These are names of official or semi-official Transformers conventions that have been held over the years.
BotCon was the first Transformers fan convention. It was founded in 1994 by the Hartman brothers, Jon and Karl, along with Pete Sinclair. The name is a pun, meaning both "robot convention" and combining the words AutoBOT and DeceptiCON. As the convention became more and more succesful, it became closer and closer to being the "official" TF convention. By 2001 it was pretty much the whole way there, and in 2003 -- after a shakeup in the management -- the name of the convention was changed to "The Official Transformers Collectors' Convention", or OTFCC. After two years with that name, the management again changed (or more accurately, was dropped by Hasbro). The new group running the official convention is using the old BotCon name again. The convention is held annually (typically in July) and although the location varies it is usually somewhere in the midwest United States. The timing and location may change dramatically now that a completely new group is in charge, but that is not yet known.
At the convention each year, there are special guests such as voice actors, writers, and artists who have contributed to the TF universe over the years. There is usually a delegation from Hasbro who answer questions from fans, and sometimes give previews of the next year's toys. Convention-exclusive toys and other merchandise are available. At least one room is dedicated to showing Transformers videos throughout the convention, and another devoted to the display of fan artwork (there's an art contest to boot). There are other activities such as trivia contests, panel sessions, and so on. Typically, on the night before the convention fully opens, a semi-formal dinner is held where special dinner-exclusive items or events are unveiled. Additionally, there is always a gigantic room full of dealers selling TF toys, old and new, as well as artwork and other merchandise. One of the best ways to learn what attending a convention is like is to read reports of the event written by fans. A fairly sizable group of reports can be found on Rob Jung's webpage. You can find many more by doing a web search for phrases like "botcon report" and "botcon reports".
The convention is currently run by Fun Publications, Inc., who also run the official G.I. Joe convention and publish a classified ad newsletter called Master Collector.
Until September 2004, the convention was run by a company called 3H Production Studios, Inc. The first BotCon was organized in 1994 by Jon and Karl Hartman and Pete Sinclair. The following two BotCons were organized by volunteers with the supervision of the Hartmans (Raksha in 1995, and Men In Black in 1996). In 1997, the Hartmans brought aboard a friend named Glen Hallit and formed "3H Enterprises" (three guys whose last names start with "H"). The formation of a corporate entity was done to increase the level of cooperation that the convention could get from Hasbro. (As a multinational corporation, Hasbro does business with other companies, not with individuals.) At BotCon 2002 Glen announced that 3H had acquired several licenses from Hasbro for Transformers merchandise, a fan club, and the convention itself. It was at this time that the company's name changed from "...Enterprises" to "...Productions". Several months after BotCon 2002, it was announced (to considerable controversy among fans) that Jon and Karl would no longer be directly involved in planning or running the convention, which meant that Glen was the "face" of 3H Productions, as most of the many other people who worked on the convention were less well-known. In May 2003, it was announced that the convention was changing its name to "The Official Transformers Collectors' Convention", or OTFCC. The 2003 and 2004 conventions were run under the OTFCC name, and then in September 2004, 3H Productions lost its license for the convention and fan club. In early January of 2005, Hasbro's official TF site announced that the new license holder was Fun Publications, headed by Brian Savage.
Hasbro has become more and more involved with the convention as time has gone on, especially since the formation of 3H in 1997. By 2001, BotCon was billed as an "official" Transformers convention. This status comes with points good and bad. For example, Hasbro's increased involvement means that -- ideally, at least -- organizers have better access to Hasbro staff, can make more complex arrangements for convention-exclusive merchandise, and can count on Hasbro to make more extensive efforts on the convention's behalf. On the other hand, closer scrutiny of material by Hasbro places some limits on creative freedom in convention fiction, and can lead to planning delays or even cancellation of some ideas while organizers wait for Hasbro approval.
Examples of some problems: "Primeval Dawn 2", an animated sequel to a comic story was delayed by years while 3H waited for approval, and the project was eventually cancelled. (It was replaced by another comic story.) The reason? Because PD2 was a Flash-animation project, forces somewhere within Hasbro felt there was overlap between it and Hasbro's own website projects. An idea for a series of OTFCC-produced trading cards was nixed because it conflicted with Hasbro's existing deal with card company Fleer, who released a set of Armada cards in 2003. Also, the t-shirts for OTFCC 2003 had their approval revoked because the shirts had definitions of "hero" and "villain" which used the word "person". And of course, TFs are robots, not people. This objection from Hasbro was raised too close to the convention to make a change, so much more generic shirts with pre-created artwork were given out instead.
Well, you need to understand several things before I even start trying to explain this. First of all, not only is this old news by now, but in many ways it is none of our business. As long as no laws are broken, what goes on between friends or business partners is a private matter, even if those friends happen to be joint organizers of a popular convention. Secondly, and largely as a result of the first point, the information about this which is publicly available is very scant. A lot of fans -- including people on both sides of the issue -- have jumped to a lot of conclusions about what happened. Some of those conclusions may be correct, but since people have made all sorts of assumptions in all different directions, it is certain that a lot of them are just plain wrong. So, thirdly, I am going to make as few assumptions as I can, and jump to no conclusions. The one and only assumption I make is this: in those cases where the people involved have made public statements, I assume that they have been telling the truth, or at the very least, the truth as they see it.
So, what on Earth happened? The convention was run primarily by three men: Glen Hallit, and Jon and Karl Hartman. Glen came to believe that it would be best for the sake of the convention if the Hartmans were to step down from their positions as organizers. Why did believe this? Based on the small number of public statements he has made, it seems that he felt the Hartmans' enthusiasm for the organization aspect of BotCon was waning. They loved being part of the convention itself, but putting it together seemed have lost much of its appeal. But, that's not everything. Part of it was about money. Running a big event like this requires sound business sense, and Glen felt that the Hartmans weren't pulling their weight in that department. Glen had staked a part of financial well-being in the convention. This was done in order to free up time for convention planning that was previously spent on his career. Consequently, it was critical to him that all the financial stuff go well, and that the show earned enough profit each year to sustain his family.
So, that's what was going through Glen's mind. He wanted Jon and Karl, his friends, to step down. Now comes the part that is controversial. Shortly after BotCon 2002, in August, he called the Hartmans to meet him at the site of the 2003 convention. He explained his stance, and pressured the Hartmans into signing an agreement that said they would step down from 3H in exchange for a range of benefits. It was sort of an "ambush" in that the Hartmans had no idea this was coming. Regardless, they agreed. All three of them were unhappy with how things had unfolded, but despite not liking it, Glen was doing what he thought he had to do, and the Hartmans have gone on record as saying that they had been thinking about stepping down after another year anyway. They, also, had been frustrated with the working relationship they had with Glen, finding him uncommunicative.
In May 2003, several months after this mess went down, it was announced that BotCon was changing its name. This led to another round of speculation (and flamewars) among fans. There are no public statements from the Hartmans on this, so it's difficult to make a balanced report. However, since the change occurred months after the previous revelation of 3H breaking up, which itself had occurred months after the breakup itself, it's probably safe to say that the Hartman-less convention was originally meant to still be called "BotCon". After all, promo materials for it called it that, even after the Hartmans were gone. But, for one reason or another, the name "BotCon" went back to Jon Hartman (who owned the tradmark to it) and the official convention got a new name. The reason for the change -- according to Glen -- is primarily an issue of accessibility. In order for the convention to gain a larger audience, Glen wanted a more transparent name which explicitly mentioned Transformers and the official status of the show and fan club. This is seen by many as an unconvincing answer. Regardless, it is the only publicly given answer we have.
So, was Glen right that it was best for the Hartmans to step down? I have no idea. Was Glen right to take the action that he did? It sounds drastic to me, but, again, I'm in no position to really say whether it was warranted or not. All I know is that he felt like it was neccessary, and the Hartmans (and Glen) all ended up feeling hurt and upset. Despite this, Jon and Karl went on record as saying that they did not support a boycott of OTFCC, and they continued attending the event. They held one last "BotCon" on their own (no Glen, no official status) in June 2004, and are now serving on the advisory board for the new convention run by Fun Publications / Master Collector.
Note that 3H lost its license in the fall of 2004, and is no longer involved in the convention or fan club.
Lastly, for the truly intrigued, Karl's account of the August meeting where Glen forced the Hartmans out was published in an issue of Transfandom.com's "Matrix" magazine, which can be read on that site. Note that this issue is dated October 2002, which was shortly after the rumor had gotten out about the breakup, and months before the name change.
OTFCC (and before it, BotCon) is one of the few annual sci-fi / comic / anime / etc. conventions which changes its location on a yearly basis. When it comes to choosing that location, there are several factors to be considered:
First of all, a city is needed which has a venue of the appropriate size. Although it has grown each year, OTFCC is still a medium-sized event. Many convention centers are too big or too small for it. A further complication is the dealer room. Because OTFCC features a dealer room, many venues classify the convention as an "exposition" and then insist that 3H rent out their expo hall. This hall may be larger (and more expensive) than BotCon really needs or wants. On top of being the right size, the building has to be available for use on an appropriate weekend in July.
Another factor is the geographical region. It is not unusual to find a fan expressing dismay that "BotCon is never held near me". In particular, it is usually in the northern midwest of the USA. There have been exceptions to this rule, of course -- Anaheim, Rochester, and Durham in particular -- but most of the conventions have been held in a pretty small region. There are a couple reasons for this. One is that 3H maintains a list of mailing addresses for everyone who has ever written to them asking for information, whether or not they have attended the convention. As of BC2000, 56% of the people on this list lived within three states of Indiana. What this means is that by holding the convention in, say, Fort Wayne, which hosted BotCon three times, over 50% of the audience for the convention can get there in a single day's drive. Another factor is proximity and familiarity to the organizers. It's difficult to organize a convention in a place you know very little about. The Hartmans live in central Indiana, and Glen lives in Rochester. As the convention has grown, become more "professional", and gotten a bigger budget to allow more scouting and travel, this concern has lessened, but it's still there.
Lastly, there's always the issue of price. Fans often ask for the convention to be held in giant cities or expo centers. The problem with this idea is that such facilities and locations (and their adjacent hotels) are usually more expensive than more modest locations in medium- sized cities. There's more to do in downtown Boston on a Sunday afteroon than in downtown Durham, but it also costs a lot more to be there. With the convention's continuing growth, however, it's possible that the price factor, too, will start becoming a non-issue. OTFCC 2003 and 2004 were held in large, expensive convention centers right next to O'Hare Airport in Chicago, something many fans thought would never be possible.
With the convention license now in the hands of Fun Publications / Master Collector, it is unknown where the convention will be held, but whatever decision is made will be influenced by many of these same factors.
As the convention is being planned each year, there are two major question marks floating over the organizers' heads: "How many people are going to attend?", and "How much money do we have?" Since all of the convention's budget comes from money that fans spend on fees and merchandise, these questions are intimately related. The organizers have to gamble every year on how many people are going to register at the door, which is neither comfortable nor practical. If everybody preregistered, then the organizers would know much earlier both how much money they could spend and how many fans they would need to provide for. This would allow them to act with more confidence and, ultimately, provide a better convention experience.
But, of course, the preregistration deadline is usually sometime in the spring, and the convention is in the summer. That means that even if everyone were to preregister, the organizers still wouldn't have all their information until 3/4 of their planning time had elapsed. The prereg deadline can't realistically be pushed much further away from the date of the convention itself, since a lot of fans really can't know whether they will be able to attend or not until the convention is just a few months away. So, the only way to help is for fans who do know they can make it to prereg earlier. Even though not everyone will be able to do it, every little bit helps. If you can commit to attending and send in your fees early on, it will help the con's organizers to put together a better show for everyone. There are usually perks offered to people who preregister early, such as the limited-seating Friday night dinner. If you prereg too late, there might not be any seats left, and you'll miss out on the exclusive dinner events and items. In 2002, there were about 1400 preregistrants. About 600 of these came in during the last two weeks before the prereg deadline. This sort of rush is typical of other years as well, and gives you some idea of the spot the organizers are in.
There's another aspect to this which is worth mentioning, too: Among fans who attend the convention every year, there's a good-natured competition to see who can get the lowest preregistration numbers. You're doing pretty good if your number is less than 20 or 30. That means you probably sent your prereg by mail within two days after the form was posted on the convention website. If you get a single-digit prereg number, you're really trying hard. The fan to beat is Phil "Skyjammer" Zeman of Altered States Magazine, who has been Prereg #1 several times. (That fink. Someday I'll defeat him!)
This one's easy. One note: BotCon and OTFCC toys were usually presented in meticulously crafted packaging, and were getting more elaborate each year. Sometimes the packages are completely original concepts (as with Sandstorm and CATScan), and sometimes they are homages to past package styles (Shokaract, Windrazor, Cyclonus). Pictures of the BotCon-years toys and their packaging can be seen at the BotCon website in their conventions section. I have loosely described the packaging here, but I do recommend tracking down pictures of a lot of them.
Note: This is the toys only. There is other exclusive merchandise like comic books, commerative plates, t-shirts, etc., every year which are listed a few questions down.
The single biggest factor is availability of molds and tooling for a production run of the toy to be done. A mold that is currently being used to produce toys for mass release is not acceptable because Hasbro/Takara can't afford to change things in the middle of a run for a small convention run and then change them back again. A mold which has been out of production for a long time is also not acceptable because too much work (ie. money) is required to test old molds for viability. The molds can degrade over the years if they are not maintained, and because the toy-molding process is so intense, even a small flaw can make the mold useless. (The G1 minicars recently used for BC 2002 are actually keychains produced by a Hasbro liscensee called Fun 4 All, which had begun producing minicar keychains for retail at least a year before the convention. Thus, no research into mold viability had to be done at 3H's expense.)
Because of this, convention toys have typically been limited to molds which are only recently (within three years) out of production. The organizers also try to choose toys which have not already been recolored, and sometimes even choose toys that had limited availability to fans (such as X-9 Ravage and TM2 Blackarachnia).
The names, tech specs, and role in the convention fiction are all decided upon by the con's organizers, and then passed to Hasbro for approval. At one point 3H had stated that they were not able to name exclusive toys after existing characters, but this clearly changed as their relationship with Hasbro grew -- hence, Tigatron, Arcee, Cyclonus, Sideswipe, and Sunstreaker. This is likely to continue with post-3H conventions.
In large part, the answer to this is explained in the previous question. Toys which have been out of production for a long time cannot be put back into production without a very large investment in testing the molds for strength and viability. The convention simply can't afford to do this.
Another problem is that, believe it or not, many of the molds for G1 toys no longer exist. The details are sketchy, but apparently a large number of G1 molds were destroyed by Takara after they were no longer needed. (This prevents anybody from stealing them and using them to produce high-quality knockoffs.) One especially shocking example is the original Optimus Prime: When Takara decided they wanted to re-issue him, they actually had to make brand new molds for the die-cast parts (feet and chest) from an existing toy. This is a very expensive process, so naturally Takara is not willing to go through with it for every toy.
Another complication is that in the last few years, at least, Toys R Us has had an exclusive license to sell reproductions of toys from G1. The convention can't step on that pre-existing deal. So even if a toy's molds are found to be viable, TRU is the only organization that can sell them.
The high price of exclusive toys is almost entirely attributable to their very small production runs. Even the most numerous BC/OTFCC exclusives have a population well under 2000 pieces. As is the case in almost any manufacturing endeavor, the average cost per-piece to make the toys is very high for small runs, and gets smaller and smaller as you make more of them. It's that whole "buying in bulk" thing. The most expensive part of producing a toy is the preparation for production. You have to actually set up the production line and turn it on. The startup cost is the same whether you're going to make a thousand toys or ten thousand toys. Actually running the production line is lot less expensive. So when you make a small number of items, you have to charge more per-item in order to make enough money to pay back your startup costs.
This is only part of the story, though. The high price is a consequence of small production runs, but the cost of the toy itself is not the only concern. You also have packaging. Toy packaging is very expensive. 3H have said in the past that for a typical Transformer sold at retail, as much as 50% of the price that you pay is for the packaging, not for the toy itself. (The toy market is pretty competitive, so manufacturers have to make their packaging as flashy as they can to draw your attention as you wander the aisles, apparently even if that means raising their prices.) For exclusive toys, the impact of packaging costs is even higher because -- you guessed it -- they have very small production runs. Perhaps even more than in manufacturing, the printing industry is very unforgiving of small runs. In addition to this, the packaging for BC/OTFCC toys has usually been elaborate, often involving unique box designs with added flaps or plastic windows. In other words, they are very much a custom job.
Next, you might ask, "well, why don't they ditch the packaging and just provide the toy by itself?" Good question. Sometimes they do. The packaging is exquisite, but the organizers are aware that some fans would prefer a cheaper toy without a box. In 1998, Vice Grip was "packaged" in a plastic baggie, and in 2002 Tap-Out and Glyph came in plastic bags with their techspecs printed on a simple reproduction of an old Milton Bradley "Transformers Action Card". The BotCon MMII exclusive, "Rook", was done the same way.
It's hard to say what will happen in the future now that 3H is no longer in charge. The new organizers may be committed to producing most of their toys like "real" Transformers with packaging, the way 3H was, or they may go the more affordable route.
You have to keep in mind that these are convention exclusive toys. By definition, then, you shouldn't expect to get one unless you actually go to the convention. The point of having an exclusive toy is to add to the experience of attending. It's a keepsake, a reward, and a status symbol of sorts all in one. You go to the convention, you get the exclusive stuff. Some fans feel sort of put off by this idea, because, after all, they'd like to have the toys, but they can't neccessarily afford to go to the convention. So, yeah, that's sort of a tough spot. You have to keep in mind, though, that nobody is really "entitled" to owning every Transformer toy. Just because you'd like to own them all doesn't mean that it'll be cheap to do it. There are many rare Transformers that are rare for various reasons, and collecting rare stuff is difficult and expensive. That's just the way it is. You can be a devoted "true" fan without owning every toy. Don't get bent out of shape over it.
Now, I'll admit that this answer is a little evasive; after all, the toys produced for conventions don't have to be exclusive to the convention. They could change things and make them just be a sort of special series of toys aimed at older collectors, designed and sold only by the 'con. That's not what 3H chose to do, nor is it what any convention chooses to do, as far as I know. Most other material that was produced by 3H -- the fiction in particular -- was produced in large numbers so that pretty much everyone who wanted to place an order would be able to do so. But, the toys are special. 3H liked it that way, and most of the people who attend the 'con probably like it that way, too. Maybe the next organizer will feel differently, but toy exclusives are fun in large part because they are exclusives. If they were produced in runs of several thousand, they would lose a lot of their specialness and appeal.
Finally, to throw a spanner into my answer, I should point out that in its last couple years, 3H had started moving towards a way for anyone to pre-order toys. They tried offering "non-attendee" packages, and for OTFCC 2004, announced that anyone who pre-registered and ordered toys would have those toys shipped to them if they didn't show up at the convention. (In previous years, unclaimed toys were put up for sale at the end of the weekend.)
What we know about upcoming convention toys is already listed with the other exclusive toys in question [N/A]. When 3H was running things, they sometimes revealed information (or whole toys) ahead of time, and sometimes not. They always tried to keep a surprise or two for the convention itself. Some conventions do things differently; for example, the official GI Joe convention always reveals at least some of their toys ahead of time.
Fans sometimes state, correctly, that if you don't know the toys ahead of time, it's harder to judge whether you want to fork over the money for them. On the other hand, there are always plenty available during the convention, so if you aren't sure you want to order a toy with your registration, you can always wait until they have been revealed and then just wait in line to pick one up. Also, (somewhat unfortunately, IMO) the toys have an immediate resale value in excess of their purchase price. You can sell them on eBay shortly after the convention and you're almost guaranteed to make a profit. And you don't even have to wait that long. As soon as you pick up your toys, if you don't like them, there will be at least a few dealers at the convention who will buy them on the spot for later resale. In other words, there is no reason to worry about wasting your money. Either don't pre-buy, or pre-buy and then sell them if you're dissatisfied.
From time to time, pictures or details about the exclusive toys show up online from sources other than the organizers themselves. This is often in the form of a toy or two which shows up on eBay. 3H and Hasbro have stressed that these pre-production toys are showing up online against their wishes, which means that, basically, if a toy gets out early, it has been stolen or produced at the factory without authorization. If a photo gets out early, it is most likely a photo of stolen merchandise. (The same is true for regular, non-exclusive TF toys, too.) Fans who feel loyalty towards the convention or Hasbro, or who simply don't want to condone theft, generally don't look upon this sort of thing favorably. This is especially true since, in the past, organizers have explained that revealing the exclusive merchandise, live, to hundreds of excited fans during the opening ceremony is one of the most rewarding moments of their entire year. When fans already know what's coming, that experience is pretty much destroyed. All the major TF news websites have been officially informed by Hasbro that they consider it unacceptable to post pictures of pre-release toys unless those pictures were actually provided by Hasbro, and although the news sites complied for a short time, nearly all of them have started posting photos of stolen toys again. (Ben's World of Transformers is the only major TF news site which still frowns on this practice.)
There's more stuff given out at the conventions than just transforming toys. For example, as you might expect, there is a convention program booklet every year. Its contents vary, but over the years things like character profiles, Hasbro concept art, and lists of all pregregistered fans have appeared in the programs. Some additional merchandise is "free" with registration, and some has to be purchased separately. Below is an incomplete list of such merchandise.
Again, this is an incomplete list. If you want to see absolutely everything, check out the conventions section of botcon.com.
Additionally, there are sometimes exclusive "events": At BotCon 97, Stan Bush and Vince DiCola performed a nighttime concert. Vince has also had smaller recital-type performances in other years. Also, the first episodes of Beast Machines, and Armada were screened at BotCon before the shows ever aired on TV, and the episodes of Robots In Disguise that never aired on FOX were shown in one of the video rooms at OTFCC 2003.
You betcha'. At least, everything produced under the BotCon name is. 3H intended to post the material they produced under the OTFCC name, but, with their license and website gone, it's unknown whether that stuff will ever be archived. Still, you can see the BotCon stories on the BotCon site:
This is sort of a tricky question depending on exactly what you mean by "official". The convention stories are all approved by Hasbro. They have Hasbro's blessing, and bear official TF trademarks and logos. So, in that sense, the convention stories are every bit as valid as the Beast Wars TV series, or the Dreamwave comics, or any other licensed fiction you can name.
There are a couple subtle differences which some fans consider meaningful, however. Most of them are centered on the fact that 3H's stories are written by fans, for fans, and only given Hasbro approval after the fact. This is in contrast to something like an animated series which is created at Hasbro's behest and is paid for out of Hasbro's pocket. They go to an animator, say "make a show about these toys", and then fork over the cash. So, Hasbro's involvement in a TV show could be seen as more proactive, as if they actually "want" that story to exist, while the convention stuff is merely given a stamp of approval, possibly not meaning much more than "sure, whatever". Of course, the G1 comics from Dreamwave were in much the same situation as the convention fiction on that note, since it wasn't about selling G1 toys, but not many people question their officialness.
Another issue for some fans is the limited distribution of convention stories. Most Transformers material is available to millions of people at a time, in the form of TV broadcasts, mass-distribution comics, and so on, while the 'con has less than a few thousand attendees yearly. The convention fiction all becomes available online eventually, but it still has much smaller exposure than other stories do.
Both of these arguments against "officialness", however, are better suited as arguments against considering the stories "canon". And, as described in section [N/A], that's pretty much a personal decision anyway. In the end, Hasbro still gives their approval to the stories, so they are official Transformers stories in the only sense that the word "official" really has. What you want to do with that in terms of how it affects other stories -- ignore it, incorporate it, whatever -- is up to you.
Yes, and no. The primary/official convention has always been held in the United States. On the other hand, there have been "international" BotCons held in the past. The first such convention was BotCon Japan 1997, followed by two more BCJs in 1998 and 2000. The first BotCon Europe was held in 1999. There was then a gap of a few years, and in 2002 there was another BotCon Europe, at which point 3H announced that BCE was meant to become an annual event. However, no more were held up to the point that 3H lost their license.
Although it only existed in its new form for one year, the new BotCon Europe was to be referred to by writing the year in Roman numerals in order to help distinguish between it and the American convention. Hence, the first -- and only -- of these "annual" conventions is referred to as BotCon Europe MMII. The previous BCE is still referred to as 1999.
Even though the main convention has limited geographic coverage, there are plenty of smaller Transformers conventions held all over the world. See the next question for details...
Plenty of them, yes. The official show is always the big fish, and was initially the only fish, but since the late 1990's, many smaller conventions have started popping up. Below is a list of a few Transformers conventions I'm aware of. One thing should be kept in mind: the smaller conventions all have their own unique setups. They vary in size and in "things to do". Some are pretty much just a dealer room. Others are pretty much just a place for fans to meet each other and hang out (few if any dealers). On the other hand, some of these conventions are a big deal, with invited guests like voice actors and writers, and sometimes even exclusive merchandise (although nothing like the officially produced toy exclusives at OTFCC). If you want to know what a particular convention is like, you should do a little web searching on it, looking for reports, or even just ask about it in a TF forum or by emailing the organizers.
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