Monday, August 20, 2012

Dragon*Con Week(s) 2012 PLUS A Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Dragon*Con App

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Needless Things’ annual build-up to the greatest celebration of dorkery in the world – Dragon*Con!
I have got so much content this year you could choke a satyr with it all. As you might be able to tell from the fact that I am starting a whole week earlier than I normally do. I’ve got all the regular features like my costume predictions, Top Ten Dragon*Con-related something-or-others, and of course my personal schedule (which will undoubtedly once again be utterly invalid by mid-Friday).
            But this year I also have something very special for all you lucky Phantomaniacs. This year I have pulled out all the stops. I’ve called my people and had their people call other people who have, in return called my people who called me. I’ve flattered. I’ve cajoled. I even got downright snarky once. This year, I have a very special set of Dragon*Con Q&As to post over the next two weeks. I’ll be talking to the minds behind Dragon*Con, as well as some of the guests. It’s quite frankly fucking amazing that these people will even talk to me, let alone help me out with content and I owe a whole lot of my newfound Nerd Cred to Mike Faber and the guys at the ESO Network. I am on the verge of quasi-legitimacy thanks to them and their warm acceptance of yours truly.
But enough of that warm, fuzzy shit! IT DOES NOT END THERE.
Throughout my D*C coverage I will be featuring something that is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most exciting thing I have ever been able to do here on Needless Things. I still can’t quite believe what I’ve got stashed here on my thumb drive. With the help of one of the most vociferous bastards in all of professional wrestling - Mr. Jeff G. Bailey - I have managed to break into the dark, shadowy, stinking underbelly of Dragon*Con Championship Wrestling and secure extra-special Q&As with some of the wretched souls that battle to the death in the DCW ring every single year!
That’s right you fucking nerds – Reverend Dan Wilson! Iceberg! Kory Chavis!
All of these uncontrollable maniacs – and more! – will be spotlighted over the coming days! What drives them to butcher their fellow grapplers? How can they commit such vile acts of brutality in public? What’s their favorite toy?
Okay, now that I’ve got everybody’s panties nice and moistened, let me talk about Dragon*Con itself for a minute.
I absolutely fucking love Dragon*Con.
There is no better weekend all year long. Aside from Walt Disney World, there is no other place where you can truly immerse yourself in a fantasy and completely and utterly forget the outside world. I anticipate Labor Day Weekend all year, planning and budgeting and putting together what I’m going to wear.
Okay, that sounded pretty ticklish (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so let me explain:
I do wear some costumes at Dragon*Con. Particularly this year. I have two definites and a maybe. I do not, however, consider the mask to be a costume. As Phantom Troublemaker, that’s just my face. So any costumes I wear are going to involve the mask; hence Phantom Troublemaker as the Doctor at TimeGate. I am not a luchador Time Lord. I’m Phantom Troublemaker as the Doctor. Or Phantom Troublemaker as a Mandalorian. If you can wrap your head around that. Mandalorians can’t, but that because they’re all inbred.
But when I am not wearing an actual costume I still like to look a certain way. I don’t dress at Dragon*Con like I do at any other time of the year. I try to have what I call a “Douche Wardrobe” that is flashier and more fashionable (and ridiculous) than anything I would wear to, say, Kroger. A lot of it is inspired by what I see the wrestlers on TV wearing, some of it is just stuff that catches my eye and makes me think, “Wow – what kind of dick would wear that?”. And then there are the suits. There’s very little that compliments a wrestling mask like a good suit. The problem with suits is that they are pricey – even if it just looks nice but actually isn’t – and I won’t wear the same suit two years in a row to any given event. I might bring the leopard suit back this year. I’m not sure yet. But the white one is on hiatus until 2013. I’ve got my eye on a purple number this year, but I’m just not sure yet.
Side Note: I ordered it after I wrote this. Should be arriving today, as a matter of fact.
But the main thing about Dragon*Con is knowing how to maximize your fun. Above all else, the thing you need to do is LOOK AT THAT SCHEDULE. Right now you can download the Dragon*Con app for iPhone or Android and you should. Sit down and spend a couple of hours with the thing, familiarizing yourself with the guests and events. It isn’t 100% perfect yet, but it’s a great starting place and it will be constantly updated from now all the way through Con. I didn’t use any paper materials at all last year – just the app.
That being said, the hardcopy of the schedule – the official program – should be out this coming weekend. While it obviously won’t be updated like the app will, it is still the most concrete and easy to use source of planning you’ll have until Dragon*Con actually starts. The app is awesome, but I still find it easier to sit down with the program – whether I print it or download it – and flip through the pages.
So get your resources together, see what you want to do, and make a plan. We all know you’re not going to stick to that plan. Heck, you may not even do half of the stuff on it; but at least you’ll know what your options are at all times. If you end up with a couple of hours to kill, you can just look at your personal schedule and see what panels you highlighted.
Which I guess prompts me to give you a brief tutorial on the app; or at least how I like to use it.
The Dragon*Con 2012 Smartphone App
The Dragon*Con app is amazingly basic, thorough, and easy to use. I say this to you as a complete technological idiot who had trouble figuring out the Angry Birds menu for, like, a while. The D*C app practically uses itself.
When you open it up, one of the first things you might want to do is create a user profile. There is a little gear near the top right of your screen. It is not the symbol for the Alternate History Track. It is for Settings. Click on the gear and you’ll get
  • My Profile
  • Invite Friends
  • E-Mail All Notes
We’ll get to the latter two later. For right now you want “My Profile”. That will take you to a screen where you can enter your name, e-mail address, company, etc. You can also enter your phone number, but I’d be aware of the fact that it will possibly make your phone number available to lots of people you might not otherwise give it to. I’m sticking to communicating through e-mail with folks who aren’t close acquaintances.
I think this profile will mainly come into use for two functions. Firstly, you have the option of rating each event you attend. I did this last year, along with as many notes as I felt like typing into my phone. If I had had the option of doing this on a computer I would have given them far more than they wanted to know. As it is I think this is an excellent feature that can only make Con better every year. And I wouldn’t worry too much about trolls if I were you. I bet the folks that will be analyzing the feedback from this are clever enough not to be taken by people who just go into the rating system and fuck around.
The next function is an all-new “Friends” feature. I haven’t played with this a whole lot yet, but it appears to be a way to keep track of all the rad new people you meet at Dragon*Con; as well as the ones you already know. So far it seems needlessly complex, as you have to request a code for each person you “Friend”. But this was only introduced recently and I’m sure the D*C IT staff will shed some more light on it soon. As it is I am fairly intrigued by the feature. I would prefer it if I could simply import all of my FB contacts, but like I said – it remains to be seen exactly how this function will work.
To “Friend” somebody you have to request a code or you can give them a code. You don’t have to do both. Once the code has been entered, that friend’s name will show up on your page and you can share your schedule or send messages or whatever.
I have no idea what “E-Mail All Notes” is.
Once you have your profile set up, you can take a look at the menu.
So far the Main Menu consists of three icons on the top right:
  • The Gear – Settings (not Steampunk)
  • The Magnifying Glass – Search (not Classic British Literature)
  • The… Um.. Two Arrows Thingies Making A Circle – Updates (not… recycling?)
I got “Settings” already.
Search” works. The D*C IT team has managed to make (what should be) a basic function that sometimes eludes major websites work beautifully. I typed in “Sylvester mccoy” (I intentionally did not capitalize anything just to see if it worked) and the search pulled up all of the Seventh Doctor/Radagast the Brown’s panels. Nice.
Updates” also works, though the app seems to update every time you open it if necessary.
Back to the Main Menu and you’ll see a bunch of labeled icons, which is good because it saves me the trouble of trying to describe them:
  • My Schedule
This is the most important thing you will EVER HAVE IN YOUR LIFE. Okay, maybe not. But as far as Dragon*Con is concerned this is pretty much the best tool you could own, despite the fact that if you’re like me you will likely only hit about thirty percent of your entries (2:30 on Sunday is a FUCKING CONFLICT NIGHTMARE).
As you go through the “Events” portion of the app, you will have the option to select events, performances, autograph sessions, etc. and add them to “My Schedule”. When you tap that icon at the main menu, it will take you to a standard day planner setup where you can see all of the things that have interested you. You can schedule multiple things at the same time as well; so just in case you’re at the Hyatt and can’t make it to the Sheraton for that “Pigs In Space” panel you will know that the “For Love of Orcs” panel is right next door in the Marriott.
But mainly “My Schedule” is great because it gives you your whole theoretical weekend at a glance.
  • Vendors
A complete listing of the Vendors at Con, as well as their locations. The only thing that would make this better would be a description along the lines of “That place with the tofu lightsabers right next to the place with all the corsets” or “The Jersey Shore-looking guy with all the SDCC Exclusives way in the back of the Vendor Room”.
  • Maps
Comprehensive maps of every single host hotel. This is an invaluable tool, especially on the first day when you can’t remember where the damned habitrail from the Marriot to the Hilton is.
  • Events
The central function of the app. This is a complete listing of every panel, performance, and session at Dragon*Con. You can look at the schedule of events for each day, or you can select a specific Track to peruse.
From this section you can select events and add them to “My Schedule”. On the main schedule page there is a star icon beside each listing. Simply tap it and the event will be added to your schedule. You will receive a notification if you already have something scheduled in that time slot.
You can also tap the event itself and be taken to a brief description of the event, along with its location and other details. Here there is a star icon at the top right corner that you can tap to add the event to “My Schedule” or to remove it if it has already been added. A black star means it is already in your schedule. It is also from these event pages that you will be able to rate the events. Simply tap the appropriate heading and you will be taken to the ratings page.
The “Events” will be constantly updated throughout the weekend to reflect time changes, cancellations, and other alterations to the Dragon*Con schedule. Check it often to see how the events you want to attend might have changed.
  • Speakers/Performers
This is a complete list of every Guest at Dragon*Con. Click on a name and you will be taken to a page with every event that Guest is attached to, as well as their location for autographs, merch, etc. From there, you can add events to “My Schedule”.
  • Show Documents
The MARTA Peachtree Center Map, On-Site Membership info, Parking rates & info, Parties, Registration Hours, and Store Hours. Just a point of reference for some of the more bland points of the Con. Except, of course, for Parties. These are all .pdfs that download directly to your phone.
  • Twitter
A direct link to a Dragon*Con-specific Twitter feed. This may seem somewhat frivolous, but you can often get updates from here before the app itself does; not to mention things the app won’t cover – “OMG – 37 dudes totes making out at Chick-Fil-A!” or “Avoid Weston restroom – poo EVERYWHERE”.
  • Friends
This is where you can keep track of the people you have met, share schedules, send messages, and possibly more.
  • News
This is a feed directly from the Daily Dragon crew. It will be updated constantly throughout the day with more conventional (pun totally intended) updates such as updates for the app, advance notice of schedule changes, or (other stuff).
And then the obligatory informational icons:
  • About Dragon*Con 2012
  • About This App
I’m not going to bother with those last two. Those are self-explanatory.
That’s about it. I encourage you to go ahead and download the Dragon*Con app and spend some time with it. There is not better tool for making the most of your weekend.
Check back in to Needless Things frequently over the next couple of weeks. There’s a good chance I’m going to be doing more than one post on several days. I have got SO MUCH CONTENT. We’re going to kick things off tomorrow with 13 Questions with one of the vendors you’ll see at the Con – Third Half Studios. Wednesday will see my annual costume predictions and I’ve got something very special planned for Thursday. Stay tuned and stay informed!


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