Category Archives: Behind the scenes

What’s going on “backstage” at Fanboy’s Convention List?

Some Tips for Webmasters

I’ve been sick for the past week, which means that in between naps (and other, less savory aspects of the flu) I’ve been able to dedicate some time to catching up on my data entry. (An important tip: make sure your freezer is full before you get sick. Preferably with a variety – I am so tired of chicken.)

As always, I was quite impressed by the number and variety of events out there. A con chair who’s been running the same con with the same programming year after year could do many worse things than to dig around on some other con’s sites looking for ideas. (Along with the voice actors, did you know anime cons will frequently book a show’s director? Would that appeal to your attendees? I saw Harve Bennett at Farpoint [SF/Media] a few years ago and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after his story about Ingrid Bergman.)

What also surprised me though was the number of events where the web site is either missing basic information, or else makes it hard to find. Consider these bloopers:

  • One convention prominently announces their 2009 dates on the home page. Updates dated 2009 list new guests. And as of July of 2009, the artwork in all the page banners still refers to the 2008 event. So is the con defunct? Or is the web site just out of date?
  • This one happens way too often: The home page announces the upcoming event’s guests, location, and everything you could possibly want to know except the dates. Sometimes they’re buried five clicks deep on the site, but if you want potential attendees to work that hard to find your dates, you’d better have something they really desperately want to see.
  • A similar problem: “Well, we know where we’re located.” A convention will list their venue as something such as “The Airport Marriott” and neglect to mention what particular town that would be in. (Lots of airports have a Marriott.) Sometimes you can get this information by visiting the hotel page and clicking the link to the hotel’s web site, but often that link is missing too.
  • One big blooper: throwing away your Google hits. Just this morning, I found a con where they had done something very right. They had tons of big name guests, all in their core genre; they were listed prominently in a very selective, well-respected convention list (Mine is no where near as high-profile); and the web site is simply exquisite. Unfortunately, all of the site content lives in image files. Google can’t read image files and since they didn’t include any alternate text, Google won’t return any search results for their guests. An opportunity squandered. (As a side note, for US-based conventions, this also opens you up to possible litigation since people with visual disabilities won’t be able to read your site, even with the appropriate assistive technologies.)

Amusing Irony

I’m somewhat amused by this: One area con has an ad on their home page, advertising one of my competitors. The ad isn’t served up dynamically, and I have no reason to believe it’s a paid ad. (To be fair, the competitor’s site is a darn site prettier than mine and has content beyond the list of events.)

Not knowing the thought process involved, I won’t debate the wisdom of using your home page to serve up an ad that’s going to take people to another site.

But I can’t help thinking, if Convention X is going to put a link to a convention list on their home page (potentially sending people to other conventions), wouldn’t it make sense to link to a convention list that actually includes Convention X?

So what can you do if your favorite convention doesn’t appear on my list? Tell me the event details and there’s a good chance I’ll add it. (I’m rather pleased by my site’s reputation for listing smaller, local events in addition to the bigger name cons that everyone already knows about it. I’ll probably draw the line at My Little Pony events, though to be fair, I do list G.I. Joe cons, so you never know…)

And what if your event is already listed but some of the details have changed or incorrect? (The latter of course, that never happens. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) Drop me a line with the details of what’s changed and I’ll update it.

That way, maybe some of the traffic your site sends away will come back. 🙂

What Happened to the Ads?

You may have noticed that Google ads have been disappearing from my site. I took them out of the convention list pages about a week ago, and removed them from the blog just a few minutes ago.

I’ve had Google ads on the site for the past five years. The initial intent was mainly so I could look at the ad statistics and find out how many people were viewing the site (with JavaScript turned on) as opposed to the various bots which just scrape the pages. There was also a fantasy that perhaps I’d generate enough ad revenue that the site would pay for itself.

The ad revenue never really amounted to much of anything and although some of the ads were relevant, an awful lot of them weren’t. Most people visiting the site were looking for things related to various fandoms, a lot of the ads were for hotels and convention centers, not necessarily in the same cities as the conventions. And then there were the rather “spammy” ads for alleged weight loss programs.

The final straw came a couple weeks ago. Google announced that they were changing the way the ads worked. Instead of just making them (allegedly) relevant to the page content, they were going to track the sites you visited and base the ads on the type of sites you visited.

OK, sure, that way the ads are more interesting to you, and perhaps you’re more likely to click them that way. But having a company track my movements for marketing purposes just feels icky. And to make it worse, not only did you have to explicitly opt out, but Google made it the content owner’s responsibility to notify you (via a privacy property you’d probably never look for) of Google’s actions.

So, I’m removing the ads. I do feel that content owners deserve to be compensated for their work, but I think Google crossed a line.

New and Updated

Emerald City ComiCon
CHS Otaku Fest
Supanova Pop Culture Expo
Realms Con
East Coast Black Age of Comics Con
Context 22
Florida Extravaganza
Infinite Bits
Bubonicon 41
Ohio Science Fiction Film Marathon
Sci Fi Shows — London Expo
Dark X-Mas
Technicon 26
Aftershock 2009.2- Chain Reaction
Hub Productions
Otaku Omaha
ConCom Con 16
Anime Next
HorrorHound Weekend
Northeast Filk Convention – ConCertino
Midwestcon 60
Trek Fest
North Carolina Gaming Con

Free Stuff!

Offer ended for now.

This could probably be interpreted as a cheap tactic to draw your attention to the blog portion of the site and that’s not an interpretation I’ll fight all that strenuously. But the main reason for the banner ad and this post is that I’m working on getting rid of some clutter and some of the stuff I no longer want/need might be something other fen would enjoy having.

Just to be clear, what I’m talking about here is mainly some movie posters and some fannish bumper stickers, maybe a few books. The Dax action figured that was autographed by Terry Farrell is staying with me. (I didn’t get to keep Terry Farrell herself, but I’ll at least hold on to the action figure.)

So how does this work?

Essentially, it’s going to be something of a grab bag. Drop me a line with your name and mailing address (sorry, it has to be either US or an APO/FPO) and I’ll send you a bumper sticker, poster, or whatnot. (Sorry, I can’t be more specific or handle special requests.)

Privacy stuff

I’ll send you an item and that’s it! Unless you write back and strike up a conversation, that’ll be the end of it. I won’t be adding you to any mailing lists and certainly won’t be giving/selling your information to any third parties. (Obviously if I’m required to divulge your information to law enforcement, I’ll have to. So please don’t be that sort of person, OK?)

Other stuff

Please, just one request per household, the offer ends when I decide it’s costing me too much in postage, when I run out of stuff I want to get rid of, or when I otherwise decide to end it. You understand.

Fine Print

Offer void where prohibited. Professional driver on a closed course, do not attempt these maneuvers. Dramatization. Professional assembly recommended. Some cars not for use with all sets.


You’ve perhaps noticed that the June update hasn’t happened quite yet. I’d like to apologize for the delay. It’s nothing sinister and certainly not an indication that I’m retiring (not this week anyhow).

I’m in the midst of a home improvement project and it’s taking a little longer than expected to get everything put back together. One of the impacts of this delay is that the computer I use to maintain the convention list is still sitting in my basement, blocked from access by a stack of furniture.

I’m hoping to have the computer back together sometime in the next week at which point I’ll update the list and add the latest updates. In the meantime, I’d like to invite you to join the Conventioning Community. “Conventioning” is a word I’ve coined to encapsulate the various activities surrounding convention — attending conventions, organizing conventions, or even compiling lists of conventions. 🙂

The Conventioning community can be found online at It’s an experiment at this point and your feedback and participation is invited.

And again, my apologies for the delay in the monthly update. Thanks for your patience.

Looking for Assistance

Hello there! If you’re reading this, then I’d like to request your assistance with an upcoming project of mine.

If you think that means I’m about to ask for money, well… Yes, you’re right. The good news is that I’m not asking for myself, nor am I asking on behalf of any overseas princes, oil executives, or shady bank officials. (The bad news is that I’m also not offering you fabulous wealth in return for your assistance with sneaking money out of a foreign country.)

On June 2-3 of this year I’ll be participating in Relay for Life and I’d like to ask for your support.

As you may be aware, Relay for Life is a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society. It isn’t literally a race, but rather a metaphor. It’s a 24-hour event where the participants take turns walking (or running, I’ve seen a few people spend most of the day running) around a track at a local High School or college athletic field. This relay race is a metaphor for the search for a cure – the “race” isn’t over until there’s a cure for cancer.

That’s where you come in. I’d like to ask you to consider sponsoring me in the event. Sponsorship donations are for a flat amount and you can make it any amount you like. My goal is to raise $1,000, but any amount at all is helpful.

If you’d like to make a donation by credit card, you can do that via my personalized Relay for Life web site which you can find at:

That page will redirect to one on with a much longer address. (The one on is much easier to work with). And of course, Terry and Wylie will appreciate any feedback about how cute they are in those photos. (Who says fundraising letters have to be dull?!?!)

If you’d prefer to make a donation by sending a check or money order (made payable to “American Cancer Society”), that works too. Please contact me privately for my postal address.

At this time I don’t have the ability to receive donations via PayPal.

And of course, if money’s tight and you really can’t afford it this year, that’s OK. I’ve been there too. There’s always next year.

Thanks in advance.

Updated April 8, 2007

This past Thursday my close friend AJ was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Because of ongoing cancer research, it’s treatable and we all expect her to make a full recovery.

But this has become a whole lot more personal.