HeroesCon 2012 Report

Three representatives from Stack Exchange (Abby, Katey and myself (Brett)) traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in HeroesCon. HeroesCon has a reputation for being one of the friendliest and most fun comic conventions in the United States. We were pleased to find out that the reputation was an understatement! The creators in attendance were all super psyched to be there and the floor was gently packed with enthusiastic and outgoing fans of all ages and fandoms. Even Saturday, usually the biggest day of any convention, managed to feel vibrant, crowded and alive without approaching the mosh-pit levels of closeness that the bigger conventions lean towards.

People line up to spin the wheel at Spandex City

Stack Exchange’s adventure in Charlotte began on the Thursday night before the convention with a SciFi.SE-sponsored pre-party held at local comics shop, Spandex City. This event saw the debut of the now-infamous Stack Exchange Spinning Wheel. How infamous is it? I’ll be getting to that in a bit, but if you went to HeroesCon, odds are you saw (and probably spun) the wheel. While some of the store’s regulars enjoyed some righteous barbecue (from Charlotte’s own Lancaster’s BBQ), the Stack crew asked people questions from our site about their favorite science fiction and fantasy franchises. Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Legend of Korra? Batman? Questions about all of these and many more were asked that night and throughout the weekend. An answer (note that we did not say right answer) allowed the participant to spin the wheel and win a prize. There was a healthy assortment of SciFi.SE bags, shirts and stickers there for all the winners; some lucky people even won 3-day passes to HeroesCon and comics. Spandex City was super generous with their time and space and we were incredibly thankful for that. The pre-party event went over well thanks to Spandex City’s great environment. If you’re in the Charlotte area, do yourself a favor and check them out! You can watch a video about the event here.

Katey watches the wheel spin

The big event itself started on Friday and lasted until Sunday. We expected that our table, located at the far end of the convention center floor on the edge of the artists’ space, would get some foot traffic. We really expected to spend the entire weekend shooting video content for our YouTube channel (StackHQ) with one person left behind to work the spinning wheel. That…didn’t exactly happen. Little did we know, but people love spinning wheels. And I don’t mean a passive love, I mean an all-consuming and incredibly active love. The kind of love that leads to repeat visits and waiting in long lines. Because we had long lines. For the better part of two days.

The line grows

HeroesCon was our test run into exhibiting at a convention, so we didn’t quite prepare for the massive crowds we received. We had to ration our t-shirts and bags so as to not run out on Friday, although by Sunday all the t-shirts were gone. The same was true for the stock of comics we brought to give out alongside our stickers. Three trips had to be made to the show floor to find more comics for the prize wheel. Thankfully that wasn’t a big problem, although getting receipts from vendors at a comic convention proved more entertaining than I could have predicted. We did learn a few things from working the wheel nonstop for two days:

  • People love spinning wheels (this cannot be reiterated enough)
  • Regardless of the answer given, the spinning wheel is a fun introduction to our site that leads to many smiles and much swag
  • Give away most of the bags and shirts on Friday so that people will be using them all weekend long; by Sunday we became known as the “bag people” because of the high number of our bags on the show floor
  • It takes 3 people to man the booth; 2 to ask questions and 1 to wrangle the wheel’s line
  • People care way more about trivia than swag, although swag is super awesome too; people came back multiple times JUST to be asked more questions
  • Ask kids softball questions and be super awesome to them; they have parents attached to them who will probably like the site if the site’s representatives make their kids happy
  • We need some banners: one that clearly states that the table is a SciFi.SE jam, and another that features a call to action about the spinning wheel (“Can you answer our questions?!” or something)

Since we didn’t get a chance to leave the table for the first two days of the con, we decided to shut down the spinning wheel and make video content our main priority for Sunday. My main goal with HeroesCon was to create video content that could live on the internet forever and reach a wider audience due to having informative content with creators that people care about. The success of the spinning wheel got a bit in the way of that, and led us to learn a few facts about creating video content at a convention:

  • Try to bring enough people to a convention so that 2-3 can work the table and another 2-3 can hit the floor to get video content. If only 2-3 people can go to a con, set up a spinning wheel schedule so that all 3 days are relatively equal parts table-sitting and video production.
  • Schedule interviews ahead of time! I had gotten permission from a few comic creators before the con to interview them, but the fluidity of our agreed-upon time led us to spinning a wheel for two days straight. Approaching all your people on Sunday? Not the best idea.
  • Don’t bank on Sunday. Creators are tired by the last day of the con!
All that being said, we did secure some really great interviews. The first three of them are up now and I think they are solid, first attempts at the kind of videos we aim to create at future conventions.
  • Joe Quinones & Maris Wicks: In this interview, we asked the interviewees what their favorite sci-fi or fantasy property was and then centered the interview around discussing that question.
  • Question in Conference Room B with Dean Trippe: This is pretty much the same as what we did with Maris and Joe, except with all of the fun dressings of our web series. Plus the more conversational nature of QiCRB allows the conversation to go in different places. This isn’t just a question-answer interview, it’s a discussion.
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick: This is the main type of interview I want to do. I want to find the writers and ask them questions about the work they have created. Kelly Sue DeConnick is about to take over writing Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel), so who better to ask the one Ms. Marvel question on the site? Stack Exchange prides itself on getting expert-level answers, and in sci-fi and fantasy it doesn’t get more expert than the writers themselves.

By the end of the show we made a lot of new friends, came up with a lot of ideas to improve our future con presence, gave a few hundred people hands-on, in-depth experience with SciFi.SE, and created internet content that can be shared and enjoyed until the internet cracks in half. It was a lot of fun! For more photos from HeroesCon, visit the SciFi.SE Facebook page, or keep an eye on our Flickr.

Thanks to Dean TrippeThe Nerdy Show and Flame On! podcasts, Scott C., Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Quinones, Maris Wicks, Spandex City, Whitney Cogar and HeroesCon for a great weekend. See you next year!

Avengers vs. X-Men results! Winners announced!

The dust hasn’t settled on Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men mini-series just yet (in fact, it’s just now getting kicked up; #2 came out on Wednesday), but the rumble hosted on Stack Exchange has come to a decisive end. After two weeks of competition, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange has declared the X-Men the winner of the AvX Stack Showdown. Now take it easy, Avengers fans; we’re not saying that Colossus could best the Hulk or that Cyclops is a better tactician than Captain America. The X-Men defeated the Avengers in a basic numbers game; the questions asked on our site in the past two weeks with the tag “x-men” simply got more views than those tagged “avengers.”

The Avengers were off to a strong start initially, with questions like Is Thor the only Avenger that can’t die? getting attention from many users. But once the X-Men pulled ahead in the number of questions asked, there was no stopping them. More questions asked meant more views total, and with questions generating thousands of views on their own, the X-Men had no problem taking and keeping the lead. In the end, the X-Men trounced the Avengers in page views, coming in with 15,642 compared to the Avengers’ 5,315.

Users old and new created a lot of great content about these two teams, but only a few exemplary questions and answers can be awarded with prizes. They are:

And since the X-Men emerged as the victor, one user was drawn randomly from the pool of everyone who participated in that tag, and will be rewarded with their choice of one of three grand prizes.

  • Grand Prize Winner: chcuk

Thanks to everyone who participated in the event. Marvel Comics’ Avengers vs. X-Men is in stores both physical and digital now. It’s an event years in the making and the comic book event of the summer. You cannot miss it! You can also check out all of the AvX videos we made for the event. They’re timeless classics. Just because our event is over doesn’t mean you should stop reading the series and asking questions. The battle still continues!

Avengers vs. X-Men is here!

If you’ve taken a gander at the Sci-Fi & Fantasy site today, odds are you’ve noticed a lot of questions about the Avengers or X-Men. Why is that? Well, it’s because the site is in the throes of its first big event!


This event is closely modeled on the Skyrim vs. MW3 event that Gaming held last Fall, but modified for maximized, ultimate comic book goodness. Thanks to designer Jin Yang, developer Emmett Nicholas for getting the site up, and Tim Dillon and Ryan Penagos from Marvel for providing us with awesome art.

The event was inspired by Marvel Comics’ own Avengers vs. X-Men event, which just launched today. Avengers vs. X-Men is a 12 issue mini-series, coming out biweekly, pitting two of Marvel’s premier superteams in battle over an Earth-changing event. With the biggest names in comics on the creative team, this is shaping up to be 2012’s big blockbuster for comics. Be sure to check out the event by hopping by your local comic book shop, or checking out the issue on the Marvel App or at ComiXology.

So how does this translate to the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Stack Exchange site? Glad you asked that, me. We’re putting our Avengers questions against our X-Men questions, in a battle for views! Fans are encouraged to ask the questions that have been burning up inside them ever since they first held a comic, and then share that question so they can both get an awesome answer, and ALSO ensure that their side (Avengers or X-Men) gets the views they need to pull ahead. So far today, the X-Men’s early lead has given way to the Avengers, who are now winning. Come on, X-Men!

What kind of questions are welcome? You are really full of questions, me, but I’ll answer them. Any questions about anything X-Men or Avengers are welcome. All of the activity is being measured through the use of tags, so as long as your question falls within the scope of the Avengers or X-Men tag, it’s fair game! So far today, some of the leading questions are:

Like those questions? Upvote and share them! Have a better answer? Post it! Get involved because there are prizes to be won.

Oh, did I forget to mention prizes?

At the end of the contest’s run (April 19th, specifics here), the winning side will be chosen and one lucky participant from that side will win our grand prize! On top of that, the users that have the top question and answer for both sides will win prizes. Lots to win!

So what are you waiting for? Avengers assemble! X-Men…x-trapolate? X-travaganza? The X-Men don’t have a rallying cry, but rally X-Men fans, rally! For more info on the contest, please check out the official rules and prizes page, as well as the Meta post!

Stack Exchange is giving away sets of Game of Thrones: Season 1 on Blu-Ray and DVD!

Stack Exchange is giving away 2 Blu-Ray sets and 3 DVD sets of Game of Thrones: Season 1. Huzzah! They say that in Game of Thrones, right? Of course they do. Here’s what you have to do to enter the giveaway:

Handy Twitter sharing icon!
  1. Find your favorite Game of Thrones question at SciFi.SE and share it using the site’s handy sharing tools (see right). And if you get inspired to ask your own Game of Thrones question, do it! And share it! When you share a question, make sure to…
  2. Use the hashtag #SEthronesDVD or #SEthronesBlu, depending on whether or not you want to be eligible to receive a Blu-Ray or DVD of Game of Thrones: Season 1. Only questions shared via Twitter with either the hashtag #SEthronesDVD or #SEthronesBlu are valid entries into the giveaway. You may tweet as many questions as you like; each tweet acts as an entry to the contest BUT only 1 set will be awarded per user.
  3. The names of 2 people using the hashtag #SEthronesBlu, and 3 people using the hashtag #SEthronesDVD will be drawn at random. So yes, the more questions you tweet the higher your chances, but you cannot win more than 1 set.
  4. The winners will be notified via StackHQ and will have to provide a mailing address via direct message that we can send the set to. Winners will have 48 hours from being contacted to provide a mailing address before a new winner is drawn.

The deadline for entry is Wednesday, March 14th at 3:00 PM EST.

Also, due to the regional limitations of the sets as well as shipping costs, only applicants in the United States are eligible. 

And that’s it! We hope everyone has fun checking out the awesome Game of Thrones content on SciFi.SE and  tweeting their questions. Just make sure you aren’t spamming your followers with a bunch of questions (ultimately, you know what your followers want; operate under the “be cool about it” rule).

Stack Exchange is only responsible for the sets and are not providing Blu-Ray players or DVD players along with the sets.

UPDATE: The contest has concluded and winners have been announced via @StackHQ. Thanks to all who participated, and be sure to ask questions about Game of Thrones here on SciFi.SE when season 2 starts up in April!

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