THE GOPHER HOLE

By Fiona Anderson.

|Miranda and I both only had limited experience here, so I started by sending her a job description to open a discussion about what we both thought her job should involve.

In recent years there has been a general trend at Eastercons for less and less gophers to come forward, which needs to be addressed seriously. One of my own recommendations is that senior types should regularly take on a gopher shift at cons (as well as whatever else) and mix with gophers socially too....we're all fans together, and I've made a lot of' new friends that way, anyway it's relaxing to go and do the odd gopher shift after tearing your hair out about something or other else :)

Anyway the Gopher Hole was a grim forbidding prison, which was my fault, as I went for the cheap option on stuff, and could have been designed to be much more gopher-friendly. Here's a selection of ideas about that from discussions on intersmof:

giant parachute beanie over it (Bernie Peek)

newspapers and other entertainments, something to make it noticeable eg a flag, and decorating the grim metal barriers with something attractive (Paul Treadaway)

food, snacks, hot and cold drinks, more toys, jigsaw puzzle, computers and Kaffeeklatches specifically for gophers, gopher autographing sessions, or meet the GoHs sessions (Sharon Sbarsky)

TV showing videod events (Mlike Westhead)

Miranda and her staff managed to supply gophers as and when they were needed, by hard work and dedication. Having Miranda herself was very good for all of us, as she was extremely upfront about fighting for her gophers, and they felt extremely happy about being supported in such a positive way.

A swift set of comments from Paul Treadaway about gophers:

It would have been nice to have had some way of' passing on standing instructions to gophers, since frequency of' shift-changes depended on gopher availability, and therefore wasn't totally regular. Some jobs were basically continuous throughout the con, and relying on the gopher who's being relieved to pass on information to the gopher relieving them is a bad idea.

Also, for any tasks which really do _require_ someone permanently in attendance, some kind of token to indicate that would be useful, ie gophers don't leave until they've physically passed the token (and hence their responsibility) to their relief. Careful choice of token should also ensure that the level of seriousness of a particular job is implicitly understood. Of' course the Gopher Hole would still need to keep track of who needs relieving and when and so on.

Back to me:

The Roving Gopher was a good idea introduced by Miranda - this person went round to check up that gophers were being relieved and that things were working for them, and also liaised directly with those Areas wanting gophers about: what the various jobs involved. As a consequence of this innovation, the Gopher Hole radio allocation needs raised from 1 to 3 radios.

In advance of the con, I asked all AHs/DHs for their guess at when they would need gophers, how many, and job duration. I had about 5 responses (it may have been less but my memory is hazy now). One person asked me for 30 a day - they got the sort of polite tactful response I am known for...

However, lack of response made it more difficult. for the Gopher Hole to know what times they should tell gophers to sign up for in any numbers.

The Gopher Hole had organised a system of daysheets for gopher numbers needed, where and when, alongside signup sheets for gophers to volunteer on, and this would have worked much better, if they'd had more hard info in advance from the various departments, instead of having to make guesses as to departmental needs for recruiting purposes .

I had decided that all requests for gophers should go through the Ops Room, for Ops to set the priority. This works well at an Eastercon, but was a mistake for a Worldcon situation. In the light of the feedback I've had, I think it would be better to let the Gopher Hole deal directly with all requests for gophers, and only refer such requests to Ops if there is some consequent problem which may need a higher level decision as to priorities or whatever.

One department (which shall remain nameless) refused to sign the gophers' timesheets, which made life difficult for the Gopher Hole who had sent these people down to help out there, and to whom this was a most unwelcome surprise....this is the same department that by mistake handed out double the allocation of GRTs to their own staff.

Miranda flames about the Fireworks - in that the fireworks briefing meetings were held in a hotel away across town from the SECC, so next time let's remember to have the meetings somewhere more easy for people to get to?

Miranda also says "God bless the Newsletter" as they published her various cries for more gophers, and reiterates the point about the limited number of gophers generally,

One funny mix-up due to Miranda's dyslexia was her habit of accosting Hugo Nominees (who were wearing the same colour ribbon as gophers) to come and do some work - apparently she had a certain amount of success with them! Indeed one of them went off to get and carry the condoms for the Safe Sex stall and seemed to be enjoying himself....

1 had given Miranda a certain amount of leeway with the GRTs so that she could hand out some extra to gophers who appeared genuinely in need, at her discretion, above the normal allocation. Similarly she had a free hand with the soft drinks in the Gopher Hole...

At the end of the con, the gophers got a specific thanks, and a tribute song sung to them. This needs to be encouraged - too often gophers are taken for granted, and they need to be actively made aware that we do appreciate them and their hard work.

Miranda's gopher song:

UNSUNG HEROES

Mine eyes have seen the glory of a gopher at a con
However bad the job they've had, they have worked on and on
However tough or boring they have taken it in their stride
And Mother Gopher is full of pride

Glory, Glory to the Gophers
Glory, Glory to the Gophers,
Glory, Glory to the Gophers
For the con is marching on!

The next article is the job description I sent to Miranda, which underwent a couple of minor changes, but essentially describes how the Gopher Hole ran on the day:

GOPHER HOLE (Also called Volunteer Reception)

By Fiona Anderson

Location: In Fan Fair, near a cafe outlet, and near the entrance to the Hall, to be both congenial and visible.

EQUIPMENT

Desk size table + 2 chairs to suit,
5 coffee tables and 20 comfy chairs
Pinboards 2
lockable locker and 3 keys
roping stands to mark off Gopher Hole area
sign holder free standing
Wall program chart, marked with pre-requests for gophers
Wall map of SECC with con layout.
Radio
1 BT telephone and list of internal phone numbers.
3 power points
fridge
urn
plastic cups
1000 assorted soft drink cans
5000 instant coffees
Wall schedules for each day, showing which named gophers have been recruited to work at which specific times
Timesheets for each individual gopher
log book
clipboard, paper, pens, etc

GENERAL BRIEF

The idea is for the Areas to request gophers prior to the con, for particular items, so Gopher Hole can recruit gophers for those items early on in the con. During the con , other Areas may request gophers, but all such requests MUST go through OPS, who will let you know what requests take priority, if there are not enough gophers to do them all. Anyone who tries to contact the Gopher Hole without going through Ops must be directed "subtly" to put their request through Ops, and you ignore any such request until it comes through Ops OPS will contact the Gopher Hole by radio or telephone, to request gophers for immediate or short-term recruitment for any particular item.

GOPHER HOLE CHIEF

Co-ordinates all the Gopher Hole shift managers.
Assigns them times for their shifts, and provides them each with an assistant.
Designs gopher timesheets, and the wall schedule to show pre-recruitment of gophers
Reports major problems to the Ops Manager
Keeps gophers happy
May decide to hold daily meetings where problems can be raised by gophers, and gopher managers, or may do this as an ongoing function.

GOPHER HOLE: SHIFT MANAGER

Checks gopher pre-requests have enough named gophers signed up
Recruits more gophers for later pre-requests, and gets their names signed up
Recruits more gophers for immediate items , on request of Ops ONLY.
Ensures that gophers know to get their timesheets signed by whichever Area had them doing work.
Gives out drinks tickets (one per 3 hours worked) and signs individual gopher timesheets that they have had so many drinks tickets.
Keeps gophers happy
Reports problems to Ops Room

GOPHER HOLE ASSISTANT

Assists the shift manager, with any or all, of the above;

NOTES

GOPHER TIMESHEETS

These must be signed after every job done by a gopher, to show how much time that gopher worked. The Area that gopher worked in should sign , with the printed name also of the signer, and the Area clearly marked too.

GOPHER REFRESHMENT TICKETS (GRTs)

The GRT is a token of the Committee's appreciation of the work done by gophers and staff at our convention. These are being negotiated now as to their actual value, and as to the possibility of their being exchanged against different types of food. We are tight on money. We hope to break even , but we are not expecting to make a large profit, if any.

Giving these tickets out in quantity could be VERY expensive to us. There will be no "hospitality suite" as at US cons, ie no free food or drink for anyone on tap. We cannot afford it.

One GRT ticket should be given out for every 3 hours total worked by the gopher. (we are still in the process of deciding if it is per 2 hours worked or per 3 hours) i.e. 10 hours worked in total will get 3 drinks tickets. The gopher may work a whole lot of individual one or two hours, so total these up to work out what to give . For 16 or more hours worked (and a signed timesheet to prove it) the gopher will get a tshirt.

Should we get a large number of walk-ins at the convention, we may be in a position to be more generous here.

The Gopher Hole Chief (Miranda) will have discretion to hand out extra GRTs to needy gophers as she decides.

INTERACTION WITH GOPHER HOLE

By Fiona Anderson

These are the instructions that went into the final version of the Ops manual, after consultation with Miranda:

The idea is for departments to request gophers prior to the con, for particular items, so the Gopher Hole can pre-recruit gophers for these items early on. They will have wall timesheets showing which Areas have put in early requests for gophers for particular jobs. All Areas should be made aware that the later they put in a request for gophers, the more difficult it is to recruit gophers for that job.

During the con the departments may request gophers, but all such requests MUST go through Ops. Ops will then decide an order of priority, if there are not enough gophers- to cope with all the requests. Anyone who contacts the Gopher Hole without going through Ops will be directed back to Ops and reminded of our system.

Ops will contact the Gopher Hole by radio - they are also on the Ops radio channel.

The Gopher Hole will issue timesheets to gophers, to be signed and rubber-stamped by an Area's Shift Manager, as each gopher completes some work for that Area. These rubber-stamps will be supplied by John Harold and the Gopher Hole will hold a list of the designs.

(Fiona: I gave the SECC caterers a list of the designs too)

There will be one GRT given out per 3 hours worked, to be exchanged at the catering stands near the Gopher Hole.Areas should give these out ONLY to their own staff - gophers will all get theirs from the Gopher Hole, no matter which Area they have been working in. There will also be T-shirts given out after a certain total of hours worked as recorded on the timesheets.

Gopher Hole and the other Areas should all hold a limited number of GRTs, and report to Finance each day how many they have issued. Requests for more tickets should also go to Finance. Finance will collect in all GRT's at the end of each day, from every Area, and the ones that have been spent at the catering stands, as well as the ones spent at the Gopher Hole for cans.

Requests for refills of water / coffee / tea / cans MUST go to Fiona for approval. (See Finance section for explanation.)

At the end of the convention all timesheets need to be collected in and given to Finance, so that they can calculate any partial refunds later, should the convention make a sufficient profit.

VOLUNTEER FORMS

By Fiona Anderson.

Due to the concern expressed by a number of our staff, particularly those used to working in countries where signing waivers is the norm, we devised a Volunteer Form for all our staff to sign, before they were issued with their timesheets/ribbons/etc.

However, my understanding is that these are not worth the paper they are written on from a legal point of view - the Health and Safety laws are now so comprehensive that such an approach is futile.

OTOH making people sign them after reading the H+S leaflet at least ensured that they had read that leaflet!

However I did find them very useful *after* the convention, when I was trying to tie up the timesheets against full names, so that people would get properly credited with the hours they had worked, on my final alphabetical staff/hours listing.

There were a number of people who never handed in timesheets, which could either be because they didn't know they were supposed to, or because under the US system people who aren't gophers don't get timesheets at all, since they have all these different gradations of how different levels of staff are treated - at least at the one US con I have visited - and I was completely boggled by that approach...