It’s been a week since TwitchCon San Diego 2019, and I’ve had some time to reflect on the VERY public events of that weekend and my own experiences at conferences / conventions (cons from here forward) over the last year. I wanted to take some time to write about Codes of Conduct at cons and what I have learned that should make for better and more enjoyable events for everyone.
Mistakes were made
The picture above is from the Twitch Partner party at TwitchCon in San Diego last weekend. I attended this party with my good friend PhareWings. We arrived early and passed through the security stations and metal detectors easily. We wandered around and met some of the creative folks who were sharing their art with the attendees, including NICterHorst who drew this cool caricature of me.
We had fun playing with the giant Lite Brite, checking out the LEGO display, the leather-working, and the cheesy block-party food that was set up. Our other Twitch Partner friends were there, and we saw them standing by a VERY long table with folks working behind the table. It took us a few minutes, but we noticed the table was being covered with pre-poured cups of beer. While alcohol may be common at Twitch events, mistakes were made in the presentation here in favor of a more relaxed atmosphere.
Anne Munition famously snapped a picture and posted to Twitter the photo above in this tweet:
Not cool… the first two replies under this are from friends who point out the immediate problem here: these unattended drinks are easily altered and no one would know who committed the crime.
Later in the evening, at other events around town at public bars, some folks were drugged and rushed to hospitals. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, but we need to do better.
The Code of Conduct
TwitchCon has a code of conduct. Did you read it? Do you know what is expected of you as an attendee at the event? TwitchCon is my favorite in-person event of the year with its very relaxed audience, welcoming and very diverse panels.
The Code discusses expected behavior at the con itself, and the official and unofficial social events. There are statements about alcohol consumption, sexual contact, and photography / streaming for the event. We as attendees are expected to have acknowledged this document and will abide by it.
Even if the event DOESN’T have a code, most of our societies and organizations have codes of conduct that we should abide by REGARDLESS of whether or not we are at an event that has a code of conduct. Even if you aren’t part of a group that has a code of conduct, you should still act civil to others.
Returning to the topic of TwitchCon, the challenge was that the vendor employed by Twitch for the Partner party wasn’t preparing and hosting in the safest way for the attendees. We as leaders of the Twitch community should have pushed back on the bartenders at this event to eliminate the freely available drinks and to help educate the amateur bartenders working the table. It is our responsibility to help enforce the code of conduct on the conference vendor itself, forcing a slight change in behavior that would ensure safety for many other party attendees.
Beyond the Conference
There are further challenges beyond the social events at the conference. As someone who participates in many conferences throughout the year, I’ve seen the groups that lease the penthouse suite at a hotel and hold a party for all of their friends. These are typically private events and an amazing time for all involved to be out of the public light and have a good time relaxing with friends.
Past events that I’ve been to have had hot tubs, pool tables, open bars with bartenders, gourmet chefs, and amazing conversations. These group get-togethers can be really fun but are another spot that we as a community need to keep our eye on the code of conduct and look out for each other.
Yes, we can all be relaxed and have a good time at an event like this. However, we still need to be respectful of each other and we should abide by that code of conduct.
In my time conference-going, I’ve also learned that hotel rooms are an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the conference. Respect that space of others, give them their privacy and time away from the event to unwind. Your text messages, emails, and phone calls can wait while your friends recharge before re-engaging at the conference.
Socializing at a conference is the biggest take-away from the event. Abide by the code of conduct at these events, look out for your friends, and give them their space when they need it. From the TwitchCon code of conduct, “It is unacceptable to… possess weapons, illegal substances, advance unwelcome physical contact.” These are good rules for any event, not just TwitchCon.
Respect each other, enjoy your time at the event, and take lots of selfies together. You’ll have a phenomenal conference experience.