LSR 2023

What Went Wrong?

LSR2023 was kind of the pits for many reasons, and from multiple perspectives; reasons I will go through here in hopes that laying it all out will be some form of catharsis.

Background: WTF is LSR

LSR, shorthand for Love and Sex with Robots, shorterhand for The International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots, is an academic conference that meets annually to discuss sex tech research. While the initial focus of the conference was on Human-Robot-Interaction (HRI), it has since branched out to include a wide array of tech applications to private parts, like VR, sex in spacesuits, AI companions and more. Due to the subject matter, LSR has had a tough time with hosting the event -including bomb threats in London, religious protest in Malaysia, and Steve Bannon in Las Vegas- and has met virtually for the past few years to save money and headaches.

What made this year particularly different from the others was the choice to throw the event in partnership with another organization. The reasoning behind this was it would alleviate the burden of marketing and organizing the event. ReImagine Sexuality, the partner organization, would be bringing in their own speakers, audience and marketing skills, which was supposed to make things easier for us so we could focus on the 2024 event, which we were hoping would return to an in-person affair.

Not only was it not easier, we sold less tickets than average, and making the two events compatible wound up taking considerable time and effort.

This should be the point where i would say it wasn't entirely their fault but it fucking was. Here's what went wrong:

The Platform

In the past when we've held the conference online, we create one zoom link for the entire weekend that folks can click in and out of based on their interest in the schedule. We ask that the presentations be pre-recorded, and after each presentation, or a group of similar presentations, we hold a live Q&A, taking questions from the audience. Throughout the whole weekend, people are encouraged to use the chat function to respond to the presentations, share relevant links etc.

Instead, ReImagine wanted to host the whole thing on their site, whereby users would have to click on the conference page once it began, and the presentation they wanted to see at the exact time the presentation started. However it wasnt exactly a live broadcast, and the video would start from the beginning whenever the end-user clicked on a presentation link. Which doesnt sound like it would be a problem, but because Re-Imagine set their schedule to include back-to-back presentations, if you happened to start a video 3 minutes late, you would set off a chain of events where you were 3-minutes late at minimum for every video thereafter, usually accruing a few more minutes when having to transition to each presentation by returning to the conference page and clicking the next video.

In addition, because we made it clear that the Q&A portion was an important component to our conference, rather than having one link for all the "live" zoom presentations, a separate link was generated FOR EACH ONE. On top of that, during the construction phase of the conference website, the bonehead developer used his OWN zoom account to set things up, which he couldnt figure out how to transfer, leaving none of us with admin or mod privileges. This was eventually solved, im not sure how, and im sure it wasnt free of charge.

The Cost

Speaking of charges, ReImagine doubled the ticket price. Tickets for LSR's online event typically floated between $30 to $50USD for a three day event, mathing out to less than twenty bucks a day at most, and allowing for people who were simply curious to drop in and attend, as it is open to the public. This year tickets were $75 bucks, or $100 if you wanted access to any of the videos after the conference was over (which we offered for free in the past).

The Actual Conference, or Lack Thereof

Those of you who are very clever would have taken note when I mentioned that ReImagine was playing their video presentations back-to-back, and might have put together that this meant there was no space for Q&A, meaning, their half of the conference was nothing more than a glorified youtube playlist. Also meaning, that when it came to the presentations under the ReImagine schedule (the schedule was divided into two "tracts"- presenters for ReImagine, and those for LSR), THERE WAS NO ACTUAL CONFERING. Which would have pissed *me* off had I bought into their marketing which promised "access to industry leaders" and "making connections" and "talking".

There was one session on the last day where audience members were invited to turn on their cameras and network, which I might add, was an impromptu move after one of the presenters ended up bailing last minute. But EVEN THEN, all chat messages had to be relayed through the host, who wasn't passing anything along as far as I could tell. So whenever someone would introduce themselves and say something like, Im dropping my email or a link in the chat for anyone who wants to connect, they would only get sent to Rocio (the host and head of ReImagine).

And let me just say something about Rocio. She's doing noble work, as far as the mission statement and intention of ReImagine Sexuality goes. That being said (aka 'Now let me tell you what I really think'), a fair amount of the ReImagine presentations were pre-recorded conversations between Rocio and one of the presenters. So what ended up happening was the audience got to watch Rocio get access to industry leaders, watch her make connections, and have thought-provoking discussions.

What Went Right

I'll give credit where credit is due and say, in the end the website was nice. It was all very clean and professional looking, with different colored orbs to indicate the area of each presentation (eg., health, education, wellness etc.). We didnt necessarily need those touches in the past, but it was still nice to have. Though the Cunt Bitchula in me would say 'You can giftwrap a turd but that shit still gonna stink'.

Also I have to admit that, for what its worth, the presentations themselves were pretty good. I'll be the first to admit I am biased towards the presenters from the LSR tract, as all my favorites were pulled from our side, but I also liked the ones from Make Love Not Porn and Aorta Films, two non conventional purveyors of pornographia. And of course, my panel with the lovedoll folks had everyone in tears behind-the-scenes and raving during the networking sessions. And I had a lot of fun working on it over the summer so I dont mind breaking my arm patting myself on the back for that one.

And that my friends, is the gist (jist?) of it. Im sure theres more things that came up while it was all unfolding but I think ive gotten out what i need to finally stop typing.

In Conclusion

TLDR: It cost twice as much for a third less people, the platform was unnecessarily tedious, and allowed little to no interaction between attendees. On top of all that, because of the way our partnership was arranged, they got a two-thirds split of the profits.

I could forgive some of these issues as first-time fumbles, but this was not their first year organizing the event. Am i being a bit mean here? yeah, kinda. For me to say all this as a committee member is grossly unprofessional, but nobody reads my stupid website and I didnt get paid for any of the shit I did, which was MANY hours sunk, so I am granting myself this small joy of bitching to my heart's content. And its all the truth.

The End.

ps. i forgot to mention there was no indication on the eventbrite page where tickets were sold that it was an LSR event. and THIS was the branding they used for the entire conference:

I guess the two-third split applies to logo size as well.