This video is brought to you by Curiositystream. Get access to Curiositystream and my streaming
service Nebula, and check out my Nebula exclusive video, Debater Theater, when you sign up for
curiositystream at curiositystream.com/sarahz with the coupon code SarahZ!
Okay, I swear Im not like a Tumblr history channel. But this account called Heritageposts
just got made and theyve been sharing a bunch of content from 2013 Tumblr and its
been giving me enough war flashbacks that I felt like I had to make this.
On July 11, 2014, at 9:00 pm, hundreds of con-goers were crowded into a large convention
hall in Schaumburg, Illinois. They were told that the convention they were attending was
about to be shut down, as the hotel had spontaneously demanded an additional seventeen thousand
dollars in booking fees. If they could not raise that money by the end of the hour, everyone
there would be kicked out. An empty bag was passed around the room, and the con-goers
were asked to put as much money as they could into it.
Some people reacted with anger and hostility, screaming at the organizers that they were
being extorted and that the story did not add up. Others gladly helped, contributing
cash or online donations to the $17000 pool. In solidarity, hundreds of people raised three
fingers to the air in true Hunger Games fashion. Organizers led the group in performances of
Do You Hear The People Sing? and We Are The Champions as more and more money was raised.
By 9:45 PM, the hour was almost up. It was make or break. If this collection of Tumblr
teens and con-goers hadnt raised the money, the two remaining days of the convention,
including a Steam Powered Giraffe performance and a Welcome to Night Vale live show, could
not go on. The mood in that room was a mix of outrage, anticipation, and solidarity.
This was Dashcon 2014, and it was only the first night of the convention. Things were
going to get weirder.
Dashcon has been talked about before, namely by the YouTuber Internet Historian, who made
a ten minute mini-doc with a bit of backstory and footage about how it went horribly wrong.
But while I think it accurately captured the particular brand of buckwild that went on
at Dashcon, theres a lot of context and behind-the-scenes stuff that video missed
out on. Also I dont wanna just make fun of the people who went. Especially when people
were excited about a thing is like, the least weird thing at that con.
In this video, I want to talk about not just *what* happened, but *how* and *why* it happened,
and why it got so bad its taken on a near-mythical status six years later. I want to thank Tumblr
user Heritageposts, whoever they are, for reminding me of Dashcon, as well as the editors
of the Fanlore Wiki and Tumblr user emoticon-indy for being a great research source and compiling
a lot of this information.
Dashcon began as an idea in March 2013, cooked up by a small group of 20-somethings
who thought you know what would be really cool? A Tumblr convention, where members of
different Tumblr fandoms could meet up and we could have panels! They decided to call
this Tumbl-Con USA, and on March 11th, began a $4000 IndieGoGo campaign to fundraise
for it, called the Tumbl-Con Startup!
As you might have noticed, thats not nearly enough to organize a con, and it can cost
well into six figures to organize a successful convention. The money wasnt intended to
fully fund the entire convention, but was instead meant to help them pay for some
software we need, file additional forms, and pay fees for applying for more grants, on
top of the few for which we have already applied. There was no mention of what previous experience
the organizers had, which grants they were applying for, or what their plan was if these
grants didnt pan out.
Its also worth mentioning that the campaign was a flexible funding one; basically,
that meant that even if they didnt meet their goal, they would be able to keep their
money. The rewards varied, from getting business cards with your tumblr URL on them to a
single pouch of Adiago tea to a T-shirt and gift basket. Only two people claimed the $500
t-shirt reward, and its unclear whether they ever actually got those t-shirts. Regardless,
the IndieGoGo campaign swiftly met its $4000 goal. Tumbl-Con was in business.
Now, in retrospect, a Tumblr convention obviously seems like a terrible idea, but the culture
of Tumblr at the time was very different than it is post-Dashcon. Fandom Tumblr was
definitely marked with infighting and drama at times, but for a lot of young teenagers,
Tumblr really was a place of respite. Tons of posts at the time referred to Tumblr as
their home, and people were constantly posting concepts like what if Tumblr was a school
where we all went together? or what if we all pooled together to buy an island
and called it Tumblr Island?. Nowadays, these concepts are readily mocked and people
joke that it would be a bloodbath, but nothing like that had ever been tried before.
For people who were bullied at school for their nerdy interests and social awkwardness,
or just were really into niche shows and had no one to obsessively talk about them with
in real life, a community of people who had the same interests as them and were just as
loud and unabashed about those interests was incredibly welcome.
People constantly posted concepts and mockups of what a Tumblr meetup would look like, whether
that was a map of Tumblr Island, pictures of what dorms and uniforms and buildings would
look like at Tumblr University, or schedules that described the potential classes at said
University. For example, in this fantasy world, you could learn about Analysis of Destiel,
How To Deal With Fangirl Feels, How To Deal With Loki Feels, How To Deal
With Reichenbach Feels, and Timey-Wimey and Spacey-Wacey Things.
Its mocked now, but thats just what the culture was at the time, and thats
aided by the fact that a lot of people making these posts were bullied teenage girls who
had closer friendships with people theyd met online than people they knew in person
and really, really wanted to meet those people. The idea of having a space to go to where
they were accepted, could be with their friends, and could be open about their interests was
genuinely appealing, especially when it was paired with a concept like university or living
on an island that afforded them relative freedom compared to high school.
So when this kickstarter for Tumbl-Con was posted, people were really, really excited!
I found some old reblogs from the original kickstarter, where people were saying things
like I really want to go to this so make it happen! and I need this to happen!
The atmosphere at the time was really one of excitement and earnest.
Shortly after Tumbl-Con reached its goal, the founders realized that there were potential
copyright issues and confusion in being named after the website, and, to ensure that everyone
knew the con was not officially affiliated with the website, renamed it Dashcon. It was
a reference to the tumblr dashboard, and was effectively the same as calling a Twitter
convention TimeLineCon or calling a Yelp convention ComplaintCon.
Basically, it wasnt *officially* branded as a Tumblr-affiliated convention, but it
was very obviously a Tumblr con. The Dashcon FAQ has since been scrubbed from the web,
but a WebArchive from November 2013 has preserved that Dashcon LLP was formed shortly afterwards
by two organizers named Megan Eli and Roxanne Schweiterman. Another organizer, Cain Hopkins,
was not named as one of the LLP founders, but helped organize the convention and was
a roommate and friend of Megs from the Homestuck fandom.
[OH MY GOD THEY WERE ROOMMATES]
Cain in particular allegedly had a history of lying to people and scamming them, and
was met with anonymous accusations of faking a trip to London, pretending to have an English
accent, claiming his birth name was Loki, and lying about attending an Ivy League despite
going to art school in Florida. Obviously take everything said about Cain with a grain
of salt given that these accusations were mostly anonymous, but suffice it to say this
guy was believed to have an extensive history of grifting.
Its also worth mentioning, so that you have a good idea of who was organizing this,
that Roxanne was only 19 years old at the time Dashcon was planned. Meg was 30, and
I couldnt find Cains exact age, but his LinkedIn mentions him first starting university
in 2007, so I believe he was in his late 20s or early 30s. So Roxanne was markedly younger
than the other two organizers, being a literal teenager, but they were all like pretty
young and inexperienced.
The FAQ, made in late 2013, also contained some more interesting tidbits about the purpose
of Dashcon. Besides mentioning the founders, it also claimed that the convention would
be fundraised with art, fanfiction, and crafting auctions, that Dashcon would be
a yearly event held in Chicago, that they would be offering special booking rates with
the hotel, that they estimated 3000-7000 people would be attending, and finally, that they
would be charging a special, additional fee for a Steam Powered Giraffe concert.
SPG is a band where the gist is that theyre all steampunk robots. They were particularly
popular on Tumblr in 2013, and are still doing pretty well for themselves now, so it was
a big deal that they were going to play there. A regular weekend pass would be $65, but if
people wanted access to the SPG show, it would be $70. Alternatively, people could get access
exclusively to the show and not to the rest of the convention for $25.
They claimed to be associated with the charity Random Acts, which gave them a veneer of legitimacy
and assuaged many peoples worries about the organizers. This will become important
They also opened up applications for volunteers, noting that people who volunteered for at
least 12 hours would get their tickets comped, and people who volunteered for at least 17
hours would get their hotel stays comped as well.
The Dashcon Schedule was also put up, with the founders guaranteeing that the schedule
would stay relatively consistent despite it being eight months before the event. Its
still up, and you can see panels were scheduled like A Day In The Life of Hogwarts,
Can You Knot? Exploring The Omega-verse (we dont have time to get into that today).
Homoerotc Subtext, Hateful Anons and Beyond: How To Deal With Bullies, and
British Men With Cheekbones.
When looking at this list of topics, what really struck me is how similar this was to
the list of potential classes in that Tumblr University post. Its a lot of stuff thats
seen as very cringy now, but really exemplifies the sort of naivet and earnest that 2013
Tumblr still had. Compared to how people on Tumblr now regularly refer to it as a hellsite,
its just a very interesting contrast.
Applications were opened up for panelists, who would be subject to Skype interviews and
would also have their membership comped if enough folks came to their panels, and people
were HYPED. One person, obviously a teenager, asked How to convince my parents to let
me drive to a different state to meet strangers on the Internet? and the Dashcon organizers
responded with a powerpoint presentation in Comic Sans, which was a popular meme format
at the time. The powerpoint had pictures of how pretty the hotel looked, mentioned the
events, and suggested that the teenager talk about the ballpit!. This post was made
on July 22nd, 2013, so that ballpit had almost a year to be hyped up. And people really were
hyped for this ballpit. This fanmade poster from 2013 even mentioned it.
Someone also posted, in anticipation of the event, a Party In The USA parody song on YouTube
about how fun it was gonna be, called Party at Dashcon Hey!.
All in all, while some people were suspicious or mocking of the idea of a Tumblr Convention,
Dashcon was viewed with an atmosphere of hype and excitement for the months leading up to
it. I didnt go to Dashcon and I dont know anyone who did, but I know several of
my friends were disappointed that they couldnt go because they wanted to see Steam Powered
Giraffe and meet up with their Tumblr friends.
So imagine the disappointment, the shock and awe, that people felt when Dashcon actually happened.
Cause it was *bad*.
At this point, this wasnt immediately apparent to most Tumblr users, but there was a lot
of bad stuff happening behind the scenes. In particular, the three main organizers,
Meg, Roxanne, and Cain, were having some disagreements.
Roxannes job was to plan and organize Artist Alley, Meg was the primary contact for guests
and panelists, and Cain organized interviews.
Its hard to find firsthand accounts from any of the people directly involved, but multiple
people who knew the organizers and had low-level roles in Dashcon claimed that Roxanne was
trying to get the convention to run smoothly, while Cain and Meg didnt seem to have a
very good grip on it. Once again, keep in mind that these are secondhand accounts from
folks who knew the organizers, and they may have had an incentive to misrepresent things.
But after reading multiple accounts from multiple different people who knew the organizers,
theres a pretty consistent picture that Roxanne was trying to fix the con and make
it run well, while Cain and Meg werent putting in much effort in the months leading
up to Dashcon.
Allegedly, Roxanne was staying up until 2 am answering emails, booking panelists, and
attending meetings, while Cain and Meg would regularly go MIA and simply refuse to answer
Roxannes emails. Again, Meg was supposed to be the contact for guests and panelists,
and would frequently not answer their emails or stay in contact with them, leading to multiple
panelists dropping out in the months preceding Dashcon. Cain was also the one in contact
with Dashcons lawyer, but eventually stopped answering his emails, leading to the lawyer
quitting and leaving Dashcon lawyerless.
Cain and Meg also allegedly used their Dashcon phones for personal calls, racking up massive
phone bills to the convention. Finally, Cain and Meg did not like Roxanne and would refuse
to speak to her while she tried to organize the convention. According to Roxanne, it was
her job to submit tax information for Dashcon, which she couldnt do because Meg would
frequently refuse to respond to requests for the relevant information.
Roxanne eventually had to step in and handle emails from the panelist side because Meg
would simply refuse to answer emails and calls. Roxanne also allegedly sent a group email
with a potential Dashcon budget, which the other two organizers ignored. One low-level
Dashcon organizer named Sycamore, who was a teenager at the time, reported that although
she initially felt Roxanne was overbearing during the planning process, it later became
apparent that that was because she was the only person there trying to get things sorted, whereas
the other organizers didnt seem that interested.
I couldnt find specific details on what led to the initial rift between Roxanne and
the other two, or why they all entered a business partnership together when they disliked Roxanne
so much, but this rift would only deepen as the convention continued.
Honestly, the relationship between all three of them is a little odd given that Cain and
Meg were both about in their thirties when they entered this business partnership and
Roxanne was a teenager, and the way the two organizers allegedly disliked and targeted
her was equally strange.
One Dashcon account from a man named Matthew J Hellscream mentioned that him and his wife
were asked to fly all the way from Australia and attend Dashcon. Matthew initially used
Alice in Wonderland pseudonyms in his account to refer to the organizers, and later revealed
who was supposed to be who. Matthew also didnt refer to his wife by name, so Im just going
to use a pseudonym as well, so lets say she was called Susan. I couldnt find
her actual name, so I really hope its not actually Susan. If it is, Im very sorry.
The gist of his account is that Susan was Internet friends with Meg, who asked the couple
to come to Dashcon, to which they agreed.
After Susan noticed that Meg seemed really stressed about the convention, Susan asked
if she could help manage Dashcons social media, after which she was promptly put in
charge of the entire vendor hall at the convention. This woman had no history organizing conventions,
was not asked if she was up to the task, and was not going to be paid.
She was like hey, Im a little nervous about this, and Meg told her it was fine
and shed get appropriate training before the fact. Unsurprisingly, this didnt happen.
According to Matt, she never got any training or guidance, and while Roxanne was nice to
her and tried to help, Cain and Meg offered Susan no direction or support, and repeatedly
tried to drag her into their personal drama. This was the situation a lot of people running
the convention experienced: they were mostly unpaid volunteers, many of them teenagers,
and were given no training or guidance as to how to run the actual convention.
As a result of the discord and poor planning behind the scenes, multiple panelists who
were supposed to be booked and paid in advance never received any money for their airfare
or hotel bookings. Many of them were told that their money would come sometime after
the convention was finished and they'd made their money off ticket sales. Some waited, and some flat out dropped out of the convention
in advance. Among those they refused to pay were Steam Powered Giraffe and successful
horror podcast Welcome to Night Vale. As a result, SPG cancelled. And no, people who
paid special money for Steam Powered Giraffe tickets would not be receiving refunds.
In particular, its worth mentioning that Steam Powered Giraffe publicly cancelled in
January 2014, seven months before the convention. There was loads of time for the con organizers
to issue refunds; they just didnt want to. SPG themselves seemed to be under the
impression that Dashcon would refund people, since, according to their blog, the fine
folks at Dashcon told us they intend to refund anyone for our appearance, but you should
contact them for the details.
A lot of people were disappointed about SPG cancelling, since they were arguably the biggest
name Dashcon had booked. Funnily enough, a few people had accurately identified that
this was the conventions first major red flag. Well, besides the fact that it was a
Tumblr convention run by a team with no experience. According to this particularly prescient Tumblr
What happened? The first ever Tumblr convention will probably fall apart now. SPG was their
main guest, and the reason most people were going. My friends and I were planning on driving
15 hours to be there. Why did this fall through?
If you remember that long list of planned panels, its probably unsurprising that
the vast majority of them never actually ended up taking place. By the time the actual convention
rolled around, things were in total disarray behind the scenes, while the organizers put
on a positive face to the public.
Which brings us back to July 11, 2014.
It was the first day of the convention, and among the organizers mishandlings and refusal
to properly budget and plan, they had promised the hotel that 3000 to 7000 people would be
attending the convention, many of whom would be booking rooms there. In actuality, about
500 people showed up that day. Thats 16% of their *lowest* estimate, and 7% of their
highest. The convention opened to empty rooms, barely-attended panels, and desolate landscapes.
For example, there was a gaming room that had a single console in it. My favourite
picture, and probably the most memorable iconography associated with the convention, is the glorious
ballpit that had been hyped up for almost a year, which was just a tiny kiddie pool
filled with plastic balls. There was also a rumour that someone from 4chan peed in the
ballpit, which I can find no accounts of actually happening, but the fact that it was even a
believable rumour in the first place is telling of what the atmosphere that first day was
Despite the low number of attendees, volunteers were stressed and overworked, largely because
they were given little to no direction as to what they were actually supposed to do.
According to eyewitness accounts from these volunteers, although Roxanne was up and running
in the morning, Cain and Meg got drunk in their hotel rooms late at night and then slept
in until noon during every day of the convention, and security teams didnt recognize either
of them because of how little they were actually there.
By that point, Cain and Meg were continuing to turn on Roxanne. Susan claimed that on
the rare occasions that she got the time of day from Cain and Meg during the convention,
all they would talk about was how much they disliked Roxanne. Once again, they were about
ten years older than her. She was now 20. They were the adults here.
According to Susan, Cain and Meg dropped off a legal document the day before that would
demote Roxanne to their secretary and asked her to sign it. I havent seen the actual
document, but according to one of Megs former friends, they wrote it themselves,
and its very poorly written. Remember that Dashcons actual lawyer no longer worked
for them because Cain stopped replying to his emails. As far as I can find, Roxanne
did not sign it, furthering the rift between them.
The rest of the day continued to go I mean, not horribly? The staff was overwhelmed and
barely anyone showed up, but some panels certainly did *happen*, if thats your baseline. At
about 5 pm, Susan went to the hotel room with her husband to rest between two panels she
was supposed to be hosting, only to find that her key card was disabled and she couldnt
get into the room. They both went to the front desk and asked about it, and were told that
there was an issue with the rooms regarding payment, and they wouldnt be let in until
it was sorted.
They waited outside the room for things to be sorted, and as they were waiting, a group
of young con-goers walked up to them, and this exchange took place.
Is it true?
Is what true? we asked.
The post on the blog.
What post on the blog? we asked.
The one where it says the hotel is trying to close the convention down because they
dont like the attendees and you need $17,000 by 10pm to keep the convention going.
Wait, back up.
It turns out, because the number of attendees was less than what Roxanne, Cain, and Meg
had anticipated, they made a lot less in ticket sales than expected, and suddenly could not
afford to pay the hotel booking fees that had been promised. More specifically, they
were short 17 thousand dollars.
Instead of just telling people hey, we way overestimated the number of attendees
and now we cant pay our booking fees, please help, they instead, inexplicably, opted
to lie. The organizers made a post on the Dashcon tumblr that read as follows:
Hello dashcon please help! The upper management of the hotel is threatening to shut down dashcon,
unless we give them $17,000 by 10 p.m. Central Time tonight. Please go to DashCon.org and
click the Donate button and give her anything you can. Unless we get this by tonight everything
is cancelled. We suspect its due to the fact that upper management doesnt like
the people at the con. Please please donate what you can!!! Thank you, we have an hour!
Yeah, they just straight up told people the upper management didnt like them and were
extorting them for money, and that they had an hour to raise those funds. Zero willingness
to admit to the real reason the con failed.
The Dashcon organizers then crowded everyone into a room and explained, out loud, that
they needed to raise the 17 thousand dollars as quickly as possible. They assured people,
for some reason, that it had nothing to do with the hacker known as 4chan, and that the
hotel simply told them out of nowhere that they were going to need to come up with more
money than expected by the end of the night.
And thats where we were at the beginning. Some people were pretty angry at this ask,
demanding their money back for the convention, while others gladly helped pass around the
money bag and contributed their own funds to it. By the end of the hour, based on the
money bag and online donations, the Dashcon attendees successfully managed to raise enough
to keep the hotel for the rest of the weekend. .
After they announced that they had raised enough money, people whooped and hollered
in joy, hugging each other and singing a group rendition of We Are The Champions in a clip
that would be memorialized as one of Dashcons low points for years to come.
Even after the hotel fees were supposedly paid off, many of the hotel keys were not
reactivated. For example, after spending hours volunteering at the convention with no attempts
to keep her in the loop, Susan and her husband returned to the hotel after the money was
raised and was told that her hotel key would not be reactivated because Dashcon had cancelled
Apparently, part of how the organizers made back their owed money was by providing the
hotel with a list of rooms that they would no longer be paying for, suddenly and without
warning shunting the responsibility to pay for their hotel rooms back to many of the
panelists and con volunteers who had been promised a comped room. Keep in mind from
that earlier post that they only promised to compensate hotel rooms in the first place
for volunteers who spent at least 17 hours volunteering, so they were really screwing
over the people who did the most work for them. This would have consequences later on
into the convention, so keep the fact that they did that in mind.
Susan and her husband were told that Dashcon, who had earlier promised to pay for all three
nights of their hotel stay, would no longer pay for any of their accommodations, so if
they wanted to stay for the rest of the weekend, they would have to spend just under four hundred
dollars out of pocket. And it wasnt like they could just go home, because if you remember,
they flew in from Australia.
They attempted to contact Meg, who assured them that it would all be dealt with in good
time. They were eventually let back into their room, but were forced to pay for it themselves.
After having a panic attack, helping out a little bit the next day and making sure Roxanne
and the other volunteers would be okay without her, Susan left, which honestly good for her.
Despite horrible planning, an overestimation of the number of guests, and behind the scenes
drama, the con-goers came through, and the con would go on.
All that drama, *and that was just day one*.
Day two of the convention arrives. People on Tumblr, who were previously excited about
the joy and fun that Dashcon would bring, have caught wind that whatever the f*ck is
going on in Illinois, its bad. The atmosphere quickly turns from excitement to cynicism
as more and more secondhand information is spread around regarding the missing money
and the hotel lockouts. People begin clowning on Dashcon on their own blogs, and the missing
17 thousand dollars quickly becomes one of the major talking points to do with the convention.
In an attempt to save face and hopefully clarify the situation, the Dashcon organizers make
a much longer post on their blog, titled the explanation. The post, which Ive somewhat
shortened here but you can find in its entirety on the Dashcon blog, reads:
First, we did owe the hotel money, and that is nothing I can get around. Its extremely
common to owe a hotel money for an event at the door, and we made our prepayments beforehand.
We have an extremely good track record when it comes to making the appropriate payments
for the appropriate things, and doing so in a timely fashion.
We worked out a plan with the hotel to give them money slowly for the entire course of
the weekend, which was more than 100% feasible for us. However, 12 hours later one of our
admins was unexpectedly pulled into a meeting with higher-level hotel staff, at which point
they were informed that convention management had to procure $20,000 by the end of the night.
Unfortunately, the money we needed to pay that amount would not have been coming in
until 7/12 in the form of walk-in attendees, as is customary for conventions. Saturday
is always the biggest day. While the hotel was aware of this, they still required the
money to be provided by 10 PM CST. Below is an official letter from the hotel proving
that this money was indeed owed, and we had no other route to pursue.
They posted a picture of a receipt. Most of the identifying information was censored,
but it mentioned that the balance due was $20,000.
Those who donated VIA paypal, we will be refunding you guys after the convention as soon as possible,
starting with the largest amounts, and moving down from there. For those panels which were
rearranged, they will be rescheduled to the best of our ability and will be happening
tomorrow! Looking forward to this weekend!
Well. Unsurprisingly, the explanation 100% did not help their cause. First of all, their
assertion that they would have been able to pay off the fees if the hotel had waited one
more day is really doubtful, because their estimation of how many people were going to
show up was so ridiculously off that unless attendance literally septupled the next day
and hit at least 3000, it wasnt going to happen. As it turned out, about another 500
people showed up the next day, far fewer than expected.
Secondly, a lot of people were skeptical of the claim that Dashcon would be refunding
people after the convention, because 1) a lot of people donated by putting money into
a large bag and its very doubtful that those people would be identified and repaid,
and 2) people already figured that this convention was very very doubtfully going to make any
money at all. It wasnt even close to meeting its estimated goal, and it was doubtful that
it was going to break even, let alone have enough money to repay thousands of dollars
worth of donations.
And thirdly, people just generally did not trust the word of the Dashcon organizers after
theyd lied last night and claimed they were only being asked to pay the hotel because
the hotel staff just hated them for no reason. The explanation was generally clowned on as
outsiders laughed at the shitshow that was Dashcon and insiders demanded justice and
Its also worth mentioning that in Internet Historians video on the topic, he analyses
a series of Paypal transactions posted by the Dashcon staff, and notes that Dashcons
claim of being short $17 thousand dollars was a lie in the first place, and they were
in fact only short a few thousand, meaning they raised far more money than they actually
needed. A series of paypal receipts revealed that the organizers used several thousand
of those dollars on personal expenses, and potentially pocketed the remainder. Although
this wasnt common knowledge at the time, the numbers still werent adding up for
the general public, who quickly recognized that Dashcon was lying and they werent
going to be refunded.
Back at the actual convention centre, things werent going so hot either. Remember how
I said they refused to pay the Welcome to Night Vale cast early, and the cast said they
wouldnt perform without being paid in advance? Which, by the way, was a very smart decision
on their part given how much the con was hemorrhaging money. Yeah, the con organizers did NOT communicate
that information to the public.
The Night Vale panel was supposed to start at 12:00 PM. At 12:50 PM, nearly an hour later,
the Welcome to Night Vale cast was still not there, and none of the audience was provided
with an explanation of why. People were concerned, and getting pretty antsy. Little did the people
sitting there know, the con organizers were busy updating the Dashcon website to specifically
mention in the rules that people would not be getting their money back. Finally, at 1:15
PM, one of the organizers came forward and explained that the show would not go on.
Its worth mentioning that since Steam Powered Giraffe cancelled, Welcome To Night Vale was
undoubtedly the most famous group of people who were supposed to be at Dashcon. Maaaybe
Doug Jones, but not enough people know who he is. Night Vale was *definitely* the most
famous group of people with Dashcons core demographic, and a good chunk of the reason
why a lot of people went to Dashcon in the first place. Understandably, people were pretty
pissed at this, and especially at the fact that the rules were just changed mid-convention
to say they would not be getting their money back. The Dashcon organizers once again returned
to Tumblr to post a half-baked explanation for the Night Vale cancellation.
And this is where one of the most iconic quotes from Dashcon came from.
For those of you who had reserved seats, we are giving you guys an extra hour with the
ball pit, as well as an entry each into a raffle where we will be giving away a framed
Stan Lee Autograph, a framed Richard Armitage Autograph, a framed Walking Dead photo with
the full cast autographs, a signed Martin Freeman autograph, and more! So many cool
prizes!! Additionally, youll be allowed first come first serve places at the Time
Crash concert tonight for what extra room we have. For those who bought just daily tickets
to see Night Vale, youre welcome to a free Sunday daily badge.
The POTENTIAL to win an autographed photo. And an extra hour in the ballpit. Which once
again. Was a literal plastic kiddie pool filled with balls. That could fit maybe two people
at once. As a compensation prize for several dozen people at least. And also, the ballpit
wasnt like. A timed thing. It wasnt like before this, you had to pay specifically
to use the ballpit and they timed how long you got to be in there. Getting an extra
hour with the ballpit is not only something no one wanted, but is also literally meaningless.
It would be like if you were sitting on a rickety bench in a public park and someone
stole your money, but told you it was okay because as compensation, you could sit on
that rickety bench for as long as you wanted. It was just. Nothing.
The phrase extra hour in the ballpit quickly became its own meme, and was circulated
outside of tumblr and widely mocked by everyone who saw it. Some people even went to other
cons in the future cosplaying AS the Dashcon ballpit. People who werent actually at
the convention were mostly a mix of upset for the people who got scammed and living
for the drama of it all. This ballpit, and the fact that it was genuinely being offered
as compensation for a missed panel, was the perfect symbol for the mix of earnestness
and incompetence that Dashcon had to offer.
Remember the nonspecific goodie bags that were being offered on the IndieGoGo page
as a backer reward, back when Dashcon was Tumbl-Con USA? The bizarre list of other compensation
items led some people to speculate that these items came from the goodie bags from the original
IndieGoGo, although without confirmation as to what was in them, its impossible to
say if thats true or not.
Remember that thing earlier about how when they ran out of money, the con organizers
just ditched all the panelists whose hotels they promised to pay for, and made them suddenly
pay their own way? On the same day Night Vale dropped, this happened to the Baker Street
Babes, a group of women who hosted a Sherlock Holmes-themed podcast and were supposed to
do a panel at the convention.
They subsequently threatened legal action and left the convention early. The same thing
also happened to featured artist Noelle Stevenson- yes, *that* Noelle Stevenson- and popular
geek bloggers Lyndsay Faye and beinggeekchic. In particular, Noelle mentioned she had to
sleep on a couch offered to her by the Night Vale people, because no one would let her
into her actual hotel room. This led to many of them dropping out of the convention only
a day after it began, leading to an even worse experience, leading to more attendees
On top of panelists dropping because they werent paid, the con experience was getting
worse and worse. Vendors paid $150 each for a spot in Artist Alley, and after way fewer
people than expected showed up, they began to leave as they werent making enough money
to justify being there. This created a snowball effect, as fewer vendors means fewer people
checking out artist alley which means fewer sales which means fewer vendors.
The remaining panels were. not the worst thing in the world, but were mostly pretty bad, not because the panelists were at fault,
but because the con had no money and almost no one was there. Among them included games
where hotel mints were given out as prizes and panels where there werent enough chairs
for all the speakers. A dashcon organizer, who I believe is Roxanne, tweeted a picture
of herself crying on the official Dashcon account. The charity Random Acts, who if you
recall, Dashcon claimed to be affiliated with, released a statement telling people they had
nothing to do with the convention. Minors were rumoured to be allowed into adult-only
panels, and people also claimed that actor Doug Jones had also left the convention early
on Sunday morning. Long story short, the rest of the convention sucked.
On Sunday, the organizers hosted an official apology panel, and in Megs words, There
were a lot of mistakes made on a lot of different peoples parts, and we apologize for the
parts that were us. Meg also mentioned wanting to make the convention better in 2015, which lol.
The final day of the convention ended with relatively little fanfare in person,
and lots of people absolutely losing their minds online. Folks were making memes, laughing
at the organizers and con-goers, and demanding their money back.
So, that was the actual convention in a nutshell. The organizers recruited a bunch of unpaid
teenagers with no experience to run things on the ground, and the only people it was
worse for than the attendees were the panelists. Although eyewitness accounts place Roxanne
as the only organizer making any effort to make the convention better, the other two
repeatedly attempted to push her out of the organizing work, and she was still complicit
in the financial mess that was Dashcon. Many people who went to the convention described
it as not the worst thing theyd ever done, but still, yknow, not a very good con.
So that was Dashcon itself. But what happened afterwards? And where are they now?
Several days later, on July 17th, Meg released an Official Statement on the website, which
she called separating fact from fiction. In it, the Dashcon organizers made several
claims. These claims were as follows:
-They did not misuse any of the $17,000, and all of it went to paying con fees and maintaining
the convention. As per Internet Historians earlier analysis, this is likely untrue.
-Anyone who requested it before July 19th would have their Paypal money refunded. Anyone
who requested it *after* July 19th would be ignored. Besides the fact that this only gave
people a two-day window to ask for their money back, the aforementioned refunds did not end
-The volunteers and panelists were not comped their hotel rooms because of a clerical
error which happened for reasons still unknown, which they were working on resolving.
-The reason Meg was not answering any of the panelists calls was because her phone reception
was shoddy in the convention center.
-Rumours about actor Doug Jones leaving early and minors being allowed into 18 plus panels
were both untrue.
-They would uphold their rules, and would not be offering any refunds for any cancelled
-Dashcon 2015 would be happening the same weekend next year. Interestingly enough, Megs
account only mentioned herself and Cain, and there was no mention of Roxanne anywhere in
Finally, Meg thanked everyone for their patience, and included a donation button at the bottom
of the page, which, amazing. Meg continued to respond to people on the Dashcon tumblr
blog for the next short while, reblogging the official statement multiple times and
assuring people they would get their money back. Unsurprisingly, people did not get their
In the months following Dashcon, Cain and Meg formed a new corporation for next years
Dashcon, and kicked Roxanne out. They renamed it Emoti-Con 2015, and ignored peoples
requests for refunds in favour of working on Emoti-Con. Roxanne was also denied access
to any remaining Dashcon funds. Its rumoured that they kicked her out because she was the
only organizer who actually wanted to refund people, which is possible, but based on earlier
accounts it sounds like Cain and Meg had a problem with Roxanne for a long time before
Cain and Meg assembled a new team to help them run Emoti-Con, most of whom were, again,
people in their early 20s with no con experience, and almost all of them were called out on
Tumblr for various injustices within the week. Some of these organizers were called out for
defending bIackface; others were called out for harassing DashCon panelists on their personal
Tumblr accounts. Cain and Meg quickly removed references to these organizers on their website,
but didnt mention if any of them have been fired.
This was also when Susan and her husband Matt posted their account of Dashcon, and Meg responded
on her own Tumblr, saying theres no way they got the full story because they spent
less than 24 hours at the con. Despite, yknow. Being main volunteers and being kicked out
of their hotel room because the organizers decided to stop paying for them. This earned
Meg even more backlash, which she earnestly responded to calling her haters narrow-minded
and telling them to suck a bag of d*cks.
The Emoti-Con website is no longer up, but it was a complete mess, even reusing paragraphs
the League of Legends website. The website also claimed to no longer be a Tumblr convention,
and was for, and I quote, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube, Facebook, and 4Chan. The website
was quickly circulated on all of these sites, who readily mocked it.
Cain and Meg also organized a series of online forums for discussing emoti-con, and set up
a language filter on the forum that autocorrected Roxannes name to Voldemort. Once
again, these people were in their thirties.
Emoti-Con was met with a lot of distrust and hostility from people who knew about Dashcon,
as well as incredulous reactions that they were genuinely going to try to do the convention
again after the colossal mess that it turned out to be. Despite this distrust, the Emoti-Con
organizers were quickly exposed for deleting any comments on the official Emoti-Con Facebook
page that were critical of the convention, leaving the veneer that people were supportive
and excited about the convention.
Despite erasing negative comments about Emoti-Con, the staff couldnt pretend forever that
the convention was going to be a success, and on December 9th, 2014, the official Emoti-Con
blog made a post claiming the convention was cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales and
refunds would be issued. Several people responded with a list of additional questions, including
whether Dashcon was liquidated, why Roxanne autocorrected to Voldemort on her forum, and
whether the planned guests for Emoti-Con would be refunded for any travel they planned to
do. Meg responded to none of them and promptly abandoned the emoti-con tumblr. Dashcon 2015,
and the hopes of any future dashcons, died with it.
According to the blog Emoticon-Indy, who claims to be run by people who know the organizers,
Meg was later fired from her job, filed for bankruptcy, and now spends most of her time
roleplaying Homestuck online, and Cain later got a shoplifting conviction from Walmart
and is still lying about attending an Ivy League school. Both of them are holding onto
the Dashcon funds and have still not refunded people to this day.
Meanwhile, Roxanne has apparently been doing well for herself after unsuccessfully
hiring a lawyer to get access back to the Dashcon corporation. Is this actually true?
I dont know, and it seems almost too good to be true that the bad guys of the story
got some kind of karmic justice while the only organizer who made an actual effort is
doing well. Its also worth mentioning that the link showing that Meg filed for bankruptcy
is real, but is also from 2009, so I dont think its related to her Dashcon organizing.
In any case, wherever the three organizers are now, theyre at least not in a position
to run any future conventions, which I think is much more important than whether Cain actually
shoplifted from Walmart or whatever.
So thats the story of Dashcon, the people who made it what it was. From the start, Dashcon
was a poorly organized venture marked with financial missteps, internal drama, and horrible
planning. Do I think the Dashcon staff set out to scam people on purpose? No. I think
it was honestly a mix of wilful incompetence, a refusal to admit wrongdoing, and several
people simply getting in over their heads. If I feel bad for anyone involved in this,
I mean, I most certainly wasnt in a position to organize a convention as a 19-year-old,
or even now for that matter. Being a teenager whos brought into a business venture with
a bunch of 30 year old children who proceed to ignore you, shittalk you, try to force
you into becoming their secretary, and then fire you and call you Harry Potter insults
has gotta be a pretty terrible experience, and wherever Roxanne is, I hope she's doing
relatively well. Hashtag justice for Roxanne. Regardless, I dont want to absolve anyone
of responsibility here, and it is worth mentioning that all of the Dashcon organizers including Roxanne
repeatedly lied to panelists and con-goers throughout the whole debacle. There really are no fully
innocent parties as far as con organizers go.
Most of the people who were booked to be panelists at Dashcon are doing quite well for themselves
now, and no one was forced into financial ruin by it, which is a good thing. Welcome
to Night Vale, Noelle Stevenson, Steam Powered Giraffe, Doug Jones, and Baker Street Babes
are still all very successful and happy people, which is good. As for the congoers themselves,
as far as I can find people who donated never did get their money back. I hope at the very
least that people got some positive memories out of Dashcon.
I think theres a tendency after the fact to just make fun of people who went to the
convention as though it was their fault Dashcon was awful. Even in the Internet Historian
video, the main footage used is from someone essentially going around and making fun of
the con-goers, and I think thats just the wrong message to take from Dashcon. Not only
did no one know going into it that Dashcon was going to suck because nothing like it had ever
happened before, but these were also just
largely just people trying to meet up with their Internet friends and have fun.
On that note, though, one interesting consequence post-Dashcon is that the atmosphere of Tumblr
itself very rapidly changed. After the con happened, I saw fewer and fewer people referring
to Tumblr as a friendly, home-like community for them, and more and more people referring
to it as a hellsite. I also never again unironically saw a post wishing there was
a tumblr university or a tumblr island.
I think this shift from tumblrs users loving it to hating it wasnt *only* because of
Dashcon; there were a number of other social factors at play that I could spend a whole
video talking about. But Dashcon definitely left a sour taste in a lot of peoples mouths,
and a lot of folks came out of the event embarrassed to be members of the tumblr community.
Although Dashcon is now nothing but a vaguely nostalgic memory and a source of cringe for
most of the Internet, its legacy carries on six years later as both a cautionary tale
against attending poorly planned events, and a reminder that just because someone has the
same geeky interests as you does not mean they have *your* best interests at heart.
Most importantly, Dashcon served as a great reminder that no matter how badly things are
going for us right now, at least were not spending an extra hour in the ballpit.
Id like to thank Curiositystream for helping me talk about Dashcon for forty minutes. This
is wild to me. If you want to know more about the awesome people whove supported me and
helped me make stuff like this, youre in luck, because Curiositystream and Nebula have
also allowed me to make exclusive content available only on Nebula!
Nebula is a collaborative streaming platform by me and many other creators like Lindsay
Ellis, Kat Blaque, Tierzoo, and many others. Its a really great platform to have, because
not all videos are best suited for YouTube, whether thats because of copyright, monetization,
or just money and time constraints. For those videos that arent best suited for a platform
like YouTube, its great to have a space like Nebula where you can access high quality
When you sign up for Nebula, you get early access to my YouTube videos, AND you can watch
my exclusive video, Debater Theater, which was made specifically for Nebula! In Debater
Theater, I talk about how to better use arguments to persuade others, with lots of cool examples
like how people use debating skills in movies, the news, and even award acceptance speeches.
When you sign up for Curiositystream, you also get your subscription to Nebula included!
Curiositystream is a great streaming service with thousands of amazing documentaries and
educational videos about all kinds of topics like science, nature, and global issues. You
can get unlimited access for just $2.99 a month, and when you sign up using my code,
you also get access to Nebula included! Just head to curiositystream.com/sarahz and use
my code SarahZ at signup! Thats curiositystream.com/sarahz.
Signing up for Curiositystream and Nebula is really good for you because you get access
to tons of exclusive content on Nebula and Curiositystream made by educational creators.
Its also good for the entire educational creator community because it gives us a space
to make more of the things we love. Basically, its just great for everyone, and Im
so glad to be a part of it.
On top of a special thank you to all my patrons, Id like to specially thank Dillon Reid,
Nate C, and Loveschaak for joining my $20+ tier!