The Dilemma of Running Conventions in Southeast Asia


As we have went through the maturity of the pony fandom, we’ve seen many pony conventions that has risen and folded through the past eight years of Generation 4’s reign on our lives existence. We’ve seen this niche community go through its grassroots inception, into being one of the greatest phenomenon the internet has seen in regards to fandoms that orient to one single, specific show and franchise. We have broken borders on who can enjoy content, and what kinds of grand social events we can nurture. All around the developed world, conventions sprung up from the North Americas and Mexico to Australia, taking the long way through the UK, the Schengen states, Russia, Japan, China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

Albeit in this trek, it’s rather interesting to note that, even with the population that outmatches the Northern Americas or Western Europe, we’ve seen far, far less conventions that breaks the 300 attendee mark in Southeast Asia. This little corner of the world, with budding countries and democracies, provide some of the most challenging terrains possible to run a convention, despite an audience that are mostly financially affluent enough by income to make a quick, three to four day dash, to a neighboring country.

In this blog, I’d like to write about the things that we convention founders and runners in Southeast Asia has continuously faced since the first days we decided to start seriously thinking about hosting conventions, and just what unique and stringent challenges are considered daily in magnitudes and emphasis that differs from conventions in developed countries. I’ll be speaking off my experience of running SEAPonyCon’s installments, or as much as I can without exposing private information.

In general, when running a pony convention, or in fact any niche community convention (such as furry conventions) that don’t integrate well with anime - the most understandably biggest pop culture conglomeration in Asia, even above aggregated comic cons - we’d usually always consider the realistic magnitude of our event first and foremost while making all of our decisions. Again, as we can’t be expecting the attendance metrics of anime and general pop culture conventions, we don’t have the strength of numbers, so we have to always, always consider the cultural context that we’re in.

Since I will be talking from the perspective of an international event that Project SEAPonyCon was, and what Fiesta SEAPonyCon is, I’ll be putting greater emphasis of how we consider the more stable economies of Southeast Asia - Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and perhaps the more affluent populations of Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and East Timor

The tl;dr is, we all generally have to consider

  • Our income
  • The volatile economy of each country
  • The exchange rate and the US Dollar
  • World politics (yes, not just Southeast Asia)
  • Actually getting attendees to attend
  • Getting panelists, musicians and vendors to attend
  • Convincing people to spend on something intangible and unproven, such as a first time convention with no track record
  • Convincing parental consent, or providing means to accomodate parents, including parents of adult attendees
  • Pricing of tickets, by averaging on the least powerful currency of the nation
  • Language barriers on announcements, interactions, and even the convention itself
  • Penetrating as many social media platforms as the region uses
  • The infrastructure, reachability, and convenience of hosting a convention vs cost of hosting in that country/city
  • Flying
  • Immigration and customs, as most logistical needs will most likely fly internationally one time or another
  • Different laws and policies pertaining to events, on any host country
  • Angel donators
  • Being in debt for the foreseaable future

And of course, this all goes on top of the general convention debacles of planning the event, finding a venue, logistics and operations, financial bookeeping, program planning, commissioning of artwork and power assets, paying for voice actors and special guests, internal and external drama… you name it.

The Southeast Asian Economy

CouchCrusader on Twitter corrected me recently that he was asking about what people would do with 50 thousand US dollars, not batshit insane amounts of money.

Well let’s see how much that money stacks up. Let’s take Indonesia for example - unfortunately my home country, the largest country of the region, and the source and scapegoat for Singapore and Malaysia’s air quality problems.

Indonesian Average Wages (Data by Statista)

Now let’s just take the upper quartile of that and assume the average wage of the country is 4 million Indonesian Rupiahs per month. With the USD to IDR exchange rate as of 27 September 2018…

4 million IDR to USD

…that’s not a lot of money. In the international scale. And that’s before taxes. Taken when the IDR is at its lowest points in history to the US dollar, in response to the US Federal Reserve increasing interest rates and its trade war to China, Turkey and Iran (we’ll talk about politics later).

But that’s just part of the story. Currently, we’re only seeing just how much anything that’s priced by the US dollar would cost in Indonesian rupiahs. Sure, that tells something about how weak the Rupiah is to the dollar, but to gain a deeper understanding of just how much every Rupiah means in terms of dollars, we use another tool called the Purchasing Power Parity. This is an economic metric that is used where a theoretical “basket” of common things that you’d generally find in any country, would cost if you’d buy the exact same things in another country. This helps describe just how much every unit of money means to a household. Another tool that can do this is the Big Mac Index - that uses the price of Big Macs as the “basket” to measure Purchasing Power Parity.

I usually use this site that pushes PPP indices regularly from the World Bank.

So let’s see how much that 4 million Rupiahs would mean to an American…

4 million IDR to USD

And on 27 September 2018, 802.30 USD is almost 12 million rupiahs, almost three times the salary of the average Indonesian.

So what’s the point in me outlining all of this? Well, firstly, I’m not a certified economist and my bachelor’s degree is in Computer Science. But, it’s an honest attempt from me that provides you with one example with how much money is actually worth for people across borders and across boundaries. The average Indonesian, who earn and live with IDR on a daily basis, not only has to go through the hardships of the high exchange rate of the US Dollar, but also perceive anything that is priced to US consumer standards as at least three times more than what price they’d perceive it to be, based on local prices of similar goods.

In contrast, a Singaporean doesn’t see this much of a difference. On average, Singaporeans make 5119 SGD a month (that is, they make almost 14 times an Indonesian does in a month). When compared with the Purchasing Power Parity index, that money can afford the same things 4340 USD can do in the US. And when that’s converted back to SGD, it’s about 5955 SGD - just 16% above their average wage, instead of 300% like the Indonesians perceive.

You may wish to repeat this exercise with the average wages and purchasing power parities of Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and all the others. We have to account for all of those too if we want ot invite them.

Another way of seeing this without performing much calculation is by examining their GDP Per Capita, which provides a rather good illustration of just how much money the average household makes in their countries in US dollars, which provides a rather pertinent baselines on what you’d expect average goods and services to sustain life and civilization would cost in the different countries.

The different countries around Southeast Asia all have their different purchasing power parities, average wages, and costs to attain their own standards of living, putting currency and economics into play with something as basic as running a small pony convention. These are things that most states from the European Economic Area doesn’t really have to worry about, as most of them trade in Euros (despite having different purchasing power on different countries - albeit not by much), and definitely not something large, domestic populations of bronies in the US, China and Japan have to think about either.

But of course, with higher wages, you’d also need to take account on the higher standards of living and taxes, which is usually indexed by the Purchasing Power Parity. You’d also have to account for other macroeconomic factors, such as inflation adjusted income per person, Gini coefficients and the Human Development Index, that usually comes vis-a-vis with how much spending money an average citizen of each country can save. All of this contributes to the equation of measuring the baseline feasibility of simply getting people to be attracted enough to save up.

It’s also important to note that, with fluctuating oil prices and the Iran and Venezuela crisis, we have to account our reliance on flying to conventions with an increasingly US dollar based aviation industry. Ticket prices are rising dramatically compared to the purchasing power of most Southeast Asian nations, and the act of thinking of flying to a convention is no small matter with the average wages of these countries.

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Getting to BronyCon 2019 Part 1 - Your Preparations and Finances


As some of you may have noticed in the brony community, the largest, de facto flagship convention of the fandom, entitled BronyCon, has recently announced that it will be closing its doors for the last time next year in 2019. BronyCon, the fandom’s historically largest and most remarkable convention by sheer size, longevity, and its impact towards the paradigm of the fandom itself, has stated that it will not continue in the motivation of parting with the convention at its height. It has also captured the attention of the international community far and wide to join their last sortie together next year.

Now, I’ve been seeing many people are trying to make a pact to join the final BronyCon, but they currently are completely wary or unfamiliar with the required financial and logistical discipline of attending such a convention at a distance from their homes - whether they are situated in North America or beyond. As much as I’d really love to see many, many more people doing the final run and give it a good sendoff, while also seeing the same people being active with any other convention in the world, we must all admit that it is a challenge for most of us to get there. In this blog post, I want to outline my knowledge and experiences in attending such conventions and traveling. The challenge differs for all of us - from international visitors to the domestic US audience, there are so many differences in how one approaches the goal of attending the convention.

This article is intended to give everyone (with higher relevance to the international audience) that I can think of a very frank and direct information on what to prepare and what to expect when you are out there, planning to attend the final BronyCon. This guide even works as a general guide on attending any other convention, or on how you may want to plan your leisurely vacations. Of course, most of the article is informed on the basic assumptions on financial capital considerations, and obviously some people may go and not consider much of the factors that I have written in. It is also not intended to dissuade you nor is it in anyway an endorsement or otherwise of BronyCon and any other conventions - it is a guide, frankly and openly, on what is and what isn’t possible, and how you’d have to weave your way with your financial disciplines to get to the final party. All of the information here is based only on my current, best understanding and should not be taken as absolute facts by itself - do your research as well and see if the things I say match up. This is an article of advice and opinions - they are not necessarily 100% truthful information.

Since this compilation of is going to be very extensive and thorough, I have to separate it into two parts. This part outlines the most important aspects of planning out your attendance, which is the financial and legal requirements of travel, should you need to deal with them. This article will be updated accordingly with new information when I think about it, and where relevant. The second part will be uploaded in the near future to give you information, tips, and what to expect when you are actually traveling.

If you’re interested, click on Read More to start.

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On Starlight Glimmer's Characterization

Note - this post is originally a thread tweet on my Twitter, available here.

I had a thought of actually explaining rationally exactly why I have been infatuated with Starlight Glimmer, and she has been a major subject of controversy in the fandom from the reception of her character. I feel the need to articulate my esteemed fondness of her, in a light where I would attempt to consider all sides of the argument to ultimately make up what I, personally, think of her as a character and how she has developed in the series. Needless to say, it’s a positive outcome - and if you don’t like this character, I invite you to read along, or send a tweet at me to discuss about different perspectives in approaching her characterization.

I had a discussion some time ago, and here is her primary merit in my opinion: She is a character always constantly reminded of her past and her failure, who kept making mistakes, but picked her way up from doing something that she did out of anxiety, desperation, and plight. You can definitely cite how her character has been pretty repetitively taunted, and lazily evaluated by allowing her to just make mistakes after mistakes which are avoidable, but isn’t that exactly what makes her so, for lack of a better term, human?

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So, perhaps I now have ultimately set up a blog with Jekyll for no other reason but to channel my tendencies of uncontrolled Twitter rant chains into a more secluded, personally moderated space so that people who don’t really want to see my convuluting (or perhaps downright controversial) opinion pieces on their main pages, so that’s fine.

What you’d expect from this blog is exactly what you’d expect from my Twitter: A discussion on public transport, trams, ponies, aviation, geopolitics, the world of desperately trying to grasp information systems, informatics and computer sciences, as well as small, light pieces of reminders of the world we live in should any situations in the future ever necessitate my rants to take such directives.

Anyway, close your browsers before you are subject to more ranting, folks.

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