I just got back from Further Confusion 2013, and have a few notes to share. It's a little meta, and I'll try to make it quick, but I wanted to get these out there while they're fresh in my mind from the convention. I'll try to stay away from making this much of a con-report, as well, as [a][s] isn't really the place for that, but if you're interested on some of the directions we'd like to head in moving forward, read on!
That was...a lot of furries in one place. There were 3232 registered attendees, and I know that several people also wound up "ghosting" the convention, which probably pushes the numbers up higher. It was quite the crowd there, which had both its ups and downs, but it was a positive experience, overall, to see that many people interested in such neat things all gathered in one spot. On observation, one unique aspect of the whole thing was the communication media used to coordinate between individuals at the convention. Twitter has, and continued to be, an excellent way to coordinate activities among groups of generally diverse furries, and it was quite common to see people walking blind or standing still in the hallways, fixated on their phones, especially before mealtimes.
[adjective][species] hosted a panel this year, titled Exploring the Fandom Through Data. Unfortunately, I set the camera up on the stage, aimed it at where I'd be standing, and turned it off to save battery, only to forget to turn it back on again once the panel started. For that, I apologize, as the panel did wind up going quite well. However, the panel materials are available on GitHub here. We were given the second stage, which seated about 120, and we wound up with about 50-60 attendees* over the course of the 90 minute panel. The presentation itself lasted about half an hour, and the remaining hour was devoted to questions and discussion. Lots and lots of good points were raised about the data, the visualizations, and the idea of taking a step back to look at furry, and I'm just pleased as peach that there are so many out there interested in doing so.
I'd like to give another thank you to GreenReaper for helping so much with the discussion and with answering questions for which I didn't have a ready response. Thanks as well to the [a][s] readers, old and new, who stopped by the panel to talk through so many neat ideas. Additionally, I'd like to apologize for being so twitchy up on stage; I was not able to control that as well as I thought I would.
So, what directions do we have to head in, given all that discussion?
- Visualizations - the visualizations for the Furry Survey were completed late in 2010 and are now, honestly, starting to show their age. They were originally a project that I'd picked up to teach myself the Protovis library, and I think that my novice status on those is doing the data a disservice. They sorely need to be redone, and now that Protovis is deprecated in favor of D3 (which I work with in my job), this might just be the time to do it. Additionally, other visualizations might be shifted away from Protovis, or at least cleaned up and locked down (yes, we know about the spammers on the FA Stats visualizer, and that's a high-priority item, right there!).
- Data - along with the visualization improvements, we'd like to update and help maintain our data-stores. With [a][s] taking over some of the responsibility for the Furry Survey, we'd like to make sure that we have as much of that data as possible for a few reasons. First, it's good to have a lot of that data warehoused in one place, but in addition, we'd like to be able to expand the information that we share with the community, both in terms of visualizations (such as expanding the survey series to recent years) and in terms of openness. We'd like to set up an explorer for simple queries of the data, as well as be able to provide expanded sets to other researchers out there.
- Surveys - there was quite a bit of discussion after the panel on what information was collected on the various surveys and how. The Furry Survey was intentionally kept much as it had been in previous years in order to make it easier to track various points of data through time - that's part of why we ask that people take it year after year. Even with that, however, it came up several times that there are questions that are easy to ask in such a way as not to prime an answer, and there are many, many more questions where that's much more difficult. These are still things we'd like to know about ourselves, though, and so working to find a way that would eliminate any self selection bias and priming as much as possible is key. We'll keep working on those to make sure that they get out there as best as possible!
There really is a lot to be done when it comes to information about furry, and I think that there's a lot of momentum in that arena. There are several good resources out there, and many, many excellent fuzzies (and so on) working on various projects that are pushing forward our knowledge of ourselves, our past, and, of course, our future. It's all very exciting, and I do hope that people will stick around and keep asking all the interesting questions. Cheers, and thanks again to everyone out there, both panel attendees and our readership: keep on being awesome!
* Edit: Apparently, a reporter from Kotaku visited the [a][s] panel! Whoa! Check out their write-up here.