: New: Jotting Notes on Debbie Goldstein's 2014 GC Summit Talk "Caring for Ground Teams"

It's "Caring for Ground Teams" a talk by Debbie G, who organizes puzzlehunts and occasionally gets to play in them. This here is my notes. [My rambling asides are in italics] and I take some pretty egregious summarize|rephrase|totally-change-meaning liberties with other folks' words, too. Original videos and slides at this here link.

You can skip to the checklist for core GC's care and feeding of game-day volunteers or you can keep reading…

  • what do you want at the site: amenities, info, etc [If you're following the slides, this as a plain ol' list. But at the talk, Debbie had us write down our guesses.]
    • on the video, you can hear the sf bay area muttering as we conspire on guesses
      "chairs are more comfortable than rocks"
      "well, some chairs and some rocks"
    • portland's guesses [not to be confused with Maslow's hierarchy of needs] food/ bathroom/ shelter/ drinks/water/ most importantly: wifi/ oh, and a place to sit
    • in the "game show", Deb says that these guesses have only revealed one of the most popular answers. yelps of disbelief from audience, Portland's list sounded pretty good
    • seattle's guesses food/ heat/ shelter/ chair/ umbrellas/ internet access/
    • still, no more list items opened
    • sf bay area's guesses a buddy? Deb throws us a bone: Let's say that falls under Contact Information [I bet nobody guessed this since we still had it in mind from the previous question] / If wifi wasn't on the list: uhm, Mobile phone coverage? (nope) / Puzzle materials and how they work? (nope)
    • poll winners
      • Contact info
      • Walkthrough
      • Schedule
      • Solution
      • Snacks
    • [if you're wondering how "nearby restroom" etc didn't even make the list: the poll's original question was "What is most important for GCs to provide a staff volunteer on the day of the hunt?" Folks at the talk were answering a different question, closer to "What is your dream site-monitoring situation, based on built-in site features and GC's supplies?"]
    • tl;dr If you're core GC, here's a checklist of things to figure out to keep site monitors happy. You will probably have issues with this, but make your own list.
    • Scout locations that are safe and comfortable for long periods of time [If there's a not-so-great location, there's a temptation to think: let's put the easy puzzle there. teams will only be stuck here for 10 minutes. But remember that your site monitor will be stuck there for hours.]
    • Identify back up locations for when cold/hot/rainy/dark/tornados hit
    • Provide a cushion of time around time slots. If you tell a site volunteer "from 2-4, you're by the fountain; from 4-6, you're at the coffee shop" you're asking them to teleport from the fountain to the coffee shop at 4. If your real expectation is: pack up at 4, get to the coffee shop by 4:30, make sure they know that.
    • Provide extra copies of puzzles Volunteers can use them to learn the puzzle. If a team sets their puzzle on fire because they were trying to reveal some imagined invisible ink, they'll appreciate it. If some passer-by, perhaps an officer of the law, is curious what's going on, it's nice to have a spare copy to show them.
    • Don't strand volunteers alone. For each volunteer, figure out if they get lonely sitting on their own. If so, make sure they have a buddy. If not, can you still have a "roving" GC check in on them occasionally to spell them for bathroom breaks and the like?
    • Communicate in advance: location, schedule, scoring, bathrooms, puzzle walkthrough/solution,contact information, etc.
    • Of these, the item which I summarized here as "Don't strand volunteers alone" probably had the most heated discussion
      • What if you don't have enough people to double up buddies? It'd be a pity to give up on your event just because you don't have many people. [I didn't think of it during the discussion, but in hindsight this might be another case where advanced communication would help. E.g., "Would you like a buddy at your site? Well that's too darned bad, we don't have enough people. But at least we're telling you that weeks ahead of time so you have a chance to rope a friend/cousin/someone into hanging out with you."]
      • If you do have enough people, buddies can make up for lack of planning in other areas. E.g., if you didn't take time to get permission to use that site, "One person can be talking to the cops, the other person can be talking to players."
      • "Roving GC" is feasible for a walking-scale hunt, not-so-much for a driving-scale hunt.
    • Q&A / lively discussion
    • Seattle (sounds like Jeff Wallace, maybe?) tells a Mooncurser's war story
      • Day of the game, setting up on site. We'd scouted it repeatedly ahead of time. Seattle Police Department pulls up: "You don't want to be here. This is gang territory. Hanging out here in the middle of the night is not a good call." So, yeah, having contingency plans is important.
      • Deb: How could we anticipate that?
      • Corey: You could join a gang.
      • Linda Holman: We've into those kinds of problems as well. A dry run in real time helps you with "what's traffic like at this time of day on a Saturday like" [she doesn't specify whether she's talking about car traffic or weapons trafficking or whatever, but you get the idea]
    • Allen Cohn, sf bay area: at the risk of sounding touchy-feely, it's nice if GC makes you feel included. Sometimes GC will tell day-of volunteers: "Awesome, you're here. Now stand in this spot for the next four hours." Doesn't really give you the warm fuzzies.
      • Of course, core GC is going to be harried on game day
      • Still, you're volunteering your time. A little appreciation goes a long way towards making you glad you did that.
    • (??who?? corey? sean gugler?) sf bay area: what are differences between volunteers who are puzzle nerds versus your non-puzzling buddy who you cajoled into helping out on game day?
      • (Deb: you'd mentioned using TaskRabbit)
      • (Yeah, I guess that's a separate question. If there's an overnight game with a really long spread, if you have to staff a dozen sites at the same time, where do you get these folks?)
      • Linda Holman: on gamer vs non-gamer volunteers. Your mom/buddy/loved one doesn't know that these puzzles can take a long time: teams can get frustrated, eventually get the aha, solve the puzzle, and move on. If your volunteer doesn't fully understand "long time" and "spoilers", they want to help out right away. For those folks, we don't tell them at all how the clue works. [notice that's different from what the survey says; but remember that survey was filled out by puzzle nerds, not by the puzzle nerds' non-puzzling-but-lovely friends/relatives/etc] We can get away with that: we use an automated hint system. But for these volunteers, not-knowing is more painless than withholding spoilers from teams. But we do make sure that puzzlers know how the puzzles work; they know what to do with that info.
      • Linda Holman: Similarly, if someone who works at a bar or an ice cream stand or a pie shop or whatever is handing out your puzzle: Don't tell them how the puzzle works because: They'll just tell teams how the puzzle works.
      • Deb: one way to get "warm body" volunteers: ??Yai-ya?? in NYC DASH got high school students to volunteer. The students get some kind of Public Service to volunteer for something. So she sets up a pizza party for them, walks them through the puzzles, and they site monitor. Nice side effect: students got excited about puzzles; one year later, a bunch of high-school teams played. Meanwhile, she's got this army of high-schoolers, where all they want is pizza. [Yeah, Patrick Blindauer in St Louis got public-service-seeking students to volunteer as DASH site monitors]
  • Tags: puzzlehunts GC summit

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