A social media convention at the Schaumburg Convention Center last weekend -- aimed at Tumblr bloggers and their followers -- went horribly wrong when organizers were forced to raise $17,000 on the spot from those present or reachable online to prevent the event's immediate cancellation.
The debacle has since sparked a life of its own on Tumblr and elsewhere -- from satirical listings of other things that could be bought for $17,000 to ridicule of the organizers' apology that included "an extra hour with the ball pit" for those who had reserved seats for a canceled guest panel.
DashCon 2014 -- a reference to the "dashboard" or feed of a Tumblr account -- was organized by DashCon LLP of Hudson, Ohio. Its owners and staff appeared to take full responsibility in a Tumblr posting for what they called a miscommunication with the staff of the Schaumburg Renaissance hotel.
Much of the online derision in the days since has focused on the ball pit. The pit wasn't the large kind normally associated with entertaining several children at once, but an inflatable kiddie pool filled with colorful plastic balls, and unlikely to accommodate more than one of the convention's adult attendees at a time.
Photoshopped images of the pathetic little pool in outrageous locations and situations have cropped up on Tumblr and on Twitter under the hashtag #dashcon. One example is a movie still of Oliver Twist with a bowl of the plastic balls in his hands asking, "Please sir, can I have another hour?"
Among the things bloggers calculated could be bought for $17,000 are 5,576 Jell-O pudding cups or 932 years of the 5-cents-a-day psychiatric advice of Lucy from the "Peanuts" comic strip.
The $17,000 raised to keep the three-day convention from ending on Day One was collected in cash from those in attendance, as well as from PayPal donations from those who weren't. The convention was billed online as "the largest gathering of Tumblr users to date, concentrating on the particulars of this stand out social media site."
The convention was not affiliated with Tumblr, a microblogging and social media platform that allows users to post and share text, video, photos and other content. According to the company, it hosts more than 195 million blogs that have produced 83.1 billion posts.
Money going out was as much an issue as money coming in.
One of the scheduled panels was for members of The Baker Street Babes podcast -- female fans of Sherlock Holmes who embrace all versions of the character in print, film and television.
Lyndsay Faye, a New York-based member of The Baker Street Babes, attended DashCon with an understanding that the group's airfare and hotel rooms were being paid for by organizers.
They had their credit cards swiped when they arrived, apparently only for incidentals, but were later informed they would be on the hook for their hotel rooms, Faye said. Organizers, she said she was told, had removed their own credit cards from the system.
The only reason The Baker Street Babes are expecting to be fully reimbursed is that their leader, Kristina Manente, took a very adamant stand with the organizers, Faye said.
The owners of DashCon LLP, Megan Eli and Roxanne Schwieterman, did not return calls or emails from the Daily Herald seeking comment on what went wrong.
"They're not explaining what happened to anyone at the moment," Faye said.
Faye said she's sure the Schaumburg Renaissance had nothing to do with any of the event's mistakes or mishaps. On the contrary, she said hotel staff treated her and her fellow panelists with extraordinary care and politeness.
Lisa Timbo, general manager of the Schaumburg Renaissance, said she wasn't at liberty to discuss the specifics of DashCon LLP's contract, other than that it had been fulfilled.
Timbo added that the attendees of the event were a welcome and very respectful group largely made up of Millennials. DashCon is not under contract for a return to the convention center, she said.
The first indication Faye had that there was something not quite right with the convention was that attendance estimates were listed between 3,000 and 7,000 -- an unusual lack of specificity. And though the audience on Friday night was very enthusiastic, their numbers were far below even the lower range of the estimate, she said.
The presence of the now infamous ball pit on the convention floor wasn't a specific popular culture reference, but merely intended as a fun or cute addition to the event, Faye explained. The promise of an extra hour in the pit was offered to make up for the cancellation by a panel of members of "Welcome to Night Vale," a podcast described as "A Prairie Home Companion" for horror fiction.
"That did not seem compensatory at a rational adult level," Faye said.