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spikey eye bw



Musings, questions and brief essays. The normal.

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How the meeting went
spikey eye bw
They told us we're back in the resource pool. Probably for around three weeks. Once again I officially have nothing to do instead of unofficially having nothing to do whilst officially I am working on non existant bugs in the code we already fixed.

So lots more LiveJournal for me, then.

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If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

... I've had two other people volunteer to do this for me and neither ever produced anything ...

... but please feel free to say no if you haven't the time/inclination/whatever <grin!>

I've let the convention listing at Smof.com get very out of date, and I need some volunteers to surf the web, find details of upcoming conventions and send them to me. If they could be put into a standard format then so much the better.

Do you (or anyone else reading this) fancy spending a couple of hours over the next couple of weeks surfing the web and finding convention details for me? You will be amply rewarded with ego-boo, drinks at the next convention and I'll see about getting it recognised as an official Cult miracle (you need three to retain your saint status I'm told, and ten to qualify for the next round where the main prize is some Taff tat!)

Re: If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

I can see what you're doing. You're trying to turn me into a SMOF, aren't you! You're just dressing it up as a useful passtime as a diversionary tactic! I've already had Alison Scott accuse me of being "Max, who takes fandom very seriously"!

... but it's not like I've got anything better to do, so you're on.

Re: If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

Max, you are a SMOF. And so is Ang.

Re: If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

I am? How did that happen?!

Re: If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

I would object to that if I knew what it meant.

I'm not a TRUF either.

Re: If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

We should get someone to write a Damn Fine Con report called 'Peaks and Truffs' and dedicate it to James Bacon.

(oh dear, this could easily turn into "Catch the pigeon"! With swisstone as the one with speech impediment and mechanical genius!)

Thank you. Do you want the specs here, or by email?

The first trawl is going to be hitting the other convention listing sites and grabbing what they've got and tidying it up, then there's hitting the major convention runners sites (like Wolf359), the international club sites (Australia, Germany etc.) and then the major convention sites (eastercon, eurocon, worldcon).

The brief for the Smof.com convention listing is that it should contain all the conventions and major fannish events for everywhere *except* the USA (since that is covered already in much greater detail than we can be bothered to compete with!) but we'll add US conventions if they are sufficiently international (e.g. the Worldcon) or are likely to attract more than one or two brits/europeans (so maybe Boskone, Dragoncon, GenCon etc.) or if I receive an email asking us nicely to add them. Canada is *not* part of the USA and so *is* included in ConNotation (which is the listing we're working on!)

Do you know Microsoft Access and do you have, er, access to a copy of it? If syes to both, what version?

Take a look at the smof.com listing and you'll see the basic information I'm gathering
Special Note
Start Date
End Date

Name: DamnFineCon
Subname: The Twin Peaks/Humour Convention
Special Note: OVER!
Start Date: 2002/5/3
End Date: 2002/5/6
Location: Shepperton Moat House, Shepperton, West London
Guests: Bob (killer in TP), Robert Rankin (author)
Theme: humour in sf with a Twin Peaks twist
Notes: Dress up for Rocky Horror, Prom Queen disco, water pistol fights, BB gun shooting, silly games etc.
Rates: 40GBP until 2002/5/6 then 4000GBP. Under 1s Free.
Contact: DFC, c/o 42 The High Street, Brentford
Phone: 020 5 555 1212
Fax: 020 5 555 1213
Email: dfc@lostcarpark.com
Web: www.damnfinecon.org.uk

Re: Have a medal ...

I neither know nor have access to MS Access. I also can't install it on my computer at work anyway. Is this a big problem?

What else do I need to know?

ideally (if no access database or any other database handy) then just having the information in text file is fine (what applications do you have access to? Obviously a web browser, but do you have a spread sheet or Microsft word or something? Notepad will do!)

One or more text files (so one per day or session of searching or whatever) in the following format

NAME=name of convention, in uppercase unless it looks wrong e.g. CONCOURSE and DamnFineCon
SUBNAME=may well be blank. But things like 55th annual Babylon 5 convention
SPECIALNOTE=usually blank, reserved for things like CANCELLED or NOTE NEW DATES!
ENDDATE=YYYY/MM/DD set it to the same as start date for one day events (see note below)
TYPE=STARTREK (all caps, small number of words to indicate type of convention, just make it up!)
LOCATION=Name and address of hotel (enough for someone to find it)
GUESTS=list of names, with short description of why you should care William Shater (ST:TOS Captain Kirk), Richard Arnold (ST Trivia Expert)
THEME=usually blank, but if the con/con programme has a theme (e.g. Military SF) then put that in here.
NOTES=Anything else of interest. Special programme items, things you need to bring with you, limited to 500 members, open 9am-6pm etc.
RATES=this could be more complex but at the moment it's just a text field that you put in the attending/supporting/child etc. membership rates and the date the rates increase. Include "cheques made payable to..." if different than the convention name.
CONTACT=Full contact name and address (including postcode) for the convention attendees. If there are international agents then there may be more than one address on this line
PHONE=usually blank but if there's a contact phone number it goes here
FAX=even more usually blank but if there's a fax number it should go here
EMAIL=bob@talk123.com (don't put in a "mailto:" header!)
WEB=www.myconurl.com/page1.htm (I'll add the "http://" if it's not there, automatically)

And then just start the next convention in the same text file with a new "NAME=" line. You can leave out any lines that are blank after the equals. I'll amend my input program to read in the stuff a line at a time (so put all addresses etc. on one line (even if it wraps!) with commas etc. to separate bits) and to read the letters up to the first equals sign as the name of the field, and the stuff from after the first equal sign to the end of line as the data. Each time it finds a new "NAME=" line a new convention entry will be created. If there's more than one EMAIL or WEB address, just add additional EMAIL= or WEB= lines and I'll format them up appropriately.

Dates: Since there are some special date things to consider, I use the following conventions
a) all dates are in YYYY/MM/DD so Christmas this year is 2002/12/25
b) if it is a one day event then put the same date in the start date and end date
c) if it is just "sometime in March 2003" then put the start date as 2003/03/02 and the end date as 2003/03/01 (end date BEFORE start date but with same month) this will cause the date to be displayed as "March 2003"
d) if it is just "sometime in 2004" then set the start date to 2004/02/02 and the end date to 2004/01/01 (end date before start date and end month before start month. Will display as "sometime in 2004".
e) for both c & d, the actual day number used for the start date isn't important except it will determine where in the list the entry will be displayed, e.g. a start date of 2003/05/15 and an end date of 2003/04/12 will display "sometime in 2003" but it will appear between the May 1st conventions and the May 31st since the actual start date typed in is May 15th

If that is all too complicated ...

then just get it all together in a text file in any format and I'll see if I can find some time to tidy it up (or find the next cult member that wants to go for a miracle!)

Re: If that is all too complicated ...

Well, I have a text file well underway. However, I left it at work as I rushed to avoid the rush hour during a train disaster. I'll get back to it on Monday and send you something by the end of the day.

Re: Have a medal ...

Okay - a few questions.

1) You quote DamnFineCon as an example. Do you (or rather, the database) have an aversion to spaces in this field?

2) Rates. Why do convention listing so rarely list the room rates? Why isn't it on here? I hate that. I don't care about the paltry difference of a fiver for the membership if I pay before/after Easter, but finding that the room rate is fifty quid per night for a single is a lot more influential in my decision on whether to go to a con.

3) I'm planning on putting a blank line between listings just so I can read the textfile easier. Do you want this removed before submission or will you get your parser to filter it out?

Good questions.
The full database has fields for room rates, currencies, membership rates that change at different times (I have allowed for three rate changes over the life of a convention, I think I may need to extend that to four), flags for different genres of convention (Media, Comics, StarTrek, fannish (meaning not media, not general, not sercon, so more like Plokta, Mexicon, Corflu) etc. Private contact details (so I can contact the convention organisers directly for details rather than going through the public address/p.o.box number) but I didn't want to overload you.

1) spaces are fine, it's just the line break character I'll be looking for, I'd seen DFC written in several ways in different places so that happened to be one way I'd seen that demonstrated when using ALL CAPS wouldn't work.

2) agreed, though not many conventions supply that up front, but if you're willing to dig through the sites etc. then brilliant! OK, I would have put it in the "NOTES" field before but I'll create a new field "ROOMRATES=" from thin air (ah... a miracle!) which should go after the membership rates (though the sequence is not important as long as the convention name is the first field! If the sequence is used then I can use a one-pass parser to do things like calculate the dates and output the data as I read forward through the file, otherwise I have to store each field as it's read and then when I get to the next convention entry I have to then produce the output based on all the fields that have actually be filled in, which is what I do at the moment since I parse the data into the database and then generate the listing from the database.)

3) blank lines are fine, and if you want to make notes/comments or otherwise put in stuff not to display, start the line with a "#" character, this will allow you to put in a line of "=========" if you wish by typing "#======================". This initial "#" will allow you to "comment out" lines you don't want to delete but don't want displayed on the final page.

Note the format of prices on the ConNotation page.
Att:£23, Supp:£15, Under5:Free until 2002/12/31 then Att:£25, Supp:£15, Under5: Free on the door. Cheques payable to "Committee Against Stupid Hackers" (initials only)
If in a foreign currency, then put the currency with the prices. (e.g. "Att:25CDN, Supp:100Euros")

Don't put in embedded HTML (talk to me about this if you think it's a good idea to put some in) my parser automatically converts "<" to "&lt;" etc. so that it will display properly.

And thanks again!

If you think of another field that would be useful to have, then just add it to the list; the first time I run the parser it will tell me if it finds any it doesn't recognise and I'll add support for those fields.

E.g. if you think that the COUNTRY= is useful (and thinking about it, it probably is!) then add a field for that, same for "LANGUAGES=", "MEMBERSHIPLIMIT=" (e.g. max 500 members), etc.

If you do do a "COUNTRY=" field, then one display of the listing can have little flagpoles with the country's flag on it! and I can sort/filter the list by country ...

Re: Have a medal ...

Nope, I'm the quivering coward ...

Re: If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

A couple of months ago I sent you an e-mail with the ConteXXt/Unicon details. Have you still got it, or shall I reconstruct?

Re: If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

Um. Do I get to criticise the garish design of the page at http://smof.com or would that be churlish? Damn, too late, just did.

Re: If you've got some free web time I could do with some help ...

No, I agree. I've got some ideas for "tarting it up" but I've been put off by the idea of making it look really nice and stil having massively out of date material on the con listing etc.

I want something super clear and simple for the next redesign, mostly a white page, some sort of graphic bar across the top, but still no JavaScript, no CSS, etc. since I want this to be a page that people can pull up on their PDAs, phones, WebTV or whatever without having to worry about versions and plug-ins and OSs.

Anyone that wants to help with the redesign is also welcome, but the content must come first! Excelsior!!

I almost went to a convention once. Dimension Jump way back on 93 or so. Can't remember why I didn't go in the end.

Actually, I did once go to a convention for one day. It was a Trek con in Blackpool (no idea why I didn't go to Warp One in Mrecambe, as that was 3 miles away). Anyway, it was funny watching people pay £20 for a bag of blue granules that may have been seen in an episode, or a similar price for an issue of The Radio Times. Still, I got to meet Pin-head. Luckily he was in Doug Bradley mode, and he didnt tear my soul apart. The most entertaining talk though was by some craggy-faced old actor whose name I can't even remember. Robert Beltram (I think) was ca-ca.

You might have enjoyed Dimension Jump back then. I'm not sure though.

You would have enjoyed Damn Fine, though. You could have shot things and thrown bricks.

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