupled with that was an e-mail server, so that anyone on-line could get information by e-mail; and, in time, a web page, so that anyone on the web could get the files via the world wide web.

This was at the heart of the L.A.con III on-line presence.

Things I Would Do Differently: With L.A.con III, the "file directory" eventually moved to our server, at lacon3.worldcon.org, and I set up a web-based interface. We also had a regular FTP Directory on the same server, but it had only a subset of the regularly-available files. (In particular, it was set up to hold the Hotel Reservation Form.) If I do this again, the FTP directory will have all of the files available by e-mail! It would have taken a little more advance prep work, is all. As Michael T. Pins points out: "for many of us who've been around for years, FTP is still the easiest, and more importantly, fastest, way to get files."

I started with a simply stated goal: that anything and everything the convention chooses to announce, would be available on-line - by e-mail and by other means (i.e. web).

Think about the implications of this for a moment.

Everything. All the Progress Reports, and everything in them. Stuff that missed getting into the PR's, that should have been in them. Stuff that's too specialized to be printed in the PR's. (Dealer room rules, and fire department regulations, and art show instructions for artists.)

Several fans were heard to remark that they always went to the web page for information and didn't read the PR's at all, because the web page had more information. That was easy - because what's in the PR's was always a subset of what's on-line. As soon as each PR came out (in practice, a week after the PR's started showing up in people's mailboxes), I received a plain ascii text version of the PR, and I incorporated all of the info into the web page.

You might say it's all the fault of Brian Lucas.

Brian Lucas, at the University of Manitoba, was in charge of the 1994 Worldcon's Information department. As a side-project of that department, he started the first Worldcon Web Page for ConAdian. He didn't have it as easy as I did - once or twice he had to retype the whole PR to get it on-line.

But what he did is set up the site with different pages for different departments. At the minimum you could select a particular department, and he'd have the articles on that subject that had been printed in the PR's, in reverse order so you'd see the latest information first.

If I were to suggest one thing to the webmaster for a Worldcon - or any convention - it would be this.

Arrange your site so that the user can find what they need to know, by topic.
I agree that having the PR's on-line is important. But it's more important to have the subjects indexed for ease of use. That's why on the L.A.con III site, each PR was just a plain ascii text file. I didn't convert the PR to HTML - that would have been precious time wasted. Instead I took each article in the PR, and converted that to HTML, and placed it in its proper place.

If you do that, and do that for everything that comes your way, you will have a useful web site.

More about e-mail and files in the next chapter....

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