Updated: 16 November, 2023 @ 12:24pm
I WANT TO...
HOW CAN I...
Do you have a policy on children?
Do you have a fiction reading list especially for hackers?
Why have a sponsorship program?
Why is your mascot a penguin?
When I attend, what will be my "total cost to pwn"?
Am I going to appear on the internet in photos, videos, or voice recordings of Penguicon?
Who was at the last Penguicon?
Can I wear the Penguin costume?
I Want To...
I want to register online for Penguicon.
Here is the page of registration details and the online registration form.
I want to register online for Geeks With Guns.
This is done through the same online registration form through which you register for Penguicon. If you already registered and want to add the gun range outing, email Registration.
I want to be a Program Participant at Penguicon.
Do you want to be a member of a discussion panel, deliver a talk or slide presentation, teach a class, or commit to create any other scheduled activity at Penguicon? Good! We encourage this. Use the contact form to give your name and contact info.
The graphic below describes what happens next. We really appreciate your patience and we are not at all bothered when you send us followup email. It's a good idea to directly email the appropriate track head. Feel free to CC the Scheduling Wrangler and/or the Conchair.
I want to email a staff member.
Here is our contact form. If you send an email and don't get a response, email the Convention Chair directly.
I want to get on the sign-up list for a free event.
Usually there will be a sign-up sheet on the front desk of Ops, assuming an event needs a sign-up sheet at all. Ops (the convention operations center) is in the coat room off the Assembly area in front of the main ballrooms. If an event is going to be popular enough to need a sign-up online in advance of the convention, we might not realize yet that. Email the Head of Programming and let us know that you want to get in line for it.
I want a free advance taste of Penguicon.
Here are photo, video, and audio recordings of past Penguicons. It will look blank, but give it a second to load.
How Can I...
Q: How can I post to the Penguicon community blog or homepage blog?
We have an LJ community "penguicon" which is for our attendees and friends to have discussions with each other. We also have the homepage blog "penguicon_news" which is for announcements.
First, you'll need to have an account on Livejournal. If you don't,
go to Livejournal.com and
click "Create Account". Once you have an account, log in.
Once you're logged in, you can join the Penguicon community blog or post to it from this page. You can join the Penguicon homepage blog or post to it from this page. The homepage blog is moderated, so your post will not show up immediately.
Q: How can I travel to Troy from outside southeast Michigan?
The main regional airport, Detroit Metro, is in Romulus. The Troy Marriott approximately 26 miles away. See the Travel section of our page on How To Attend for driving details.
Q: How can I split costs?
The Ride Or Room Share Request Form lets you give someone a ride in your vehicle to or from the convention, ride in their vehicle and split fuel expenses, share their hotel room arrangements with you, or stay in the hotel room you've reserved and split the cost.
Q: How can I get financial assistance?
See the Volunteering section of our How To Attend page.
Q: How can I help make Penguicon happen?
More than anything else, you need the ability to answer your email, phone, or whatever is your preferred means of communication. Other than that, what you need will depend on which job you do and which level of responsibility you take as described on the following list. The important thing is to know which one of these characters best describes you, and make it fairly clear to us. Don't let us overwhelm you.
The one thing that is not OK is to make us think you'll do a job, and when we ask you about it you claim it's going fine, when in reality you aren't doing it. Then all you have done is prevented the job from getting done because you wouldn't let someone else do it. Do not do that. We are perfectly fine with people stepping down when they realize that they incorrectly estimated whether they would complete the task.
1. Penguins (other conventions call them Gophers) are volunteers who sign up at the convention in the lobby. (See the Volunteering section of our How To Attend page.) Penguins do things like:
- sit in front of a door checking attendance badges.
- carry things upstairs.
- load the truck.
- watch the Anime room and change DVDs.
2. Crowdsourcing is like outsourcing, but from within our attendees. They are like the users who upload content to a website. Penguicon has a giant crowd who comes forward for a multitude of small contributions in the month leading up to the event. But it's never too early. There's a handy online form.
3. Staff show up to some concom meetings, but would rather not be responsible with authority. They just want to be pointed in a direction and told what to do. It is vital to give this person a detailed, clearly-defined job description. Most problems with Staff happen when expectations were not made clear to them by the Convention Chair or their department head.
4. Concom (Convention Committee) members have a vision for a department, and do it with staff and crowdsourcing. Concom are the kind of workers who core leaders trust to get their tasks done without supervision, so core leaders give them the authority to do it their way. If the drive to get something done comes from you, you're Concom. If somebody else is reminding you that you need to do it, you're Staff.
5. The Favor is a person who is doing a task only because someone they like asked them to do it, not because they care about it. The important distinction is this: a Concom member does something because if it doesn't get done, or if it gets done badly, they would be personally disappointed. A Favor only does the favor because if it weren't done, a Concom member would be disappointed. The quality of the convention is not really the Favor's problem. The Favor can do a fine job, depending on what the task is. This is an incredibly important distinction, so if it is the case, please make sure the convention Chair understands and accepts this when you are recruited.
6. Consultants feel confident that they know best how to do something, but are too busy doing things other than Penguicon to actually implement the vision. Gives good advice to the Core Leaders sometimes based on deep expertise, then gallops off into the sunset. Please tell us if you agreed to do something but realize you overcommitted. So long as you tell us, it's OK!
7. Core leaders. Not only do they do the lion's share of the work, they pick up what other people drop. It can be anybody who is respected, regardless of formal title (although the convention Chair is obviously one of them). One way to tell the core leaders is that they show up to most of the Concom meetings and/or SMOS dinners. If one of them has to drop out in an emergency, another one has been talking to them about Penguicon sufficiently often that they can take over.
Q: How can I get a table to sell things in the Dealers Room?
See our Dealers page.
Q: How can I advertise in the program book?
See our Advertising page.
Q: How can my company sponsor Penguicon?
See our Sponsorship page.
Q: How can I make ice cream with liquid nitrogen at Penguicon?
- If you are already LN2Ready=1, then go to step 3. If you are at LN2Ready=0 go to step 2.
- Go to LN2 training session, then go to 4. (Training sessions will probably take place the evening of Thursday, April 30, and the afternoon of Friday, May 1. Watch the blog for the announcement of confirmed times and locations, which will also be added to this FAQ.)
- Find Molly at con to pick up a badge ribbon reading "LN2 Ready", then go to 4
- Find Molly starting Thursday and sign up for a session
- Make ice cream, make friends, enjoy.
Q: How do I order badge ribbons?
We expect to have pricing, options, and deadlines to tell you by the end of January. Until then, send an e-mail to [email protected] with your order or any additional questions.
If you don't know, you may wish to see "What's a badge ribbon?" in this FAQ.
Q: What's a science fiction and open source convention?
|To those of you familiar with the Linux and Free/Open Source community
Think of a weekend long Linux Users Group meeting with hundreds of other geeks, which also just happens to have nationally acclaimed guests, its own wireless network, hotel room parties, lots of folks talking about Science Fiction and Fantasy, a place to buy cool t-shirts and buttons and such, amateur singing, anime, a costume contest, and free caffeine and snacks always available.
|To those of you familiar with Science Fiction conventions
Imagine all the convention features you know and love, with the
addition of wireless internet access, computer gaming, people who know
about online publishing / books on demand / digital art, a programming
track involving computing topics and another one focusing
on the crossover between Science Fiction and computing.
|Eric S Raymond once wrote in "Conventions at Light Speed: What Hackers Can Learn From SF Fandom", about technical conferences, "If people just dissipate after dinnertime for lack of a place to find conversation, that's a sin and a waste." Penguicon is the solution.
In past years, Tech guests have included Eric S. Raymond, Rob “CmdrTaco” Malda, John “maddog” Hall, Jeff “Hemos” Bates, Nat Torkington, Peter Salus, and Chris DiBona.
|Imagine seeing your favorite creative visionaries meet the innovators who are creating the future you read about in SF. Penguicon is so exciting because it brings together people with similar interests, but totally different skills. Then wonderful things happen when they get talking.
In past years, author guests have included Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross, and Joan D. Vinge. Gaming guests have included Steve Jackson, Kevin Siembieda, and Looney Labs. Web
comics guests have included Pete Abrams, Randy Milholland, and J.D. “Iliad” Fraser.
And what else is there at Penguicon? There is a Dealers Room. There is a Masquerade, and a rocking Dance. There are reading and signing sessions from our guest authors. There is 24-hour board/card/roleplaying gaming. There is a Linux Installfest, Birds of a Feather sessions, computing and programming tutorials, and info kiosks. A 24-hour Anime Room provided by the local anime convention Youmacon. In the complimentary hospitality suite, which is open to all attendees, we serve coffee, beer, the famed “Water Joe”, homebrew OpenCola, and ice cream made with liquid nitrogen! We do technical presentations and seminars. There is a writing workshop. There are science fiction singalongs and comedy music concerts. There are homemade robots.
Bubble machines. Starfleet Tux. Hardware hackers setting up Pringles cans as wireless antennas. Friendly authors beaming free science fiction stories to the PDAs of their fans. Experts on nanotechnology, biotech, A.I., and the
Singularity. Human-speakable languages based on computer logic. A constructable marble rollercoaster. Board games played on Hoberman spheres. It's developed in an Open Source style, so if you want something here, bring it!
All of this on a three day weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing YOU there!
"Weirdly opposite an event like PC Forum but every bit as fun." -- Cory Doctorow
"When you've been awake for 24 hours, Penguicon is like walking around the
internet in real life." -- Jorge Castro
"Why get a life when you can go to Penguicon instead? The perfect
playground for your inner geek..." -- Eric S. Raymond
"Penguicon 5.0 was the most fun I've had at a convention in years!" -- Charlie Stross
"Penguicon is arguably the best convention in all time and space." -- Steve Jackson
Q: What is Free Software?
Free Software is a movement to be allowed to understand the tools that we use, use them how we want, improve on them, and communicate our improvements to others. It's the freedom to keep our high-tech civilization serving us, to keep it from sliding into a dystopia of high-tech handcuffs. This rejects locked-down protocols and clients that put our computers in service of powerful interests. Unaccountable, non-transparent software and hardware in electronic voting machines is just one example. For another example, the music player industry is competing with each other to see who can manufacture the most anti-competitive, most user-hostile device, to hold our purchases hostage, and surveil us.
One strategy to support Free Software was boycotting all software or technology that restricted freedom. This could be called the "shivering in huts" strategy, and put its adherents at a severe disadvantage. Free Software was where it all began, but a strategy and method was needed. For that, see What Is Open Source?.
What is Open Source?
Free Software is a philosophical ideology, while Open Source is a method of creating software, and often a business strategy as well. Together, they are known as FOSS (Free/Open Source Software).
The difference between open and closed source is that closed source developers give you a program in the form of binary language that only a computer can read, so no human can figure out how it works. A closed process is managed from the top down in a cumbersome fashion, with managers struggling to impose a centralized vision on everybody and keep them coordinated. Because everything is a trade secret, they reinvent every wheel from scratch. Long ago, software got too complicated for this.
The cooperative, non-secretive principles of Software Freedom resulted in a different method of working together to create software. In the Open Source development model, you give the code to everybody in a form that lets any programmer copy it to their computer, read it, and edit their copy. They give the edited version back in improved form, and a cycle of collaboration begins. The result is less buggy because so many eyes have proofread it.
The world of Open Source Software has recognized the economic value of knowledge-sharing and commodity codebases that no one owns. Open Source has been one successful strategy of increasing Software Freedoms by setting up incentives to set each other free. Independent volunteer programmers are rewarded with praise and esteem in a reputation economy. Companies don't have to pay license fees over and over again for their shared software infrastructure, and they can much more easily and cheaply get software that works exactly the way they need it.
Today, the Internet runs mostly on Free and Open Source Software.
Whether you use Windows, Mac, or Linux, the Free and Open Source community has created free alternatives to most everything. Among the most popular, Firefox and Chrome are for web browsing, Thunderbird is an email client, and Open Office is an office suite compatible with Microsoft Office. These programs are beautiful, simple, functional, and commitment-free.
Q: What Is Linux?
|The KDE desktop environment on Linux.
|The GNOME desktop environment on Linux.
One of the biggest Free and Open Source development projects has been Linux, an operating system like Mac OS or Windows, except free as in "free speech" and free as in "free beer".
(There are other free operating systems, such as BSD. It is popular at Penguicon as well. Did you know Mac OS X is based on BSD?)
The Linux project has been going strong since the early nineties, and established majority market share of the servers that run the internet. Every time you search with Google, your request is processed by Linux. Today Linux is ready to compete directly with Microsoft as a consumer or business desktop system as well. You can buy a laptop from Dell with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled. TiVo runs on Linux. Even some household appliances and automobile dashboards have respectable chips in them, and if they do, odds are good they can run Linux and work however you want them to work.
Whether it be mobile phones, handheld computers, your desktop PC or Mac, or anything you are reading this page on, they can run Linux. You can download and burn a Live CD, for free, such as Ubuntu Linux, known as "Linux for Human Beings". Rebooting with a Live CD in your drive will turn your computer into a Linux computer until you restart, and then everything will be the way it was before. A Live CD is the perfect way to discover how beautiful, functional and easy Linux can be. It even includes a Linux installer for when you decide to ditch Windows.
Q: What's a Consuite?
The word Consuite is science fiction fandom lingo. It is not like you have seen in a film such as "Trekkies". Those are autograph shows-- mainly giant flea markets that make you buy concessions at stadium prices. All-volunteer fan-run conventions like Penguicon are a different type of event from that. We have a hotel suite for hospitality, called Consuite, with bowls full of salty and sweet snacks, lunchmeats, a bathtub full of canned beverages, and free beer and hard cider. Penguicon's Consuite is open non-stop from 3PM Friday to late Sunday (when the rest of the convention ends, we all eat the leftover food).
It's all complimentary. Yup, the beer is "free as in beer". Our first year, some hackers who were new to fandom didn't quite believe this, and lingered outside warily. So instead of telling them it was free, we started saying "you already paid for it in your registration, now go eat it".
To honor our hacker connections we serve Water Joe (caffienated bottled water), homebrew Open Cola and other reverse-engineered sodas on tap, and ice cream made with liquid nitrogen. Because SF author John Scalzi is a perennial Nifty Guest at Penguicon we are trying to arrange to serve Schadenfreude pie this year. The quality of Penguicon's Consuite is legendary among science fiction conventions.
Q: What's the difference between a panel, presentation, round table, and birds of a feather?
Some of these are events familiar to science fiction conventions, and others are more familiar to tech shows, but both types often have all these to one degree or another. The difference between a panel, presentation, round table, and birds of a feather is:
(1) The number of participants committed in advance to attend.
(2) How much difference there is between speakers and audience.
A panel is any discussion with multiple participants who have
committed to be there, get up in front of an audience, and discuss. It
is preferable to have something to say about the topic, but not
required, since committed participants are sometimes moderators.
A presentation is a talk prepared and delivered by one person who has
committed to be there and do it. Because there is only one person, a
presenter can prepare far more than can a panelist. Also, if the
presenter doesn't have much to say on the topic ... that would be odd,
wouldn't it? So they do.
A round table is a small session in which every audience member is an
active participant in the discussion. This usually results from a
panel that attracts such a small audience that the audience is invited
to join the panel on the other side of the table. These are often
worthwhile and rewarding, but cannot be scheduled in advance as Round
Tables per se. If no one is willing to commit to be there, there is no
sense reserving a space and time for it, but if someone is willing to
be there, they constitute a panel.
A birds of a feather session is any discussion which was scheduled on
an impromptu basis, in which no one present actually committed before
Penguicon to attend it. If more than one person registers in advance
of Penguicon to participate in a scheduled discussion, they constitute
Q: What's a Guest of Honor, a "Nifty Guest", and a Program Participant?
We have about five or six full Guests of Honor per year, usually
one or two authors, one or two from software, and the rest from from
games, comics, film/TV, or science.
"Nifty Guest" is a status we confer on those who are not our
Guests of Honor this year, but have been in the past, or they are
celebrities in their own right. We only have about twenty or fewer
Nifty Guests per year, although that number gets slightly larger each
year from the original two. It is not simply to be used an award for
people we like who have done things we admire. It is for two kinds of
- Celebrities or leaders within their specific subculture or internet
community. They have a fanbase within that subculture to whom they
announce, "you can meet me at Penguicon," so they are an attendance
- Those who are going to attend Penguicon to provide a specific event
which is so glittery and shiny for our attendees that it stands above
our other programming. When we feel we can't do without them, but they
can't attend without a little modest financial help, sometimes we have
Niftified them. This second type of Nifty has been kept deliberately
rare, maybe one per year.
"Program Participant" is a general term for anyone who delivers a presentation, is on a discussion panel, runs a scheduled game, or is
featured in any other scheduled event at Penguicon. Those who are not
designated a Guest of Honor or Nifty Guest receive a
discounted admission rate for providing Penguicon content. The reality
is, all our Program Participants are truly nifty in
the sense of the English adjective. But each year I've seen us turn
down several potential program participants because they couldn't show up
without a free membership badge. As an all-volunteer not-for-profit
convention (and one that is relatively new and still building financial
security), we can't do that yet.
Q: What's the schedule of events at Penguicon?
See our Event listings page.
Q. What's this year's Hack of Honor?
CandyFab, a 3D printer that makes sculptures out of sugar. See our Features page for more details.
Last year's Hack of Honor were The Giant Singing Tesla Coils, and their creators plan to bring them back this year for more concerts.
Q: What's a LAN party?
An event for multiplayer computer gaming on a LAN, which stands for "local area network". Players bring their own computers, headphones, and games, and the LAN party staff networks them all to each other to play the games against each other. See our Features page for more details.
Q. What's a SMOS dinner?
The SMOS dinner is a casual get-together full of chatting, eating,
and gaming, for convention organizers and their friends, and even
complete strangers who are friendly to the whole idea. All fans,
hackers, and their friends are welcome, regardless of whether you're
helping with Penguicon.
It takes place approximately every two weeks in different homes, and
Penguicon springs for dinner. There's no agenda, but a common topic of
conversation is usually all the cool stuff Penguicon is going to
feature this year, and the possibilities for more!
The SMOS name is based on an acronym SMOF from convention fandom,
which stands for Secret Masters Of Fandom. In the software naming
tradition of GNU (GNU's Not Unix), WINE (WINE Is Not an Emulator), and
LAME (LAME Ain't an MP3 Encoder), the name SMOS is recursive,
humorous, and untrue. Have no fear: Secret Masters Of SMOS is neither
secret nor masters.
Subscribe to the Penguicon homepage blog to watch for the next one!
Q: What's a badge ribbon?
At science fiction conventions, some attendees hand out ribbons that attach to the bottom of name badges with a strip of adhesive. Originally, long before Penguicon started, these were only used by SF conventions to identify convention volunteers and program participants. They still are used for this. However, these days if you attend Penguicon and are willing to stick ribbons to your badge, it is likely to grow a chain of ribbons over the weekend that may reach to your knees if you let it.
Many ribbons serve as a prize or incentive of some kind. Some identify some group or category to which the person who gave you the ribbon believes you belong. Some provide a space for you to write your LJ username. Some are a record of your experiences or who you met during the weekend. And some are just humorous. There are no rules.
If you'd like to purchase badge ribbons with your message and hand them out over the weekend, see How Can I Order Badge Ribbons? in this FAQ.
Q: What's the registration cost and price increase schedule?
See the registration details page.
Q: What's the contact info of staff?
See our Staff listing and click an envelope icon to email a member of our all-volunteer staff.
Q: What's Penguicon's mailing address?
P.O. Box 40869, Redford, MI 48240-0869
Q: What do I do if I don't get a response?
Please, email the Conchair.
Q: Do you have a fiction reading list especially for hackers?
Penguicon has a track about the crossover between fiction and computing for good reason. Plenty of today's cutting-edge science fiction is written by those in the field of computers or math. It is probably not an accident that Steve Eley, a 2009 Penguicon Nifty Guest and creator of the Escape Pod SF podcast, is a web developer.
For examples of fiction involving famous persons from computer history, see "The Difference Engine" by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, Oracle by Greg Egan, and "Cryptonomicon" by Neil Stephenson (who also wrote the nonfiction In The Beginning Was The Command Line).
Published authors who are web-savvy often provide quality narratives involving the future of computing, for free on the web. These include Linux/Perl journalist (and 2007 Penguicon Guest of Honor) Charlie Stross, computer programmer Greg Egan and 2008 Penguicon Guest of Honor Vernor Vinge. (see this illustration and this one.)
2005 Penguicon Guest of Honor Cory Doctorow makes enough hacker fiction available on the web to provide a list of examples:
Printcrime, I, Robot, When Sysadmins Ruled The Earth, and Human Readable.
Penguicon Nifty Guest Karl Schroeder's concept of "thalience', as described in such works as Ventus, has gained some currency in the artificial intelligence and computer networking communities.
Q: Why is your mascot a penguin?
The mascot of the Linux operating system is Tux the penguin. This does not mean that the technology side of Penguicon is only for Linux. We're interested in all Free Open Source Software. This year when Starfleet Tux makes his live appearance at the convention, he will be joined by Beastie, the demon who is the mascot of the BSD operating system, dressed as a Jedi.
Q: When I attend, what will be my "total cost to pwn"?
Plan for registration, lodging, travel, and meals.
The registration page details all the price increases, and how long the current rate lasts.
The complimentary Consuite is great for quenching your thirst and eating cereal, fruit, sandwiches, soup, chupaquesos, and so forth. That comes with your registration. But it's recommended to eat one non-Consuite meal per day.
Q: Do you have a policy on children?
Although we don't forbid children, we aren't claiming to be intended
for them either. Parents bring their children at their own risk. For
instance, there are some panel topics inappropriate for children. Some
evening and night convention functions may involve attendee costume
and activities possibly inappropriate for children. You don't want
your child eating a lot of the free caffeinated mints in the consuite
as if they were candy.
We don't provide anything specifically intended for them to do. We
don't charge for children age 12 or under to attend, we don't allow
them to register as an attendee, and we don't kick them out. The one
issue we have had, is that we do ask that parents not use the Chaos
Machine or the board games room as babysitting. Those are popular with
kids. But we then seek out the missing parent and make them accompany
If you bring your child, do not complain at the feedback session. If you are going to complain at the feedback session about the availability of caffeinated mints in the Consuite, or the distribution of condoms, or the supervisors in the game room or Chaos Machine kicking out your child for disruption, then do not bring your child to Penguicon.
Q. Why have a sponsorship program?
Since we are not for-profit, we seek the means to build a nest egg, and do more for our community to grow attendance, that doesn't involve transferring a financial burden to you. Keeping the financial cost low maximizes attendance, which maximizes grassroots social network effects that promote the convention and our community.
As it so happens, that's not the only thing a grassroots social network promotes. Fandom and open source hackers are two groups that have generated a great deal of money for things they're passionate about. We get a lot of entrepreneurs, potential employees, sales decision-makers, and early adopters. Everyone they know turns to them for technology advice. But this is the sort of event they attend not because somebody said they have to, but because they want to. There is technical education and business networking to be had at Penguicon, but it's driven by passion. Making sure you contribute your passion requires keeping your costs low. So it makes sense that companies should chip in. This symbiosis benefits everybody.
But it benefits you the most. Those who make Penguicon happen are doing so because they enjoy Penguicon, so maximizing what the attendees get out of it will always be central to the decisions of the convention organizers.
Q: Am I going to appear on the internet in photos, videos, or voice recordings of Penguicon?
If you leave your house and someone records you, by default assume somebody will put it on the internet. If you ask the convention organizers to withhold any such recordings from Penguicon's own communications channels, we're cooperative about honoring such requests. Hey, we're all friends here. Send your request with this form after the convention and specify what recording you were on with whatever details you can.
Of course we can't speak for your fellow attendees, many of whom will be carrying photography and recording equipment, and some of whom might have it implanted in their retinas. If there is a problem with that, we sympathize. May we suggest sunglasses, a scarf and a stylish wide-brimmed hat? Just say your convention costume is Carmen Sandiego.
Q: Who was at the last Penguicon?
Almost 1200 attendees descended upon the Romulus Crowne Plaza on May 1st-3rd, 2009. Our Guests of Honor were Jane McGonigal, Rasmus Lerdorf, Jon "maddog" Hall, Sarah Hoyt, and the Hack of Honor was CandyFab from Evil Mad Scientists Labs. Over 100 Program Participants delivered presentations, sat on panels, gamemastered games, performed concerts and shows, and gave demonstrations.
Q: Can I wear the Penguin costume?
That's not a costume!
Ask your question