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Bi-Weekly SMOFing Dinner

by Matt Arnold last modified 2006-09-15 15:00

Tonight, September 15, 2006, it's at my house in Redford, conveniently central to the Ann Arbor/Detroit suburban metroplex! I'm serving pizza.

Every other Friday we gather in the home of John Guest, the Chair. We include anyone who wants to hang out with each other and chat about Penguicon's direction and vision, among many other things. This time the Chair has been laid low with a root canal and is in no state to host the gathering, so I eagerly stepped up.

They call it the SMOP Dinner, which stands for Secret Masters of Penguicon. This is an inside joke based on SMOF, which stands for Secret Masters of Fandom. The term applied tongue-in-cheek because conrunners were usually very un-secret. That's another inside joke in science fiction fandom. (Check us out, we have nested inside jokes. If we start making recursive acronyms we'll be unmistakable as an open source software convention. I consider it part of my job to explain all this confusing vocabulary to newcomers.)

Over the decades at conventions, SMOFing became a verb, meaning "talking about running conventions while attending conventions." Pretty soon a lot of people started using it to mean "talking about conrunning incessantly whether you're at a convention or not."

This event was started to try to flatten the pyramid of Penguicon's volunteers and encourage people to take advantage of Penguicon's openness. If you care about Penguicon, show up whether you're working on the convention or not. The SMOP Dinner is different from the monthly meeting of the convention committee. It's a small social gathering. It's laid back, you can talk about anything, and there's no membership, agenda, formality, or structure. We just SMOF, eat, talk about SF/fantasy/software/games, and get to know each other better.

If there's one thing I've learned over the years running Penguicon, it's essential to a convention -- any large organized social group, really -- to have an informal information network to be in touch with people. You have to talk to actually know each other and find out what people are thinking, expecting, complaining, or planning. Having an unresponsive year at your convention run by clusters of friendly-but-distant strangers can still result in an incredibly fun weekend (and Penguicon always is dynamite fun) but it would come with unecessary cost, work, and misunderstanding than it would be if you just talk to people. A lot. Make friends, introduce them to each other. "Isolated islands" = "not knowing who else is working on the con" = "not knowing what attendees want" = "asking for complications". Most years, we're responsive, and this year we're getting super responsive to you, our "customers". (OK, I'm done philosophizing for the day. That's just my two cents.)

So, if you haven't been able to make the meetings of the convention committee, or if you're like me and there's no such thing as too much social gathering about Penguicon, whether you are working on the convention or not, come to the dinner tonight, September 15, 2006. Email me at matt dot mattarn at gmail dot com for directions to my house in Redford, MI.

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