Minutes of ICSF Committee Meeting, 15/02/05

Present: Present: Kath (Chair of Vice), Ben (Fanzine/Wyrm Ed), Malc (Treasurer), Alex (Sec), Ian, Tim, Cristina, Baz, Karne, Tiny Tom & Nell
Apologies: Simon (SAC meeting), Ali (delayed in labs)

Meeting opens: 1841

Treasurer's Report

Profits and Losses form was given out as a handout.
Copies still available for those who desire them; financial records also available online.
Net profit for the year ~£430
In past years our total income after VAT has been about -£50. We're not doing too badly.
9 new members signed up at Picocon.
79 total ICU members.

Picocon expenditures: £35 on DoDM - maybe a bit much, but it led to lots of donations to RAG
We should try to keep to £15-£20 next year, plus whatever members wish to donate.
Carparking ended up being more expensive than it needed to be as it was only arranged on the day.
Slightly lower Picocon turnout than last year, but the lack of a film balances costs.
We normally aim for 150 attendees, and normally get 120. This year we had 105, not including committee.

Is there a line on the sheet for 'budget available'? Yes, but the amount of that that will be released is dependent on our number of members.
Only 76% of budget has actually been released yet, so we may lose £20 from refundables at the end of the year.
We currently have approximately £1,250 in refundables.
How much do we want to spend? Consider that last year we spent A LOT.
This year we started with £300 in refundables, and that was cutting it quite fine. Had we had any financial crises, we could have ended up in big trouble.
Malcolm suggests that we spend some money, but also attempt to leave ~£500 in refundables for year end.
Quite probable that ~£200 has already been spent on things that haven't yet been processed through the budget, so we may only have another £500 to spend before year end.
What's the thing about the Union's 5 year plan for budgets? Doesn't seem to be in place yet, so we don't need to worry.

Enter Mouse 1847.

Financial plan for the rest of the year - aim to keep £500 in refundables, and make a small profit overall this year.
Last year we may have spent a bit much.

Picocon, then

Enter Ali, 1850

Ah, just the man we were waiting for.
There's an email from Lorna that covers a lot of the points, so let's work through that:

Communication and Planning

Preparation on the day was a bit chaotic.
Programme should have been printed the day before, at least.
Signs needed to have been done earlier.
Email should have been done earlier, but at least it was done at all, which is better than some years.
Harvest email addresses from registration forms for next year's email list.
Better representation needed at things like Ton meets, BSFA.
Coincide a barnight with the Ton?
Proofread the programme, flyers, etc better. Don't mis-spell authors' names!!

Enter Simon, 1853
Simon needs to kill David Michaelis because he's evil and he should die.
He cannot add two vectors and he's supposedly been doing it for two years.

There *was* web information, but it was quite late going up.
We need to sort out at least a provisional timetable by Christmas next year, and a completed timetable at least a month in advance.
A lot of things we *did* start early, but couldn't do until near the time because we didn't have enough info.
Website now has Picocon general details, rather than sparse Picocon 23 page. - Good idea.
Otherwise we have a near-blank website half the year.
Any idea of hit count on the site? Not really.
Any idea of the breakdown of attendees? Could be done.
More use of committee list, IRC for planning? Not that many people use IRC. Maybe we should.
Old generation seem to use different methods of communication.
Use committee list, it's the best overlap and the first line of communication.


Power in dB's was the Union's fault. However, we should have had a plan B.
We need to make a note of what was done so that we can fix it next year if possible.
Put instructions on the Wiki?
dB's wasn't a perfect venue. Rather too dark, and it was bloody COLD!
Hopefully next year we'll get the rooms we want.
We're apparently on CHUG [Concert Hall Users Group] for next year, but we need to decide when we need it.
It was easier to get computers into dB's than upstairs.
ABout the cold: apparently aircon was on full blast. Could theoretically be warmer next time round.
Try to sort that out for next year if we want to use it again.
It isn't a bad place - lots of small tables, and a big room.
Doors were an issue. They needed to be propped open better, and ended up being a bottleneck a lot of the time.
The main desk was between the two doors. This restricted access to the second door.
It's not really possible to move it though, as that'd be blocking more exits.
Could we use a smaller table? Not remotely feasible. We need at least that much space for stuff.
Could we have the main desk outside? Not unless we produce Picocon duffel coats instead of t-shirts.
Picocon t-shirts would have been good. People asked at BSFA about them - could have made some money.
Ali to prod Smithers over the summer. Or maybe find an artist less perpetually busy.
Ask lots of people, get lots of designs, use the ones we like!
But we don't have many artists.
Anyone still in touch with Alia? Baz is. But we can't really keep relying only on her.
Maybe we'll get an arty fresher next year.
Put out an appeal to the main list too; it may be that some members we don't know are artistic.
If we get excess artwork we can use it for the Fanzine too.

Organisation on the Day

Lorna suggests Picocon chair should stay by front desk. This seems a little unfair and impractical.
Ali was sufficiently in contact, and other people were around.
There seemed to be committee on hand whenever and wherever they were needed.
The plan certainly was to have Ali or Simon at or near the front desk at all times.
Apart from at setup, finding them didn't seem to be an issue. They were running around at first, but then things calmed down.
Maybe make the committee more visible - big coloured stickers, or ICSF t-shirts next year.
Also next year, try to keep the Illuminati to committee and approved helpers only. This year we had too many cooks.
Front desk was chaotic at times, but there's not a lot we could have done about it.
People arrived in groups, there's no easy way to get around that.
The problem comes when people want to be in talks, panel games, etc, and it's hard to get desk staff.
Could we close the desk earlier then to let people go to those?
Well, the last person to sign in was about 15.00 - and the desk didn't close until 17.00 - could have closed 2 hours earlier.
But it's an information desk as well as a sign-in desk. As such it needs to be open all the time.
On the subject of the front desk, we should have had a float - needed more change.
Anything physical needs to exist a week before next year.
We're not going to take chances again.
Allows for proofreading as well.
Wyrmtongue to go out to members AT LEAST a week beforehand, more would be better.

Rooms, and the fishfight (in a seamless transition, no less)

dB's wasn't too bad; if only we could have sorted out the heating and light.
What about the other rooms?
The gym wasn't used, except that people were crashing around in there, which was slightly disruptive to talks.
How did the dining hall work? It looks good, works well for talks. Closer than concert hall, less intimidating.
Last year we had videos in the gym, Alia's artwork, human curling.
Move the fish duel up into the gym next year? Probably not. The mess and the smell would be prohibitive.
There still will be "not a fish duel" next year.
Will we require the Cambridge champion to be a current student? Maybe.
What are we going to do about our champion?
Begin training the champion earlier next year.
Alex has tweed jackets, he could be his/her watcher.
Final thoughts on the fish fight? We didn't win, but we scored a moral victory.


Not the biggest names in the world, but not bad.
Ali intends to start inviting for next year now. Only invite three at a time, though.
Jones, Grimwood spoke well; Stableford waffled a little. Interesting talk, but a bit dry.
Should maybe have had a stricter time limit.
Authors' minders who aren't Kath really ought to turn up on time.
Jake came up with good questions, helped drive his talk along.
Panel needs to have a topic. There were some questions, but it diverged a lot.
We didn't really know what we wanted from the panel.
Did we want questions from the audience, or authors talking amongst themselves?
Questions went to the list, but may have been too broad to get many responses.
Flat questions don't tend to work.

Other points of organisation

The silly games went very well. Many thanks to Dave for running them again.
The two kids running around weren't a real problem and added to the atmosphere.
Never let it be said that we're not a family friendly con, Barney's death notwithstanding.
One of the Mornington Crescent players didn't know the rules! Ergo, next year we need to skew the team selection a little.
Maybe pick from committee members, although, granted, not all of us are great at extemporaneous speaking.
Next year, we'll pick one from each house ahead of time, and three volunteers on the day.
Take them aside and explain to them the format of the Silly Games hour and the rules of specific games if required.
Does this break Mornington Crescent? Isn't the point that people are meant to be slightly confused?
It's not too bad for everyone, the teams will play along and the joke will be on the crowd.
Alcohol for the Mornington Crescent teams next year would produce more random results.
In the interest of getting interesting and witty people, we could have game teams not from the con Teams.

And talking of teams, do we want to continue Teams next year?
Last year it was a great success.
This year it wasn't as visible to people as they came in.
Not everyone was told what was going on when they came in.
Desk staff physically COULDN'T stop and talk to everyone.
In some ways it's good to have committee independent of teams, but last year we were the ones who kickstarted it.
We could make everyone be in a team, but make committee badges a little different and visible.
Eg team badges as normal, but coloured to show committee status.
Or strip the Illuminati down to a very select group, eg Chair, Vice Chair, Picocon Sofa.
Also, next year, we should ask someone to be in charge of running the wide game. Suggesting games, awarding points, etc.
Hats are better than mascots. They're easier to steal.
We need more planning for teams and hats next year.

The quiz worked well with a lot of short rounds.
The picture round worked especially well.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions - lots of questions left for next year.
Try themed questions rather than series questions.
Quizmaster should collect questions then organise them as he/she sees fit.
Teams need more stuff to do.
Finding things was done quite well.
However, poker chips work maybe better than origami.
Spontaneous events are great! Last year we had the cracker eating.
Team organiser person needs to issue arbitrary challenges throughout the day, to whomever he can find.

Timing? The start time seemed okay.
Lorna says it should have gone on longer at the end, but what more could we really have done?
The LAN was still going. Karne had to throw people off at the end.
Maybe a longer lunch? DoDM sort of ate into it.
With access to the Union's PA system we could announce the start of things better and tighten up the timing.
Or just get Steve to bellow.
Steve to be ICSF's official toastmaster.

Lorna's final complaint is that she says she's been to the same con 5 times.
We do things that've been popular in the past - what else should we do?
Could run a game of Killer during the con.
Talk to other people who run cons for ideas.

For next year.

Invest in a wallplanner, put important dates on it - BSFA dates, Tons, deadlines, etc so that we can work better toward them.
*Simon says nothing*
A leaflet that would be useful for next year is directions to cash machines.
Ali is not doing this [being Picocon Sofa] again next year.
Ali plans to try to land at least one big name author before the end of the year.
Get suggestions to him, he'll do the running around bits.
Stephen Baxter? May not be terribly happy after the confusion this time round.
Only 2 1/2 weeks to AGM. Thereafter Ali and new Sofa can collaborate on whom to invite. No need to rush it.
We don't know who that's going to be yet. Ben is willing to stand for Sofa, but would want help.
Picocon Sofa is carefully so named. Don't be afraid to ask for help. In the past we've had a Picocon subcommittee.
Eemeli may be back next year, we can ask him for ideas.
Baz isn't relevant. (There was a reason for this, it wasn't just random insulting)
Simon isn't running for any committee positions - well, maybe Dalek racing officer.
Congrats to Cristina and Tim for Dalek facelifts.

Oh, how did the filming go?
Well, they got most of the events. Didn't hang around for the quiz.
They've said they might have their first showing at Picocon next year.
During silly games they interviewed the authors in the library.
That went well, except that one of Gwyneth Jones' books fell on her head.
The film crew may want to come by the library somewhen, to talk to people about their reactions; contact will be through Ali.
Any major issues? Not really. Only three or four people didn't want to be filmed.
One camera was in the talks, one was roaming.
We should watch the tape before we show it at Picocon 23.
Does the library have a copy of Evil Overlord yet? No. Baz to get on it.
Are there any plans for Evil Overlord 2? The script exists. And there's a big sheep in it, apparently.

Any suggestions for next year?

Tighter timing, if we can.
Ali to collaborate with the new Sofa about what reasonable deadlines are.
Put stuff on the Wiki - it needs information and it'll help future committees.
When writing Wiki pages, be copious with links (within reason, thankyou Baz)
Have a play with it and work out how it works. It's fairly robust and you're unlikely to break it.

Whom would we like as GoH next year?
Tom Holt? Lives in Surrey, British, famous, funny.
Charlie Stross? Will bring in the oldies.
Robert Rankin? Mad old man.
We need a good spread of authors - a 'classic', an 'upcoming', and a 'popular'.
We also don't want three super-famous acts - we'd all explode.
Corollary - make sure we invite people who don't hate each other.
Offer big names their first choice of any weekend in Feb.
And then as soon there is a date, get it straight in to Ansible.
Try not to clash with things like Eastercon.
We've also lost people when we've clashed with Filk Cons apparently.
But... filkers... are they really the sort of people we're sad to miss?
Alex McLintock thought that either Kath or Cristina was Ali. Not sure why this is a relevant point - Sec
When choosing authors, please let's try not to have their works ripped apart in the library first.
On the subject of which, apparently Gwyneth Jones wanted a body. Alive or dead, animal or human? Nobody knows...


Ben has been promised submissions.
As there have been no Wyrms, old subs for that can be used.
Send emails to the list asking for more stuff.
People were stressed about Picocon before, so send requests now.
If you leave it too late, people will be stressed about exams.
Lorna is a very reliable writer, and can write stuff at fairly short notice if you ask nicely.


Some redesigning may be at hand - what would people want changed/added?
Collate social/library? Really not feasible. Too many pages. Better front page, with more links to pertinent things.
Calendar and events more prominent
A counter? 7 years ago Sabbs said 'no'; things should have changed so that may now be possible.
IRC java client needs tweaking and tidying up.
Emails to go out asking for recommendations for fixing/changes.
Bits that have been added, eg PHP news board, to be better integrated into the site as a whole.

Do things that are there now get used?
Do people have bios? (Everyone does)
Do people have pictures? (Tim and Cristina don't)
If people want new pictures, email Mouse
Photos of events can, and should, be uploaded to galleries online.
Can we have a Picocon photographer? Steve (Jolly)? Or Scots Dave?
They don't need to be works of art, just so we have something to show.


Hail Simon, DPC&S elect.
We are grateful to Mital for turning up with the fish key.
Apparently there were three Mitals on the LAN.

Any Other Serious Business?

Appreciation to Ian who drove all round London the night before.
It was a glorious adventure.

Meeting closed: 2006