How To Prepare For NOT Going To San Diego

By | Thursday, June 28, 2012 Leave a Comment
As you probably know, Comic-Con International is right around the corner. Over the next couple of weeks, you'll undoubtedly hear about people preparing to go. There will be (in fact, there already are) lists out there about what to bring, where to go, how to traverse the con floor without getting killed, etc. There's even a full-on survival guide.

But, odds are that you're not going. You're going to be sitting around at home, thinking it would be cool to go, but stuck taking in the news and events vicariously through a screen of some kind. Last year, I started trying to follow the convention in real-time using a specific set of feeds, and it worked out pretty well. So I thought I'd put together a guide of sorts for those of you trying to play the home game version of SDCC.

First, keep in mind that there are a lot of outlets vying for your attention in presenting news from Comic-Con. You certainly have the option of following them all individually, or just focusing on one or two of the big name productions, but I think there's a good chance you'll miss something, given the volume of news that comes out of SDCC and a specific focus each outlet has. Attack of the Show, for example, has been doing live coverage on the G4 network for the past several years, but they tend to focus more on big budget movies and, to a lesser degree, video games over comics. Nothing wrong with that, but if you're interested in comics specifically, it might not be the best source for you. So my first suggestion is to find multiple outlets that are generally covering the types of things about the convention you're most interested in.

Second, and directly related to my first suggestion, is to coalesce those sources into one location. That is, use an online portal (Google and Yahoo both have free ones, but they're by far not the only players in town) to basically create a news page. With a portal, you can choose to drop in different components from different sources and place them all in one location. Personally, I prefer Google's, but your mileage may vary. As of this morning, mine looks like this...

The first element I think is critical in terms of real-time info is, not surprisingly, Twitter. On the far right, I'm using the Twitter Gadget to pull in all tweets that use the #SDCC hashtag. This provides short blurbs from people that I might not normally think to follow. While not everyone is going to always use the #SDCC hashtag, it catches a huge chunk of info about what's going on during the show.

On the left, I'm pulling two RSS feeds. One is Comic Alliance's "convention news" and one is Comic Book Resource's regular news feed. I like that CA pulls out con-specific news and I can skip over their commentary or whatever else might available. With CBR, their news feed (speaking from past experience) will be almost exclusively Comic-Con coverage once the show gets underway anyway. I pull in my SDCC news feeds here to easily separate them out from anything I might catch in my normal feed reader. And, again, place them directly in the broader context of SDCC news.

MTV Geek does not have a special news feed, and their broad coverage goes a fair bit beyond the purview of Comic-Con. But they do have a San Diego Comic-Con tag they use on their stories, so I can pull in a page of theirs with just SDCC news. Here, though, I have to use an iframe to pull in their whole page. It's a little cumbersome and takes up a fair amount of real estate, but I do generally like their coverage. There are plenty of iframe gadgets to choose from that make this relatively easy. (Full disclosure: I write a weekly column for them, so I'm probably somewhat biased.)

Under the MTV bit is a slide show of images from Flickr that are tagged with "Comic-Con", presented in order reverse chronological order. (Meaning the most recent images get seen first.) Again, not every image will be tagged "Comic-Con" but there will be plenty that includes everything from celebrities to cosplayers to product shots to family snaps. The slide show is actually a feature of Flickr itself, and I used the Flash Wrapper gadget and plugged in the appropriate Flash file information. If you're interested, the relevant info you need is:
Flash/SWF URL:
FlashVars: offsite=true&lang=en-us&page_show_url=%2Fsearch%2Fshow%2F%3Fq%3Dcomic-con%26s%3Drec%26ss%3D2&page_show_back_url=%2Fsearch%2F%3Fq%3Dcomic-con%26s%3Drec%26ss%3D2&
In the bottom left is a gadget that pulls in a single YouTube video channel. I've selected the Things From Another World channel because they did a fair amount of not-quite-live coverage last year. I'm hoping they'll be providing the same this year.

Marvel itself had live video feeds last year as well which were able to be dropped in place. Those were quite useful to get a feel of the floor itself, as well as provide some high-profile extended interviews. If/when they provide another feed, it will probably be able to tapped into using a similar technique as I've noted with Flickr. G4 also promises they'll stream live editions of Feedback on the 13th and 14th. I believe this will be new for their SDCC coverage, though, so I'm not sure if/how that might be implemented.

With Google specifically (and others might have this as well, but I haven't looked into them in this level of detail) you can also change the theme on the page. Mine is a general Marvel heroes theme that changes hero images about once every hour or so. Most of my portal pages feature a more abstract design, but I thought it might be fun to throw something a bit more topically relevant on this page, since it's temporary anyway.

Last year, I threw a bunch of this together at the last minute as the convention was starting. I'm pretty savvy at building this type of thing, though, so it was easy to make updates/changes on the fly. If you're not as familiar with the tools and won't be attending the show this year, it might not be a bad idea to start your preparations now to make sure you don't miss out on everything.
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