Worldcon 75 Ends With Some Interesting Numbers

Those who expected the Helsinki Worldcon to be a small con (I anticipated one the size of Winnipeg, 1994), are surprised by the announcement

Attendance included over 2,000 First Worldcon members.

Now you know why it was crowded.

Speaking of records, Kevin Standlee posted a closeup of the Guinness World Record certificate presented the other night:

Hugo Award Record

Closing ceremonies audience

Closing Ceremonies

Photos of Closing Ceremonies and final words from Guests of Honor

Gavel handoff — Kevin Roche (left), Jukka Halme (right)

Official Handover

San Jose committee

And Anna Raftery had the results of the Fan Fund auction

 

44 thoughts on “Worldcon 75 Ends With Some Interesting Numbers

  1. It’s nice to see these numbers, but I’m more interested in seeing the Attending vs Supporting numbers, because that’s what can be compared to past Worldcons. These numbers can’t be compared to anything.

  2. JJ: It’s nice to see these numbers, but I’m more interested in seeing the Attending vs Supporting numbers, because that’s what can be compared to past Worldcons. These numbers can’t be compared to anything.

    Yes. “Warm bodies on site” should be a count of unique individuals (rather than, say, counting a daily three times) and I am giving them the benefit of the doubt for knowing that. However, then I have to wonder where did they put everyone, if they were already packed to the rafters when they had 4,700 the first day, and shut down dailies to sales of 100 a day after that.

  3. So “warm bodies on site” equates to attending, then? But they don’t count vampires, hmm. 😛 Anyway, I’m impressed with the numbers, and I thought “cool!” when the Guinness record was announced/presented. My family had a copy of the book when I was a kid, so I have a soft spot in my hard for it.

    I got into closing ceremonies, BTW – yay! – but not everyone did, from the looks/sounds of things (I was near a door towards the back). I am baffled that they held it it in the same too-small set of rooms. Oh well.

    BTW if you blinked, you missed my better half in the slide show at closing ceremonies, when Karen Lord was saying something about going where no one had gone before. 😀

  4. Kendall: So “warm bodies on site” equates to attending, then?

    If they haven’t duplicate-counted people entering as dailies, it’s an approximation, but there’s not necessarily a precise equivalence because at some Worldcons that count has included passes given for administrative purposes that are in the registration database but are not members of the Worldcon.

  5. @Mike Glyer: They did manage to make space (an empty exhibit hall was converted into some large program rooms that against all odds actually had decent acoustics and sound isolation), move panels around based on likely turnout and do other tricks. It helped. A lot.

  6. The number of first WorldCon attendees made me very happy. I think part of the magic of a WorldCon in a new country is that it gives a lot of people the same chance I had in 1987 when I decided to go to Brighton to my first convention. I would never have discovered fandom if the WorldCon hadn’t been in Europe that year. I remember the sense of magical ecstasy at going to the Hugo ceremony. I want other people to find their fandom family like I did.

  7. Kendall: So “warm bodies on site” equates to attending, then?

    No, it doesn’t. Which is why I said the above numbers are useless for comparison. The above numbers not only include day passes, they almost certainly include duplications (a person who bought 3 day passes would be counted 3 times).

    According to the website, they had

    3316 Attending Adult
    2041 Attending Adult First Timers
    ——–
    5357 Total Adult Attending

    326 Youth
    148 Child
    105 Kid-in-Tow
    168 Exhibitors
    ——–
    6104 Grand Total Attending

    2636 Supporting

    8748 Grand Total Memberships

    I don’t know if those are current totals, though, or as of the beginning of the con. If those are the actual numbers, then they are only the 4th-biggest con, because the totals which are tracked for Worldcons do not include day passes. I don’t think they understood how past Worldcon membership totals are counted when they claimed to be the second-largest ever.

  8. Yeah, obviously the con was big, but I’m unsure of their numbers too. Traditionally, it’s only Attending, full-length, that count. I’m sure LA 84 would have been even bigger had they counted day members, as would several of the US cons, and probably London.

    Those are great folks in the last photo. You guys will really miss out if you skip next year. There won’t be any crowding problems, for sure — endless space available in a big new-ish convention center, plus the two hotels that are directly connected to it. And good food within walking distance, plus proper room parties.

  9. Sorry lurkertype, I really can’t see myself making San Jose for various reasons, but hopefully I’ll be seeing many of you in Dublin.

  10. And in case wheelchair users are reading this — NO COBBLESTONES to bust your wheels. Or rattle your teeth if you’re a kid in a stroller. Everything’s ridiculously accessible — the state disability con (whatever they call it) is held there, and it’s got both almost enough parking and its own light rail stop. Being right downtown will help with finding places for Filer meetups too, hint hint. 😉

  11. @lurkertype
    I’m sure the San Jose folks are lovely. At least the guy I talked to at their table was very nice. But it’s still a 10 hour flight and my health can’t handle that anymore. So I hope I’ll see a lot of you in Dublin in two years.

    BTW the Helsinki con staff I interacted with were all very nice, from vice chair to random gopher. Towards the end of the con, when I still had some of my German candy left, I took it to program ops, because they really deserved it.

  12. I’d just like to say how amazing the staff was when faced with a tide of unexpected members. They kept their heads, found solutions, and fixed things on the fly! Well done, well done indeed!

    I wasn’t able to attend, sadly, but was following events on here and other forums. It could have been a disaster. Instead, it was a triumph.

    It would have been nice if Kevin had dressed up for the gavel hand-off . . . (smirk)

  13. JJ on August 13, 2017 at 1:23 pm said:

    because the totals which are tracked for Worldcons do not include day passes.

    Not so. The “warm bodies on site” figure is the number of attending members who actually picked up their memebership badges (which means they must have been there at some point, although not necessarily the whole five days), plus the best attempt at calculating the number of unique people who purchased single-day passes. Based on such data as we have (which is not a lot), about 90% of the count of day passes is the number of unique human beings attending the convention.

    lurkertype on August 13, 2017 at 1:43 pm said:

    Yeah, obviously the con was big, but I’m unsure of their numbers too. Traditionally, it’s only Attending, full-length, that count

    Not according to the methodology the Formulation of Long List Entries (FOLLE) committee uses. (Caution: Microsoft Excel XLS file.) The “attendance” figure we would prefer to report is the number of individual human beings who attended any part of the convention on any of the days it was open. So I (there from before it opened until after it closed and there every day) count as 1 body. The person who bought a day pass and then left after an hour also counts as 1 body. It is not a “turnstile” count, but the number of individual people who attended the convention.

  14. ISTM that a number of you are ignoring the fine print on the long list. (Note specifically: A one-day admission counts as one attendee. For instance, I see no reason to believe that LAcon 2’s count would swell; if anything, several of the counts might shrink, as they might have double-counted some people who bought two one-day memberships, where Helsinki appears to have tried to avoid this. As a member of the steering committee of the former #3 (or #4, or maybe #2), the only thing I think can be said is “Well done, Helsinki!”

  15. If they say those are the numbers, then those are the numbers. It was a big convention and there were lots of Finns. There is a large fan community in Finland and a lot of people are interested in SFF and also in science in general. People are interested in literature and still read a lot. (In one 2016 study, Finland was the most literate country in the world.) People are also relatively well off and therefore many fans could afford the Worldcon membership or day pass. There aren’t also really any competing commercial media centered cons or events (Comic Con Internationals or such) so the fan organized conventions are popular.

    (I find it somewhat amusing that some of the first reactions here are so sceptical… “That cannot possible be right…”)


    Closing Ceremonies: Yes, it was too bad they did not use Hall 1 also for both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. I strongly suspect it was a question of money. Those halls cost a lot to rent. The rent was probably calculated for a whole day (and not based on e.g. hours used) and because of the structure of the auditorium in Hall 1, it could not have been used for much else on those days.

    The organizers also estimated that there would not be that many people on the first and last days of the convention. (On Sunday many people had already left or were leaving in the afternoon.) Obviously they did not anticipate that many people present, especially on Wednesday.

  16. Terhi: (I find it somewhat amusing that some of the first reactions here are so sceptical… “That cannot possible be right…”)

    This is the first Worldcon that ever cut off membership sales, and they did it when they were reporting less than 5,000 people on site. Why shouldn’t I be surprised? Doesn’t mean it can’t be true. You’re easily amused.

  17. Apart from the room size problem the first day, I was impressed by how well everything worked. We missed two panels or so because of crowding after that, but they were hugely popular. And for next convention: You will need more Buffy-panels. The line to the only one was ridiculous.

    One problem otherwise was that many american panelists didn’t adjust to being in a foreign country where english isn’t the native language. They would have needed to slow down their speech and spoken more clearly. My father, who is good at english, had a problem following some panels.

    Otherwise as said, I’m impressed by the lack of drama and that everything just seemed to work. I had a great time and my brother said upon meeting the filers that it felt like coming home. 🙂

  18. Oh, and more jokes during the Hugo ceremony. Needs more jokes. Same with the Masquerade.

  19. Terhi: If they say those are the numbers, then those are the numbers…I find it somewhat amusing that some of the first reactions here are so sceptical… “That cannot possible be right…”

    <sigh>

    If you’re not familiar with how Worldcons work, attendance numbers can be counted different ways… and some of those ways involve counting for unique persons as opposed to ticket days.

    The reason I don’t think the number above reflects unique visitors is because on August 8, Worldcon 75 stated that they had 6,001 Attending Members. On August 9, they sold an unknown number of memberships and day passes. At the end of that day, because of the overcrowding, they ended sales and limited August 10, 11, 12 to 100 day passes each. Assuming those 300 day passes were all unique individuals (possible but unlikely), they sold 818 (7,119 – 6,001 – 300) new memberships and day passes on August 9 (also possible but unlikely). Either that, or they sold more than the specified 100 day passes on the subsequent days.

    So yes, the numbers look inflated to me. But perhaps Worldcon 75 will be open enough to publishing a breakdown which can explain how their totals were calculated.

  20. I hope people who weren’t there don’t get the impression that the capacity problems were only on the first day. On the ‘quieter’ Sunday after I failed to get into items A and B and bailed on boring item C I walked the second floor and counted 5 room full notices in a row. The queues will be my primary memory of the con

  21. The other problem seemed to be at bars. I think the organisers hadn’t really expected many people to be attending parties until midnight. Surely everyone will go home after the last panel?
    Only two people manning a single bar (selling indifferent bottled beer) for a crowd of hundreds for the first few days.

  22. All a commitee can do is warn about the massive amounts of alcohol consumed. They warn over and over again, and venues almost always disbelieve.

  23. @Terhi: At first, I simply wasn’t sure what their numbers meant (now I’m pretty sure). Like @JJ, I’d like to see a more detailed/useful breakdown of what the numbers represent. This doesn’t mean I’m skeptical; it means I’d like more information. 😉

    @John Bray: Indeed. I failed to get into @Heather Rose Jones’s panel (and a lot of people failed to get in). It’s pretty typical that it’s tough to predict attendance, but I’m surprised the Masquerade show’n’tell was in a very large room (despite having a small # of people) and Heather’s panel was in a very small room (they were at different times).

    I hope to see Heather on a panel at another Worldcon! 🙂

  24. @ULTRAGOTHA:

    All a commitee can do is warn about the massive amounts of alcohol consumed. They warn over and over again, and venues almost always disbelieve.

    In the US at least, a committee can do more than that; when prodded, hotels in a chain talk to each other, caterers who service multiple sites talk to each other, and sometimes both sets will talk even across corporate boundaries. This doesn’t always work — I was told at Chicon IV (1982) that the Hyatt asked their cohort in Phoenix about sales at a “coffee shop” (then-US-speak for a basic in-house restaurant) that was kept open overnight, and decided that Phoenix was lying about how much business it did — but it’s a step to take. (The Hyatt’s error was especially painful because Iguanacon was in what passed for downtown while Chicon IV was far enough outside the Loop that the nearest McDonald’s would “extend” its hours only to 1500 on Saturday.) As we put more of the “world” into Worldcon, maybe fans need to work more on transnational mundane-to-mundane info passing; e.g. how many pints were drawn in 2014? (The Metropole sold over 19K of their “dreadful, overpriced” house beer in 1979, with ~3100 on site; I’ll bet 2014, at well over twice that body count, moved a lot more.)

    @JJ: if you want to pick holes in methodologies, how about quoting when the ~”6000 attending” was said, and asking how many one-days (and new full attendings) were sold between then and the lockdown? Or, if you don’t believe the numbers, suggest whose ass they were pulled out of and how? I know several of the people who run Worldcon registrations, and have not found them inclined to exaggeration; I don’t see any reason to assume that the Helsinki staff were massively off.

  25. Chip Hitchcock: if you want to pick holes in methodologies, how about quoting when the ~”6000 attending” was said

    I did that — or were you expecting me to specify what time of the day it was said? Because I don’t know that.

    Is 818+ new memberships and day passes bought on the Thursday a realistic number? If it is, that’s the part of my post you should be addressing. My rationale was very clearly explained.

  26. Hi, I compiled the Worldcon 75 membership numbers.

    The numbers reported at the closing ceremonies are our current best estimates for the warm bodies and total participants as used by The Long List of Worldcons, i.e. they’re listing deduplicated individual persons who participated in the convention. They are estimates, to be sure, but the error margin is probably at most a few tens or persons — we’re still waiting on some of the verified at-con sales figures.

    The numbers shown on our website stats page are at most 15 minutes delayed from our live data, and they report total sales — we had about 630 individuals who had an Adult, First Worldcon, or Youth membership but didn’t show up.

    We had in total about 2000 individuals who purchased day pass sales. Of those, at least 1028 made the purchase online and then claimed the day pass on site, in addition to which we sold a bit over 900 day passes on site. The online purchases are strongly deduplicated; the at-con sales only weakly so. “Weakly” here means that while we did not track individual purchases, for most of the con you were only able to buy day passes for the current day. We’ll be able to improve the accuracy of these numbers once we get a verified data for the sales figures and a third data source for the day pass claim counts (we have two that slightly disagree, so we’re using the more pessimistic one for now). And yes, if you apply Math you can figure out that the “100” limit we imposed on each day wasn’t necessarily always quite exact.

    And how do I know all this? Because our reg system was tracking everything in realtime, including badge prints and day pass claims. Once we have more exact numbers, we’ll publish those as well.

  27. Thanks for that, Eemeli! I’d definitely appreciate seeing the final breakdown once you’ve got it.

    And congratulations on pulling off a Worldcon! The Hugo nominating and voting interface was especially an improvement over anything we’ve had in the past. 🙂

  28. Eemeli, thank you for taking time explaining the numbers!
    Thank you also for all work on the software. It certainly improved things a lot!
    (The Worldcon stats page does not show any numbers at the moment though…)

  29. Congestion: It was mostly about available room sizes, but also about the physical layout. The “small” 200-series rooms were on the 1st(European/2nd(US) floor, access by staircases. There was an elevator somewhere for disabled access. The queues for each room twisted through the corridors, and in some cases down the stairs. On the first two days each queue probably had twice as many people as the room capacity. It was unlikely that people emerging from one program item would be able to get into the next one.

    By Friday the con acquired extra space and bumped the larger items up one size and also improvised a proactive queue control method with volunteers directing people to the end of the queue for the programme item they sought. Also signage had appeared on the doors listing the programs within.

    I was amused to see people queuing for the Masquerade and the Hugos ninety minutes in advance, although these items were in a much larger space, and everybody got in. Better safe than sorry I suppose.

    However on the Sunday afternoon almost all the programme items were in the smaller rooms 200 series rooms, as 101 abcd was reconfigured for the closing ceremony, with predictable results.

    Also. The “Krusovice” dark beer was pretty good, and paired well with the Salmon and potato soup from the food outlets.

  30. Eemeli, any idea of how many people attended the Hugos and Masquerade? I am starting to feel anxious about Dublin and it’s two years away…

    Also, my compliments for a great con, I really loved it and hope there will be more Worldcons in nordic countries in the future. Kiitos

  31. @Peter Card:

    I was amused to see people queuing for the Masquerade and the Hugos ninety minutes in advance, although these items were in a much larger space, and everybody got in.

    Was the concom clear enough about how many seats were available? (This would need to be said loudly and repeatedly to overwrite people’s observation of shortages in program.) ISTM that spaces for these events have been trending smaller (vs, e.g., 1980 and the LA worldcons having seats for practically everyone), so there may have been assumptions the concom may or may not have addressed. Also, queuing for those two events is a longstanding Worldcon tradition; I haven’t been to either event in person in decades, but I suspect that some queuers are looking for their ideal seats, not just assurance of admission.

  32. Yay! The numbers are back on the stats page! Cool charts.
    One attending member even from Vatican City State (Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ, Director of the Vatican Observatory, was on six panels during the con)!

  33. I was surprised how many people came for the panels I was on. I expected AI and Short Story to fill up, but not Machine Translation and Role of the Reviewer in Diversity. Especially when that last was was scheduled on Sunday immediately before the closing ceremonies.

    For all the crowding, I thought almost everything went very smoothly. Eric and I got into all but one event/panel/talk that we wanted to, and the one misfire was on the first day.

    I liked the way everyone was pleasant and polite. Panelists seemed to get along well with each other, even when they disagreed. Audiences seemed appreciative. The whole thing was good, low-tension fun. I sometimes think the discussions on the Internet leave people with a really wrong idea of what the experience of attending a convention is like. Problems are few, attitudes are positive, and people laugh and smile a lot.

  34. “I was amused to see people queuing for the Masquerade and the Hugos ninety minutes in advance, although these items were in a much larger space, and everybody got in.”

    At the time of the Hugos, we had no idea of how large space was available and didn’t have any real trust in the concom with regards to room space. We had missed enough panels on wednesday and this was something we absolutely didn’t want to miss. So of course we were queueing!

    Regarding queueing for the masquerade, at least our reason was to get good seats.

    I’ll second Greg’s comment.

  35. I’m leaning in the direction of attending San Jose next year. I have friends in CA and would love to visit them, before attending Worldcon. Have not quite made up my mind yet. I need to talk to my CA friends and my travel agent so I can budget.

  36. @JJ:

    Is 818+ new memberships and day passes bought on the Thursday a realistic number? If it is, that’s the part of my post you should be addressing.

    I addressed all of your post, not just the part you wanted me to. wrt your new question, what is real when dealing with the very first eastern European Worldcon, or the first Worldcon to offer a massive discount (not just a refundable taste, an overall discount) to first-time attendees? I learned a long time ago not to assume that numbers from new circumstances were wrong before I had new evidence.

  37. Chip Hitchcock: I addressed all of your post, not just the part you wanted me to.

    You complained that I hadn’t specified something that I had actually indeed specified. It doesn’t look to me as if you’d actually read my post, never mind addressed all of it.

    I didn’t assume that the numbers were “wrong”, I asked questions about how they were calculated, because that hadn’t been explained. I also pointed out a legitimate reason why it didn’t look as though they were calculated the way some people were assuming that they had been calculated.

  38. According to the thank you e-mail I just got from WorldCon 75, they have upped their attendance numbers to 7323 warm bodies on site.

  39. According to the thank you e-mail I just got from WorldCon 75, they have upped their attendance numbers to 7323 warm bodies on site.

    Not quite. 7323 is from the same data as 7119, it just includes a couple of additional categories of people that the lower figure does not; mainly kids-in-tow who didn’t need to pay, and traders who did not have a full attending membership as our trade hall had free entry.

  40. @Anna Feruglio Dal Dan: “Eemeli, any idea of how many people attended the Hugos and Masquerade? I am starting to feel anxious about Dublin and it’s two years away…”

    The halls were over half full, methinks, and that means over 2400 people (ETA: supposedly the halls held 4800ish IIRC???), but I’m curious, too, if they have a rough estimate.

    The Dublin 2019 bid info said the halls for these two events hold only 2000. I asked at the Dublin 2019 table and got a hand-wavy “well it depends on how the room’s set up” and the person said they didn’t know But the 2000 number is from Dublin’s own info, IIRC.

    On the other paw, will Dublin 2019 get the same amazing attendance W75 did? 😉 I’m not sure if that’s a fluke or it’ll become the new normal for European Worldcons.

    So maybe it’ll be fine, but I plan to get in line/queue ahead of time for one or both events, just in case.

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