The Virtual Convention
Because we're still grappling with a global pandemic, Readercon 31 is being hosted virtually in Discord, an instant messaging and digital distribution platform. Discord has many servers, which are self-contained community spaces. Discord servers are primarily text-based but do have some limited audio-visual aspects, which we'll detail in this guide. Inside each server are various channels—if you've used Slack or IRC, this will be pretty familiar to you—so that different people can be talking about different things in different spaces instead of all typing over each other in a big hard-to-follow stream.
Discord has a great "Beginner's Guide to Discord" that you can read to help you learn to navigate the platform, available here.
Many conventions over the last two years have been hosted in Discord servers, so you may already be familiar with how they work. We encourage you to read the information below anyway to learn exactly how we're using Discord's capabilities for the convention.
A Tale of Two Servers
Very quickly, we should clarify that Readercon has two Discord servers: one that's a year-round social/community server, and one that's the venue for this year's convention. You're welcome to join both, but we want to make sure you know there are two so you can make sure you're in the right one! Their server icons (which you can find on the left-hand side of the Discord application window) are very similar, but one is just the Readercon logo, while the other is the logo with "31" below it. You want the Readercon 31 server for the convention.
Accessing the Readercon 31 Convention Discord Server
In order to access the Readercon 31 convention server, you need to go through Registration. You'll know you've successfully accessed the convention server when a whole raft of channels on the left-hand side suddenly become visible to you, including #introductions and #help-desk.
Code of Conduct
When you enter the convention server, you will see a pop-up asking you to agree to our Code of Conduct in order to be granted access. This is a requirement of attendance. You can read our full Code of Conduct on our Safety page, which also contains a link to our Policies.
Once inside our convention server and through the gating process that required your Discord Access Token, you'll see we have a lot of channels set up for you! The virtual convention space is set up very similarly to how we do things at an in-person convention with a hotel. Under the Programming/Events category of channels, we have ones that correspond to our Programming tracks, just like we have dedicated rooms at the hotel. (Track 1 and Track 2 are panels and their channels are #main-track-1 and #main-track-2. Track 3 is talks, and its channel is #main-track-3. The Readings track happens in #readings.)
Over the course of the weekend, as each program item is scheduled to air, it will be announced. If you want to attend that program item, go to the channel for the track it's in. A helpful bot there will supply you with a link to watch.
All program items except Kaffeeklatsches are being streamed live through YouTube, so the link the bot provides will take you to an unlisted YouTube video. ("Unlisted" just means that you have to be given the link in order to watch. You won't be able to access these videos just through a general YouTube search or by looking through the Readercon YouTube channel. We ask that you please do not distribute these viewing links outside of the convention. Most will be made public six months after the con, so everyone will be able to watch them eventually. For now, they're just for you.)
When not taking in program items, you can visit fan tables (they each have their own channels), attend parties or book launches, or hang out in our dedicated social spaces.
The first thing we suggest you do to get settled in is consider your displayed name (called a "nickname" in Discord parlance). It can be whatever you like, but we do encourage you to use whatever name will make you most recognizable as yourself to others. This can be your real name, your pen name, or the online name you go by most often when interacting in fandom spaces. To set your nickname, you can either look for your own name on the right-hand side (among the names of everyone else who's in the space), click on it, and select "Set a server nickname", or you can use the /nick command: /nick First M. Last
After that, head on over to #role-requests. In Discord, "roles" are things that show up on your profile when people mouse over your name. Some of them are cosmetic but informative and some of them are functional. (If you mouse over your own name, you'll see some of the functional ones that were automatically assigned to you, such as "Member". We use those to make sure the right people have access to the right parts of the convention, like having a Green Room just for program participants or admin channels just for staff.)
The ones that are cosmetic but informative are ones you can assign yourself! These include your industry role (reader, reviewer, editor, illustrator, etc.) and what your pronouns are. There will be a list of options in the #role-requests channel and each will have a corresponding emoji key. To give yourself a particular role, click on the emoji key below the list of options that represents the role you want to assign to yourself. You can assign yourself multiple industry roles and multiple pronouns. (And if you want to undo what you chose, just click the same emoji key again to remove the role from yourself. They're not set in stone.)
You can also set up an avatar/picture for yourself. For instructions on how to do that, we recommend this guide.
Before you jump into the swing of things, we encourage you to swing past #swag-bag, where you'll find download links for our annual Souvenir Book (conveniently in PDF form) and a collection of amazing material provided by various magazines and publishers for you to read for free.
And finally, you'll want to take a look at the #channel-guide, which will list all the channels and what they're for.
If you need help at any time during the convention, ask in #help-desk and someone will assist you. (Though if you're asking for help in the wee hours of Eastern Time, it may be awhile before someone is awake and can do so.)
Let's say there's a panel called "Sisterhood of the Traveling Planets" (not a real panel!) that you want to attend, and the Program Guide says it's in Track 1 at 7 p.m.
At 7 p.m., if you're in the Readercon 31 convention server, you'll see a general announcement in the #announcements channel that lists all programming items, across all tracks, that are coming up in that time block. One of them will be "Sisterhood of the Traveling Planets", with the note that you should head to #main-track-1 to watch it.
When you click on the #main-track-1 channel, you'll see another bot announcement telling you that "Sisterhood of the Traveling Planets" will be starting there shortly, and it will also provide you with a YouTube link. If you click on the link, your web browser will open and show you the YouTube video, which will begin livestreaming the panel.
As the panel proceeds, you can chat (text only) with everyone else in #main-track-1 who's watching along with you. There will be a member of staff in the channel too, and their job is to act as the liaison between the audience and the panel. That member of staff will collect questions from the audience to pass on to the panelists, and might also pass things (like links, or lists of books) from the panelists to the audience in the channel.
At the end of "Sisterhood of the Traveling Planets", the bot will announce the next panel coming up in that track. If you and other members of the audience want to keep discussing the panel (as any Readercon regular knows, post-panel discussions are sometimes just as great at the panels themselves!), you should move to one of the hallway chat channels to do so. In the case of "Sisterhood of the Traveling Planets", a Track 1 panel, you would go to #hallway-chat-1. (The panelists themselves might also join you there, if they're feeling up for it.) Then you'll have a whole hour in which to keep talking before the next round of folks come in looking to talk about the panel that came after.
This works almost exactly as described above, except that talks have been pre-recorded. This means the presenter is free to be in the chat with you as you watch their talk! We've also asked them to leave time at the end for a Q&A session in the channel. At the end of the talk's allotted time slot, if you still want to keep chatting about the topic, please do so in the #con-suite or one of the other social spaces. (Usually the time allotted for Q&A meets most people's needs, so we don't have a hallway chat channel set up for the talks track.)
This works just like attending a talk, except the person who pre-recorded the talk may not be available to hang out with you while you watch or take questions at the end. We've left that up to them. If you want to keep discussing a reading after its half-hour slot is over, please do so in the #con-suite or one of the other social spaces. (This is usually fairly rare—more often, people just want to hang out after a reading—so we also do not have a hallway chat channel set up for the readings track.)
A kaffeeklatsch is a low-key, wide-ranging conversation hosted by one or two program participants for up to 12 fans. It gives you an opportunity to interact directly with writers, editors, and other estimable personages you admire.
Like at an in-person convention, you must sign up to attend a kaffeeklatsch. Sign-ups will open on Friday afternoon around 3pm. To sign up, you must go to the #help-desk channel and ask. You will then be given access to a special hidden channel (called #kl-signups) with a menu of all the kaffeeklatsches being hosted this year. To sign up for one, you'll click the green checkmark below its listing. Please do not sign up for more than three kaffeeklatsches. (Limiting yourself to just one at first would be even more courteous to others; you can always check back in later to see if there are spots still free and claim one then.)
When it's time to attend a kaffeeklatsch you signed up for, you'll be given access to the #kaffeeklatsches channel. Unlike the rest of the server, where everything is text-based, this channel is audio-visual! You can turn a webcam on or just stick to audio as you prefer. We do ask that you remember video-chat etiquette, however, and give each other time to speak rather than talking over or interrupting each other, and that you either mute yourself when not speaking or make sure you're not contributing to background noise (loud air conditioner, barking dog, eating crackers, etc.).
We ask that you join the #kaffeeklatsches channel a few minutes before the kaffeeklatsch is scheduled to start so that everyone has time to get situated. Things will officially get rolling at five minutes past the hour, and everyone will be given ten-minute (hh:45), five-minute (hh:50), and one-minute (hh:54) warnings to wrap up before the kaffeeklatsch ends at 55 minutes past the hour.
In addition to the #kaffeeklatsches channel, we have an auxiliary text-only channel (called #kaffee-chat) set up for kaffeeklatsch hosts and participants to use in the event that you want to share links, provide the specific spelling of a name, or handle anything else that's hard to communicate via audio or video chat alone. Just be aware that the contents of that channel are not cleared between kaffeeklatsches and will be visible to everyone else.
Watching Past Program Items
One of the very best things about the setup we've used for this virtual convention is that all content (except kaffeeklatsches) is stored on YouTube after airing, so you can go back and watch the videos of anything you missed. Two panels you want to see, airing at the same time? Don't sweat it! Watch one while it airs and the other later. As mentioned above, the videos will be available exclusively to members for six months after the convention ends, so if you wanted to, you could watch every single program item. Go to #past-program-items for a roundup of all video links, updated throughout the convention as program items air. (Please remember not to distribute any of the video links outside of the convention server.)
In addition to the channels dedicated to programming and con services, we have a variety of social spaces available for you to hang out in. You can find them under the Social Spaces group of channels. These include the main #con-suite, a number of con-suite breakout rooms (including A/V ones!), a channel for adult content (remember our Code of Conduct, though!), a channel for sharing art and music, and the party board where folks looking to host special events can publicize them. (If you want to host a party, email email@example.com to discuss and let them know what block of time you'd like to reserve.)
We also have fan tables set up under the Fan Tables category. Come say hello to the folks bidding to host Worldcon in Glasgow in 2024! Talk to the Heinlein Society about pledging to donate blood somewhere local to you over the course of the weekend! And lots more.
Readercon wouldn't be complete without a bookshop, of course, so our wonderful dealers have set up individual channels under the Bookshop category that you can hop into to say hello and buy some books. If you've just attended a panel where someone recommended a great book, or if there's something you've been meaning to pick up, go ask them if they've got it in stock!
We have four limited-access channels reserved for specific demographics: LGBTQIA2P people, neurodivergent people, disabled people, and people of color. The intent is to give people who belong to each of those groups a supplementary space where they can hang out and be less likely to experience prejudice and microaggressions. If you belong to one of these groups and would like access to the relevant Safer Space channel, please go to #safety and ask to speak to a member of the Safety team. Someone from the Safety team will send you a Direct Message (often called a "DM", this is a private conversation just between you two) asking what they can do for you, and you'll tell them which Safer Space you need access to. They'll give you the ability to see and access that particular channel. (If you are a multiply-marginalized person, asking for access to more than one space is entirely appropriate and okay.) This process is specifically designed so that no one has to out themselves to the whole con if they don't want to.
If you're not familiar with how to access your DMs, check our FAQ.
We have a great FAQ set up, and remember that you can always talk to #help-desk!
Thank you for joining us! Enjoy the convention!