So today we’re going to talk about forms. Application forms, vending forms, volunteer forms, panel forms, registration forms, and more. They all fall under my baleful eye for this update.
So what makes the forms so irritating? Well, to start with, every form, ever, for every event, ever, has to straddle a very delicate line. It needs to be long enough to get enough information so that the designers of the form have enough data to work with, but also short enough that people don’t decide “eh, screw this”, and go do something else, and then don’t attend/don’t perform/we don’t know something important about someone. The best forms manage to reach a compromise that don’t leave either side feeling too frustrated, and the worst are the ones that people feel are too long, but don’t get the info that the creators need. Unfortunately, this is not always within the purview of the people designing the forms. It could be that a certain amount of information is absolutely necessary, and to get it requires so much information from people that they decide that it’s not worth their time.
Enter the second portion of form creation. Good programming and beta testing. Because we are no longer doing pen and paper applications, we can utilize logic trees and other shiny technological toys. This means that, for instance, for the Wicked Faire performance application (which is in beta), I can have someone tell me that they are doing a specific type of show (belly dance, cabaret, celtic music, lecture, shadowcast, etc), and that will, in theory, take them to a page of questions designed specifically around their type of performance. Time will tell if that works.
The other problem with all these forms is the time they take to create. Often, when we realize we need a form, we need it right the **** now, meaning that we don’t have time to do fancy programming, or even basic things like fully copy editing, leading to a torrent of snarky e-mails in our direction. Those of you who got the most recent volunteer form for Geeky Kink Event may have seen iterations of those. On the other hand, if we don’t have the forms out, because we are taking time to edit them, and maybe put in some fancy programming tricks to save time down the line, people keep saying to us “when is the form coming out? Is it ready yet? How about now? How about now?” These people eventually find my boot in their rectum, but that’s another story. I kid, of course. I would never tarnish my boots in such a fashion. However, one of the continual frustrations is the knowledge that however hard we copy edit, however hard we program, however much we beta test, as soon as we release these forms, we’ll have a slew of e-mails telling us how we messed up, and usually those e-mails will not be kind and supportive. Instead, they will make us want to hide in dark corners and write mopey poetry whilst listening to Depeche Mode.
So the question now is, if these forms cause so much heartache, why on earth are we using them? Well, Geeky Kink Event, which is our next event, and is truly one of our smaller events, currently has 234 scheduled activities, not including private room parties we are helping organize, event-wide activities, impromptu meetups, or anything else. That is just the number of items on the schedule as it stands when I write this note. And that’s for a small event. Wicked has approximately 500 when you add them up. Unless you have a nigh-on eidetic memory, are a genius, or are one of the people who helped assemble the schedule (an experience briefly alluded to in the first note, but which will be expanded on in great length at some point), you are unlikely to memorize it. There will be another entry about taking the schedules and making them presentable, but that’s for another time. What it means, though, for an event with hundreds of performers, or even a few dozen, vendors, volunteers, people being comped admission for a variety of reasons, etc, is that we need a good method of handling information. Thus, forms. Until we have some giant telepathic field that instantly lets us ascertain all the information we need on any subject at will, I suspect they will remain our best method of gathering information. And that means that we will continue trying to improve them, and we will be taking some of the forms we have and trying to set them up so we can run them from event to event, make standardized databases and more. Remember that all the information you send us, we take, and hopefully we look at, but beyond that, we also write down about everyone we work with. So one of the other things we’re trying to do internally is record our experiences, log everything that has happened, so we can look at performers and volunteers and vendors and the like, and decide what we want to do with them in the future. And believe me “bringing Gil gummi bears when he’s stressed” gets you a positive and “throwing a shitfit on stage” gets you a negative (note that while a number of folks have brought me gummi bears over the years, I have had only one performer ever throw a shit fit on stage, so the average is positive here).
I, in particular, am lucky in the fact that I have someone who is able to take my written algorithms, and my general ideas and tendencies, and turn them not only into something that is well-programmed, but also is aesthetically pleasing. He will probably never receive due recognition for it, but it helps. I know that when I’m filling out a form, having an nice background that’s non-intrusive is just a bit nicer than text on a blank screen. He’s put up with my endless comments and changes, and that means that once we have feedback from the performers we’ve sent this application out to, we will hopefully have that out, and then be able to recycle most of it for World’s Fair, future GKE events, the I.M.F., etc.
Anyway, this has been another Insight into my Brain. Future topics will still include uniqueness or lack thereof (a.k.a. belly dancing burlesque erotic hypnotist contortionist stuntpeople), working for us, and more on scheduling, performances, etc. Perhaps we will even get a guest writer to help us with some insights into vending!