“Your Online Life. In Person.”
That’s the motto of InterventionCon, which will be held on September 16-18th in the Washington, D.C. area.
The con is a creator-focused event designed to bring people together according to their online interests. The conference had over 500 attendees last year, its first, according to co-founder Onezumi Hartstein. This year, it will feature children’s programming developed by our own GeekDad Matt Blum and GeekMom Helene McLaughlin.
[Interventioncon co-founder and webcomic creator Onezumi Hartstein] I talked with Hartstein about the origins of the con and the kind of experience she wants for attendees, particularly those with families.
Hartstein: We are a geek convention for the Internet generation. Changes in technology have greatly influenced geek culture in recent years. More of us are cultivating relationships, geeky businesses, and celebrating our fandom on and with the Internet. Many people are able to change their lives for the better with these new opportunities that technology provides. Intervention encapsulates this. The name itself (Internet + Convention = Intervention) is a pun on motivating people to realize that they can change their lives for the better with technology or simply bring geeky happiness to their lives.
GeekDad: What was the original idea behind having this con? What do you think makes it unique from the rest of the cons out there?
Hartstein: Not to get too heavy, but I was an abandoned baby that grew up in a situation that wasn’t the best a child could have had. I found a family and support in after school art programs, comics, and cons. It was these relationships and opportunities that motivated me to pay my way through college, get a good job, and learn to look at life in a positive way.
GeekDad: How did you get into fandom originally?
Hartstein: Peter Porker: Spider Ham and Disney comics. Then X-Men. I blame my adopted brother. 🙂
After college I started my lovecraft-inspired webcomic, Stupid and Insane Defenders Against Chaos. Kids (and adults) who reminded me of myself started coming to ask me for help with their art, advice, or simply wanting to share their idea with someone who would listen. One little girl in particular told me about her bad family situation in heartbreaking detail and about her dreams to go to art school. She then she told me that I was the only person to ever say something nice about her work.
It was at this point that I realized that I had to give back to the community that had so generously helped me. We don’t have the same community resources we used to have due to budget cuts. The con isn’t a traditional fan-run con where the overall management might change each year. I am overseeing every year to ensure the vision remains consistent. All of the mayhem you would expect from a geek culture con is here like gaming, LARP, geeky programming, and performances, but we also have a “conference” element where people can learn art, technology, blogging, marketing, podcasting, and other geeky pastimes from the pros.
After all, fans are creators and creators are fans. We actually allow the attendees to create programming and get involved if they have a compelling presentation.
GeekDad: Is it family friendly?
Hartstein: Most definitely! We do have 18+ programming after hours where we card at the door, but the daytime hours are all ages. New this year is our Children’s Programming – your very own GeekMom and GeekDad bloggers Helene McLaughlin and Matt Blum are working with our K-12 teacher staff to design it.
GeekDad: What other kind of programming will be available?
Hartstein: With Intervention we are trying to bring both fun and facts together in one place. In between listening to our musical guests, playing video and board games, LARPing, and watching crazy independent films, you’ll also be able to listen to and interact with people who have made the internet their business home; anything from how to do artwork all the way through online business models and using social media to grow your audience and more. One of the best compliments we received at the end of the 2010 event was the statement “can you guys please put a few breaks in the schedule next year, you guys have so much great stuff I didn’t have time to get something to eat because I didn’t want to miss anything!”
GeekDad: What about self-published ebook authors as well as webcomic creators? Are they welcome?
Hartstein: Most certainly! If you use the Internet to distribute your wares, like geek culture, or just want to have fun with the family this is for you.
GeekDad: Pretend I’ve never attended a con before — tell me what to expect over those three days.
Hartstein: At Intervention you can expect to feel like you’re at home with friends. The vibe for the 2010 event was very friendly. People can talk and interact with anyone without having to feel nervous. We are continuing that forever. We specifically want to make people comfortable and lose the control freak atmosphere that can be seen at some other events. No one at Intervention will yell at you for not standing in line properly, nor will you ever feel like your questions are an annoyance — we want you to have the best time you possibly can and all of our staff understand this.
The community is the reason we did this event, so we see making your experience awesome as the most important element of running the con.
GeekDad: What do you hope people get out of the con? What was the most fun for you last year?
Hartstein: I hope that we can be a platform for people to meet up and be inspired to create something fun all year ’round. There were so many highlights last year, but the best was when a couple entered their new baby into the Humans VS. Zombies LARP. Baby Zombie won. 🙂
GeekDad: What’s been the most challenging aspect of putting a con together? What makes it all worthwhile for you?
Hartstein: Balancing the organization, staffing, training, design and maintaining my webcomic and blog. I work probably more than 16 hour days. Hearing the overwhelmingly positive feedback last year from our attendees and our corporate sponsors makes it worthwhile for sure.
We just plain love what we do.