Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Twisdom from DrPhilGoff, October 26, 2020 at 09:19PM


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October 26, 2020 at 09:19PM

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Twisdom from CeciConnolly, October 25, 2020 at 12:46PM


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October 25, 2020 at 12:46PM

Friday, October 09, 2020

Twisdom from LeeFlower, October 09, 2020 at 10:59AM


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October 09, 2020 at 10:59AM

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Twisdom from melaniekmelvin, October 07, 2020 at 03:51PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/melaniekmelvin

October 07, 2020 at 03:51PM

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Twisdom from shockproofbeats, October 07, 2020 at 05:23AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/shockproofbeats

October 07, 2020 at 05:23AM

Twisdom from The_Acumen, October 05, 2020 at 10:52AM


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October 05, 2020 at 10:52AM

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Twisdom from BCMorrow, October 06, 2020 at 03:10PM


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October 06, 2020 at 03:10PM

Twisdom from TNeenan, October 06, 2020 at 09:31AM


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October 06, 2020 at 09:31AM

Monday, October 05, 2020

Twisdom from ladd_sarah, October 05, 2020 at 03:10PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/ladd_sarah

October 05, 2020 at 03:10PM

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Twisdom from DanaSchwartzzz, September 30, 2020 at 05:36PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/DanaSchwartzzz

September 30, 2020 at 05:36PM

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Twisdom from hunterwalk, September 29, 2020 at 12:42PM


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September 29, 2020 at 12:42PM

Monday, September 28, 2020

Twisdom from Hegemommy, September 28, 2020 at 09:05PM


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September 28, 2020 at 09:05PM

Twisdom from 502eire, September 27, 2020 at 08:13PM


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September 27, 2020 at 08:13PM

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Twisdom from CaseyBriggs, September 26, 2020 at 08:06AM


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September 26, 2020 at 08:06AM

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Twisdom from ejoneslawpolicy, September 23, 2020 at 08:30PM


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September 23, 2020 at 08:30PM

Twisdom from christopherotts, September 23, 2020 at 11:20AM


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September 23, 2020 at 11:20AM

Monday, September 21, 2020

Twisdom from BeschlossDC, September 21, 2020 at 08:36PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/BeschlossDC

September 21, 2020 at 08:36PM

Twisdom from Keith_Wynne, September 21, 2020 at 07:36PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Keith_Wynne

September 21, 2020 at 07:36PM

Twisdom from hunterwalk, September 21, 2020 at 02:18PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/hunterwalk

September 21, 2020 at 02:18PM

Twisdom from hunterwalk, September 19, 2020 at 11:46PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/hunterwalk

September 19, 2020 at 11:46PM

Twisdom from caseyjohnston, September 21, 2020 at 02:27PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/caseyjohnston

September 21, 2020 at 02:27PM

Twisdom from robmay, September 21, 2020 at 11:28AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/robmay

September 21, 2020 at 11:28AM

Twisdom from Wolfrum, September 21, 2020 at 09:36AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Wolfrum

September 21, 2020 at 09:36AM

Twisdom from ssamcham, September 21, 2020 at 11:13AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/ssamcham

September 21, 2020 at 11:13AM

Twisdom from benleemusic, September 20, 2020 at 06:50PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/benleemusic

September 20, 2020 at 06:50PM

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Twisdom from JoeDunman, September 19, 2020 at 12:57PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/JoeDunman

September 19, 2020 at 12:57PM

Friday, September 18, 2020

Twisdom from phillipmbailey, September 18, 2020 at 09:26PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/phillipmbailey

September 18, 2020 at 09:26PM

Twisdom from christopherotts, September 18, 2020 at 09:18PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/christopherotts

September 18, 2020 at 09:18PM

Twisdom from Melody_Murphy, September 18, 2020 at 08:55PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Melody_Murphy

September 18, 2020 at 08:55PM

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Twisdom from JoeDunman, September 17, 2020 at 08:48AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/JoeDunman

September 17, 2020 at 08:48AM

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Twisdom from Kiala, September 13, 2020 at 04:49PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Kiala

September 13, 2020 at 04:49PM

Friday, September 11, 2020

Twisdom from SabinaStent, September 11, 2020 at 02:24AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/SabinaStent

September 11, 2020 at 02:24AM

Monday, September 07, 2020

Twisdom from Manruss, September 07, 2020 at 07:32PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Manruss

September 07, 2020 at 07:32PM

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Twisdom from JoshABlock, September 05, 2020 at 03:36PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/JoshABlock

September 05, 2020 at 03:36PM

Friday, September 04, 2020

Twisdom from scalzi, September 04, 2020 at 12:45PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/scalzi

September 04, 2020 at 12:45PM

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Twisdom from PressHerald, September 01, 2020 at 10:55AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/PressHerald

September 01, 2020 at 10:55AM

Twisdom from cstross, September 01, 2020 at 08:35AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/cstross

September 01, 2020 at 08:35AM

Monday, August 31, 2020

Twisdom from jayewells, August 31, 2020 at 06:08PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/jayewells

August 31, 2020 at 06:08PM

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Twisdom from shaneferro, August 29, 2020 at 10:14PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/shaneferro

August 29, 2020 at 10:14PM

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Twisdom from Popehat, August 29, 2020 at 07:40PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Popehat

August 29, 2020 at 07:40PM

Twisdom from PeterKagan, August 28, 2020 at 09:24AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/PeterKagan

August 28, 2020 at 09:24AM

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Twisdom from APStylebook, August 25, 2020 at 11:36AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/APStylebook

August 25, 2020 at 11:36AM

Twisdom from ThomasJBloom, August 26, 2020 at 02:30PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/ThomasJBloom

August 26, 2020 at 02:30PM

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Twisdom from neverfindapen, August 23, 2020 at 05:07PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/neverfindapen

August 23, 2020 at 05:07PM

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Twisdom from MicroSFF, August 21, 2020 at 03:51PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/MicroSFF

August 21, 2020 at 03:51PM

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Twisdom from BretDevereaux, August 18, 2020 at 10:46PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/BretDevereaux

August 18, 2020 at 10:46PM

Twisdom from SankofaBrown, August 19, 2020 at 08:23AM


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August 19, 2020 at 08:23AM

Twisdom from GreatDismal, August 18, 2020 at 09:39PM


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August 18, 2020 at 09:39PM

Twisdom from morgan_murphy, August 18, 2020 at 06:20PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/morgan_murphy

August 18, 2020 at 06:20PM

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Twisdom from ericcrawford, August 17, 2020 at 11:34PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/ericcrawford

August 17, 2020 at 11:34PM

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Twisdom from Trevorlawrencee, August 08, 2020 at 07:31PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Trevorlawrencee

August 08, 2020 at 07:31PM

Friday, August 07, 2020

Twisdom from LindaStone, August 06, 2020 at 05:25PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/LindaStone

August 06, 2020 at 05:25PM

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Twisdom from loresjoberg, August 05, 2020 at 09:02PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/loresjoberg

August 05, 2020 at 09:02PM

Twisdom from wordglass, August 04, 2020 at 11:46PM


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August 04, 2020 at 11:46PM

Twisdom from raesanni, August 04, 2020 at 07:32PM


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August 04, 2020 at 07:32PM

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Twisdom from JustinKownacki, August 01, 2020 at 10:22AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/JustinKownacki

August 01, 2020 at 10:22AM

Friday, July 31, 2020

Twisdom from AndrewLiptak, July 31, 2020 at 09:39PM


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July 31, 2020 at 09:39PM

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Twisdom from GreatDismal, July 29, 2020 at 01:40PM


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July 29, 2020 at 01:40PM

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Twisdom from CardChronicle, July 29, 2020 at 01:46PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/CardChronicle

July 29, 2020 at 01:46PM

Twisdom from mostlysharks, July 28, 2020 at 12:47AM


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July 28, 2020 at 12:47AM

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Twisdom from jayewells, July 27, 2020 at 05:45PM


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July 27, 2020 at 05:45PM

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Twisdom from slicedfriedgold, July 21, 2020 at 02:48PM


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July 21, 2020 at 02:48PM

Monday, July 20, 2020

Twisdom from KameronHurley, July 20, 2020 at 05:49PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/KameronHurley

July 20, 2020 at 05:49PM

Twisdom from jonrog1, July 20, 2020 at 11:48AM


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July 20, 2020 at 11:48AM

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Twisdom from JasonIsbell, July 18, 2020 at 01:25AM


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July 18, 2020 at 01:25AM

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Twisdom from daviddlevine, July 15, 2020 at 01:38PM


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July 15, 2020 at 01:38PM

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Twisdom from PicardTips, July 14, 2020 at 11:22AM


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July 14, 2020 at 11:22AM

Twisdom from jaygarmon, July 14, 2020 at 09:26AM


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July 14, 2020 at 09:26AM

Twisdom from CoachKozak, July 14, 2020 at 09:22AM


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July 14, 2020 at 09:22AM

Twisdom from Marina_Sirtis, July 13, 2020 at 11:42PM


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July 13, 2020 at 11:42PM

Twisdom from MarkEnnis, July 13, 2020 at 10:10PM


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July 13, 2020 at 10:10PM

Twisdom from MobyDickatSea, July 13, 2020 at 08:17PM


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July 13, 2020 at 08:17PM

Twisdom from _StephanieClay, July 13, 2020 at 09:14AM


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July 13, 2020 at 09:14AM

Twisdom from Keith_Wynne, July 14, 2020 at 08:08AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Keith_Wynne

July 14, 2020 at 08:08AM

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Twisdom from GreatDismal, July 12, 2020 at 11:13AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/GreatDismal

July 12, 2020 at 11:13AM

Twisdom from laurent_parente, July 12, 2020 at 09:41AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/laurent_parente

July 12, 2020 at 09:41AM

Twisdom from HistoryMuppet, July 11, 2020 at 11:28PM


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July 11, 2020 at 11:28PM

Twisdom from becca_oneal, July 11, 2020 at 09:11PM


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July 11, 2020 at 09:11PM

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Twisdom from covidperspectiv, July 11, 2020 at 05:57AM


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July 11, 2020 at 05:57AM

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Police Reform

There is a groundswell of public outcry to "defund the police," which is (to my perception) a provocatively worded demand to reform the police and divert many police duties to other, or even new, public safety agencies. Break up the police into several, smaller specialty services, rather than expecting any one police officer to be good at everything asked of a modern police department.

You know, like Star Trek.

As much as every Star Trek character is a polymath soldier/scientist/diplomat/engineer, Star Trek actually breaks up its borderline superheroes into specialty divisions, each wearing different technicolor uniforms to handily tell them apart. Scientist, engineers, soldiers, and commanders all specialize in their areas of expertise, so no one officer is asked to be all things to all peoples on all planets. Even Captain Kirk usually left the engineering to Scotty, and science-genius Spock most often left the medical work to Dr. McCoy. The same logic should apply to a city's public safety apparatus, which includes the police.

Specialization leads to effectiveness and efficiency. So, why do we expect the same police officer to be as good at managing traffic violations, domestic disturbances, bank robberies, and public drunkards? Those incidents require vastly different skills, resources and tools. They should be handled by different professionals.

This is not a new idea. Until the late 1960s, police departments also handled the duties that emergency medical services tackle today. And they weren't great at it. Pittsburgh's Freedom House Ambulance Service (motivated by the same issues of police racial discrimination and apathy as the current Defund the Police movement) pioneered the practice of trained emergency paramedic response, which became a model that the Lyndon Johnson administration helped spread nationwide.

Divesting emergency medical services from police departments has saved countless lives while also helping narrow the focus of modern police departments. Specialization was a net good. So let's expand on that.

So, how do we break up the modern police into their own Trek-style technicolor specialty divisions?

Let's look at what "away missions" that the police commonly undertake. The best indicators are police calls for service (CFS), which are largely 911 calls but can also include flagging down patrol officers in person. These are the "distress signals" the public sends out to request police "beam down" and offer aid. National data on aggregate calls for service is a little hard to come by, but this 2009 analysis of the Albuquerque Police Department CFS data gives a nice local breakdown.

From January of 2008 to April of 2009, this was the general distribution of APD calls for service:

 CALL TYPE  # of CALLS  % of CALLS 
 Traffic 256,398 36.6
 Suspicious Person(s)  90,040 12.8
 Unknown/Other 88,961 12.7
 Public Disorder 88,676 12.6
 Property Crime 59,920 8.5
 Automated Alarm 35,508 5.1
 Violence 35,460 5.1
 Auto Theft 12,953 1.8
 Hang-up Call 10,017 1.4
 Medical Emergency 6,241 0.9
 Mental Patient 5,267 0.8
 Missing Person 5,382 0.8
 Drugs / Narcotics 2,110 0.3
 Other Emergency 1,431 0.2
 Animal Emergency 1,336 0.2
 Sex Offenses 1,391 0.2
(NOTES: Unknown/Other, I believe, refers to calls where general police assistance is requested but the caller won't specify exactly what the police are needed for. Robbery would fall under Violence. Burglary would fall under Property Crime.)

A few items stand out, but first, let's recall how valuable it was to divest police of EMS duties. Medical emergencies are the cause of less than 1% of 911 calls, but they clearly warrant a non-police specialty agency to handle. Certainly some of these other, more common calls warrant specialist responses, too.

Similar findings were generated by this 2013 study of Prince George's County, MD.

"Overall, the top five most frequently used [911 Chief Complaint codes] were Protocol 113 (Disturbance/Nuisance): 22.6%; Protocol 131 (Traffic/Transportation Incident [Crash]): 12.7%; Protocol 130 (Theft [Larceny]): 12.5%; Protocol 114 (Domestic Disturbance/Violence): 7.2%, and Protocol 129 (Suspicious/ Wanted [Person, Circumstances, Vehicle]): 7.0%."

Right off the top, we can see that traffic enforcement takes up an inordinate amount of police calls for service. It seems rather ludicrous to send an armed security officer to write up fender-benders, hand out speeding tickets, rescue stranded motorists, or cite cars with broken tail lights or expired tags. An unarmed traffic safety agency, separate from the police, seems like an obvious innovation, just based on this data.

But what about all the ancillary crime "discovered" during routine traffic stops -- the smell of marijuana, weapons in plain sight, suspicious activity on the part of a driver? Well, a traffic safety officer can just as easily report these discoveries to police. But many of these "discoveries" were made during pretextual stops; cases where police already suspected the driver or passengers of wrongdoing and used a traffic stop as an excuse to search the person and property of the vehicle occupants. These pretextual stops have been shown to erode trust in police and often lead to rampant abuses of power (and, too often, the paranoid execution of suspects in their own cars, as in the case of Philando Castile). Separating police from traffic enforcement will also separate them from them temptation to abuse pretextual stops.

Also, we could probably get a lot more people to sign up as traffic safety officers knowing they won't be asked to do any armed response work, and a lot more people will be eager to flag down a traffic safety officer for help with a flat tire if there's no chance a misunderstanding with that officer will lead to the motorist getting shot.

Beyond traffic enforcement, where else could specialization and divestment benefit the public and the police? Disturbance/Nuisances, Suspicious Persons, Public Disorder and Domestic Disturbances all represent a significant percentage of calls for service. Most often, someone loitering, being loud, arguing openly, or appearing inebriated (or simply being non-white in a predominantly white area) is not cause for sending in an armed officer. A social worker or mediator would be far more appropriate in many cases.

That said, domestic disturbances are often violent and unpredictable, as are public drunks and mentally ill vagrants. Sometimes a person skulking around is actually a public danger. While unarmed social workers may do more good -- and absolutely will shoot fewer suspects -- it is not entirely wise to send in completely defenseless mediators to every non-violent report of suspicious or concerning activity.

Again, we can learn from Star Trek.

When Starfleet sends some combination of experts on any mission, the diplomats, scientists, doctors, and counselors outrank (and often outnumber) the security officers -- but the redshirts nonetheless come along for the ride. Violence is the last resort, not the first, and persons trained and specialized in the use of force answer to people who lead with compassion, curiosity, and science. That's a great idea on it's face; doubly so for police departments clearly struggling with their use of force.

So, we create a social intervention agency and send them in when the public nuisance has no obvious risk of violence. When there is a reasonable possibility of violence, we send a conventional police officer in to assist the mediator, but the mediator is in command. The redshirts report to Captain Kirk, not the other way around.

So, here's how I would break out a modern public safety agency, using Star Trek as a guide to reform and divest from the police.
  • Red Shirts: Fire & Rescue, doing all the same jobs fire departments do today
  • Gold Shirts: Emergency Medical Services, performing exactly as paramedics do today
  • Blue Shirts: Security, performing the armed response and crowd control duties of conventional police; the thin blue line becomes a bright blue shield
  • Gray Shirts: Traffic Patrol, handing out traffic citations, writing up non-fatal vehicle accidents, assisting stranded motorists, and other essential patrol duties that don't require an armed response
  • Green Shirts: Emergency Social Services, serving as mediators, counselors and on-site case managers when an armed police response is not warranted
  • White Shirts, Investigation and Code Enforcement, bringing together the police detectives, arson investigators, and the forensic and code-enforcement staff of other public agencies (like the Health Department, Revenue Commission, and Building Department) to investigate past crimes and identify perpetrators
Each division is identifiable by their uniform colors, so the public knows who and what they are dealing with at all times. It is also made abundantly clear that only Security blue-shirts are armed and that, if an active violent crime is not in progress, whichever of the other divisions is present on a Public Safety call is in charge.

All six divisions are headed by a Chief -- a Security Chief, a Fire Chief, a Chief of Emergency Medical Services, a Traffic Patrol Chief, a Chief of Emergency Social Services, a Chief Investigator -- that report to a Commissioner of Public Safety.

That Commissioner should report to a civilian Commission, which is an independent oversight board that can investigate the conduct of any officer of any division. Accountability is as important as specialization. No good Starfleet captain was ever afraid to answer for the conduct of his or her crew.

Tricorders -- which is to say, body cameras and dash cams -- will be needed to log every mission. That's for the safety of the public and the officers. Funding will need to be rethought. Staffing will need to be reallocated. The word "police" may no longer be a common phrase, but blue-clad armed peace officers will still be a necessary component of these new public safety agencies. They just won't be the only option, and they won't be the first option in most cases, either.

As Spock would say, it's only logical.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Twisdom from JuddLegum, July 04, 2020 at 11:39AM


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July 04, 2020 at 11:39AM

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Twisdom from WFKARS, July 05, 2020 at 01:39PM


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July 05, 2020 at 01:39PM

Twisdom from cdgehring, July 05, 2020 at 02:44PM


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July 05, 2020 at 02:44PM

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Twisdom from Nash076, July 04, 2020 at 02:40AM


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July 04, 2020 at 02:40AM

Twisdom from jbenmenachem, July 03, 2020 at 02:14PM


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July 03, 2020 at 02:14PM

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Twisdom from KenTremendous, July 01, 2020 at 03:38PM


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July 01, 2020 at 03:38PM

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Twisdom from nicolesjchung, June 27, 2020 at 09:02PM


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June 27, 2020 at 09:02PM

Twisdom from magpiekilljoy, June 27, 2020 at 04:22PM


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June 27, 2020 at 04:22PM

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Twisdom from NilesGApol, June 27, 2020 at 02:46PM


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June 27, 2020 at 02:46PM

Twisdom from TheGoosecast, June 26, 2020 at 07:36PM


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June 26, 2020 at 07:36PM

Twisdom from bencbartlett, June 26, 2020 at 02:33PM


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June 26, 2020 at 02:33PM

Twisdom from dremilyportermd, June 25, 2020 at 10:07PM


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June 25, 2020 at 10:07PM

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Twisdom from MichelleDuster, June 20, 2020 at 01:05AM


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June 20, 2020 at 01:05AM

Twisdom from MykeCole, June 20, 2020 at 10:10AM


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June 20, 2020 at 10:10AM

Twisdom from JamesSACorey, June 19, 2020 at 11:52PM


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June 19, 2020 at 11:52PM

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Twisdom from garywhitta, June 13, 2020 at 09:27PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/garywhitta

June 13, 2020 at 09:27PM

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Twisdom from LeeFlower, June 13, 2020 at 10:10AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/LeeFlower

June 13, 2020 at 10:10AM

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Twisdom from Ryan_Cortes, June 11, 2020 at 02:11PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/Ryan_Cortes

June 11, 2020 at 02:11PM

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Twisdom from StephenAtHome, June 10, 2020 at 10:03PM


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June 10, 2020 at 10:03PM

Twisdom from KameronHurley, June 10, 2020 at 09:42PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/KameronHurley

June 10, 2020 at 09:42PM

Monday, June 08, 2020

Twisdom from SkinnerPm, June 08, 2020 at 08:18PM


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June 08, 2020 at 08:18PM

Twisdom from ScottWesterfeld, June 07, 2020 at 03:02PM


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June 07, 2020 at 03:02PM

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Twisdom from jduffyrice, June 06, 2020 at 08:40AM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/jduffyrice

June 06, 2020 at 08:40AM

Thursday, June 04, 2020

Twisdom from jonrog1, June 03, 2020 at 11:28PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/jonrog1

June 03, 2020 at 11:28PM

Twisdom from ZachWeiner, June 03, 2020 at 06:01PM


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June 03, 2020 at 06:01PM

Twisdom from JoshuaMZeitz, June 03, 2020 at 05:43PM


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June 03, 2020 at 05:43PM

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Twisdom from TrondyNewman, June 02, 2020 at 07:51PM


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June 02, 2020 at 07:51PM

Twisdom from edwardjolmos, June 02, 2020 at 02:03AM


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June 02, 2020 at 02:03AM

Monday, June 01, 2020

Twisdom from michellej, June 01, 2020 at 06:08PM


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June 01, 2020 at 06:08PM

Twisdom from getnickwright, June 01, 2020 at 08:56AM


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June 01, 2020 at 08:56AM

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Twisdom from samsanders, May 31, 2020 at 11:43AM


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May 31, 2020 at 11:43AM

Twisdom from HNTurtledove, May 31, 2020 at 04:18PM


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May 31, 2020 at 04:18PM

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Twisdom from BerniceKing, May 29, 2020 at 12:45PM


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May 29, 2020 at 12:45PM

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Twisdom from jodiecongirl, May 27, 2020 at 10:24PM


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May 27, 2020 at 10:24PM

Twisdom from PicardTips, May 27, 2020 at 05:31PM


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May 27, 2020 at 05:31PM

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Twisdom from FAKEGRIMLOCK, May 26, 2020 at 08:46PM


via Twitter https://twitter.com/FAKEGRIMLOCK

May 26, 2020 at 08:46PM

Twisdom from CoachKozak, May 25, 2020 at 06:32PM


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May 25, 2020 at 06:32PM

Twisdom from MikeForKY, May 25, 2020 at 05:24PM


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May 25, 2020 at 05:24PM

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Twisdom from Nadia_Shammas_, May 23, 2020 at 11:27PM


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May 23, 2020 at 11:27PM

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

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May 15, 2020 at 05:29PM

The Biggest Budget Mistake Every Sci-Fi Convention Makes


In my last post on #concomlife, we talked about how sci-fi conventions (don't) make money, and discussed ConGlomeration's annual budget breakdown and resulting revenues. But while that post laid out all our cash considerations, it made an oversight that almost every fan-run convention I've ever encountered also makes. It didn't budget for staff.

Now, virtually every fan-run convention is, well, run by fans. Which is to say, it's an all-volunteer operation like a PTA, scout troop or church group (only usually more zealous). Staff at fan-run cons don't get paid, except occasionally by getting free admission to the convention.

Not giving out or "comping" badges was by far our most contentious policy at ConGlomeration. Everyone on the concom paid membership dues; nobody got in free except Guests of Honor. This put us at odds with the policies of big media conventions -- who regularly comp the 1% of attendees they use as volunteer labor -- and even other fan-run cons. 

That said, we saw several fan-run conventions go into a "comp membership death spiral" over the years. At these conventions, volunteers doing some set amount of work earned free badges. In extreme cases, running a single game or moderating a single panel earned you comped entry to these events. After a while, as many as half the attendees to these cons got in for free. 


That couldn't have worked for us. At ConGlomeration, we scheduled about 100 hours of programming, so that's potentially 100 free badges right there. We scheduled about 100 planned games, too, at 1-4 hours apiece, so there's another 100 potential free badges. It took about 75 die-hards to put on our little con, so that right there could be 275 free badges in total. We only attracted an average of 616 members over our last 4 years, so I'm not exaggerating when I say comping badges can get out of hand if you don't put structure and minimums around it.  

Those other now-defunct fan-run cons that comped badges for almost anything couldn't walk back the policy without offending long-time members, but didn't have the money to advertise and expand memberships beyond the growing get-in-free crowd. Those conventions didn't last long after the death spiral started.

Such cautionary tales, and the simple fact we couldn't afford to comp the 50 or so die-hard staffers that made ConGlomeration happen, stopped us from comping anyone who wasn't a Guest of Honor. 

But in not paying for staff, we neglected to budget for what they were paying us. And I don't mean their membership dues. I'm talking about the other donations they made to ConGlomeration. I'm talking about their time.


Every hour someone volunteers for your convention is a donation. Not of cash, but of labor. The federal government says that labor is worth at minimum $7.25 per hour. (You can debate the merits of that policy and that price elsewhere; suffice it say, labor has value and that's as good a placeholder price as any.) Your convention budget should recognize those needed donations as a liability on its books, and one that must be filled. You have to cover that cost.

A well-run convention should have a pretty exacting idea of how many hours of labor are required to put on their event, and then must decide how much of that labor they are going to hire, and how much they are going to ask for in the form of donated labor

For me personally, I know I put in at least 5 hours per week, on average, as the head of marketing for ConGlomeration. Between maintaining the website, running Facebook ads, programming email newsletters, and various and sundry other technical, creative, and administrative tasks, I donated around 250 hours of labor per year outside the actual convention weekend. (And my consulting rate is far above $7.25/hour.)

I know other committee members, particularly our treasurer and head of hospitality Jess Bratcher, put in over 100 hours per year. Bear in mind, a full time job only demands 2,000 hours per year (40 hours per week times 50 weeks per year; allowing for two weeks of vacation).

One of ConGlomeration's fatal flaws was taking those donations of time for granted. 


By my rough calculation, it took about 1,500 hours of labor to put on our 50-hour convention, counting setup, tear-down, 24-hour operation of the Game Room and Hospitality Suites, about 100 hours of programming, and all our additional amenities and administration. And that was just during the convention weekend. 

We got that labor out of about 75 people (20 concom, 55 or so weekend staffers) doing about 20 hours of labor apiece over 5 days, which is a pretty big ask. It's at minimum a $145 donation of time per person. Tack on the $35 apiece each of them were paying to be there, and that's $180 for the privilege of doing a part time job over a holiday weekend. And a lot of us booked hotel rooms on top of that.

Roughly speaking, at just minimum wage rates, it took about $11,000 in donated labor to put on our event. That's as much as we paid to rent the hotel exhibition space.

Outside of lunatics like me and the treasurer, most concom members put in 5-10 hours per month outside of the convention weekend. So, across 20 other concom members, that's another 1,650 hours. Add in my 250 and Jess's 100 hours, and that's an even 2,000 hours of donated, skilled labor to plan ConGlomeration. Or, at just minimum wage, $15,000 in labor to plan our event. And that's a low estimate.

Add that to the in-weekend labor costs, and it required $26,000 in donated labor to plan and stage ConGlomeration. Our actual cash budget was smaller at just $25,000.

And we did nothing for these staffers other than get them a custom t-shirt (worth maybe $10) and invite them to the Dead Dog party after the convention (so all the leftover snacks and drinks would get consumed).

We loved our staff. We were in the trenches with them. But ConGlomeration happened because we assumed that, since enough people just wanted the convention to happen, they would donate more in labor than we spent in cash to stage the convention. And if they didn't, we took it as a personal affront. (And we were frustrated and baffled as to why we couldn't get new committee and staff members to step forward.)


If we had put down on our books from the beginning how much in dollars we were asking -- and how few people we were asking it of -- we might have worked harder to fill, and thought differently about, our staffing. We would have recognized in real numbers how much we needed from our staff and, in turn, how much staff we actually needed.

ConGlomeration required $26,000 in labor to put on, and it's only that cheap if you're only "paying" $7.25 per hour for your labor. Every fan-run convention should know what their staff number is, and have a plan to get it paid for.

If a non-profit needs $26,000 in cash donations, they would stage a fundraising campaign, offer benefits to donors, recognize them, celebrate them, and encourage those donors to recruit others. If you're asking people to donate labor instead of cash, that donation is no less important, and you should work no less hard to earn it.


Moreover, when you put a value on your donated labor, suddenly it makes sense to invest in things that save you in labor outlay. Some ConGlomeration committee members fought online ticket sales for years because it incurred fees, both from the ticket vendor and the credit card processor. Better to just manually handle mailed-in registration forms, which are then manually entered into a computer database.

We treated that administrative labor as "free" and thus it wasn't worth spending cash to cut down on required labor. Only after we adopted Eventbrite, and the chairman himself saw how much of his own time he saved from wrangling data entry, did he (and many others) start to sense how that investment was paying off.

We never took the next step and adopted a paid ticketing application for at-the-door sales. We never adopted software to make scheduling programs and games easier. We never adopted project management software to simplify planning and operating the convention. 

If we knew how much labor that software could have saved, we could have made an informed calculation of whether those investments were worth it. And, I'd like to believe, we would have begun to do the hard work of reinventing our staffing to be more appealing to more people. 

We would have broken down our jobs into to smaller duties, so we weren't asking so much of any one committee member or convention staffer. We would have done more to clearly offer operating manuals and training to those people who offered to volunteer. We would have given more than a t-shirt as appreciation, even if we could not afford to comp every badge for every staffer.

And by recognizing what our labor "cost," we would have been more willing to raise membership prices or solicit cash donations to cover those costs. Because we would know how big a budget hole our labor needs represented and treated them with the urgency and respect they deserved.

We weren't alone in these oversights. To my knowledge, no fan-run convention budgets for staffing in this way. Maybe that's why so few fan-run conventions are left, and why many of those that remain are dying.

ConGlomeration never was honest with itself about its labor costs. Most conventions aren't. That's part of why we're not around anymore. If you're thinking about joining or starting a convention, I hope you take your labor needs seriously.

Thanks for reading. See you in the #concomlife.