Sign-ups were a bit...exciting. First, some context: We have had 80 seats available in Artists Alley since 2005. That was also the first year that we implemented a lottery system. In 2005, we had 66, 66, and 51 artists sign up on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively. In 2006, we had 76, 85, and 65 artists sign up; when we drew names for the lottery that Saturday, because of some artists not being present all but two artists got seats.
Going into Anthrocon 2007, I knew that several artists who had been in the Alley in years past had moved over to the Dealers Room. I figured our numbers might even drop a bit. The spreadsheet I used to randomize the artists' names and determine who would be on the waiting list held up to 100 names. I figured this wouldn't be a problem.
On Friday morning, 114 artists signed up for Artists Alley. My spreadsheet broke completely, leaving me to come up with a fair and equitable system to assign seats with literally four minutes' notice. It was a bit of a hash, I'm afraid, but we muddled through. I apologize profusely to any artists who may have felt confused or unhappy following Friday's sign-ups, and all I can say is that as a programmer I'm a pretty good chemical engineer. Unfortunately, the delays meant that some artists didn't get down to the Alley until after Hall C had opened to the public.
On Friday night I revised my spreadsheet and I was better prepared on Saturday. Surely, though, fewer artists would sign up and the previous day was a fluke. On Saturday, 113 artists signed up for Artists Alley. At least seat assignment went faster, though! Sunday was much easier, and only 71 artists signed up, though as the day went on we were able to fill the Alley with artists requesting tables after signups.
The message board for communications between artists and customers got even more use this year than last, but we did still have to tell a number of customers that we had no way to contact an artist who wasn't sitting in the Alley. I was extremely dissatisfied with this and I don't think it meets the standards of customer service that we owe our attendees. I'm not sure how we're going to improve on this next year, but I have some ideas. Any ideas that anyone else might have are more than welcome as well!
As for other improvement for 2008: the Artists Alley clearly needs to expand, so we're looking at increasing the size by around 50%, up to 120 seats. This could drastically complicate payout under the current system, so we're going to look into what improvements can be made there as well.
Do you have any suggestions for next year's Artists Alley or Con Store? Let me know! You can leave a comment here, or drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also leave a comment on the Survey as well; I'm sure it will find its way to me.