Technology plans for FurSquared 2025 and Beyond

- 17 min read - Text Only

We can make FurSquared a greater convention to attend and staff with better technology. To focus our efforts on where we can make the most impact, I've been writing a retrospective for FurSquared's 2024 experience within my area of influence. The key parts of a retrospective are what we did, what went wrong, and what could go better next time. This article covers the last part of this retrospective.

Before the what, let me describe who we can serve better at a high level.

Vendors faithfully submitted their information, only to have to resubmit info again because of preventable mistakes that staff made. The department managing vendor applications would be more effective with a tool designed for their needs — one that provides structure to support their planning phase.

Attendees who pay in cash deserve an accessible first-class experience. Their workflow should be as ergonomic as those who pay with a credit card. Staff should be free to process many people, instead of being occupied with one person for minutes at a time.

Guardians and minors needing in-tow badges for their respective companions should be able to sign up for these ahead of time. And for those that forget, staff should be able to quickly produce them.

Several attendees upgraded on site after receiving their badge. It should be trivial for staff to replace their badge without the replacement looking disfigured.

For the unfortunate few that lose their badge, the reprint payment process should not be a stressor for them. Staff should be able to invoke this process without confusion and successfully mark the prior badge as lost. And, in the happy case where the original badge is found, reversing the payment should be just as easy.

While we use pre-printing and have a need for badge rangers, they should have an easy time understanding which badge to get in a noisy environment.

As long as registration is functional, attendees should have no issue picking up their swag.

Even more things, that I will not get to
  • Volunteer attendees should find it easier to contribute, and staff who work with volunteers should be able to vouch for their time with a button press.
  • Attendees and staff should receive the programming schedule well in advance. Programming staff should not have to rely on a cumbersome process exporting from a Google sheet to a service powered by pretalx.
  • The social team should find it easy to disseminate scheduled messages to multiple platforms at once, such as Telegram, Discord, X, Bluesky, Mastodon.
  • Human Resources and Technology should be able to rapidly onboard and offboard staff without losing information essential to the organization's functions.
  • While I could go on, the impact of each thing beyond this point is not worth considering with our current resources.

And, far in the future, we need to support 3,000 attendees without breaking our staff and without regressing to "line con."

In short, we need to do better for attendees, vendors, volunteers, and staff. Within staff, we need to support the registration department, vendors department, volunteers department, and all other departments that utilize volunteers.


That is a lot to keep track of. I cannot take on all of these things alone.

I have to set a boundary, before I go insane.

The back side of many stage lighting panels with cables attached with the title of this article on top, also the text 'a lot to think about' at the bottom.

This year, I will focus on helping four parties: attendees as they interface with registration; vendors as they interface with the "dealers" department; and the staff for registration, vendors, and swag. Also, a bit of planning for future scale.


Before an attendee can partake in the convention offerings, they must check in with registration to acquire a badge. As a necessary bottleneck, registration must be consistent, reliable, and fast in processing people and their variety of circumstances.

Cash-paying attendees in particular need to receive these benefits — not just for them, but so the rest of the attendees can be served in a timely manner as well. In order to achieve that, it will become a payment method at the end of the registration form during the convention.

A mockup of a payment screen with buttons for card and cash

This simplifies the attendee-facing process and would allow FurSquared to set up a kiosk in the attendee area for on-site registrations.

This could have been done last year! It looks simpler in nearly every way… why wasn't it done then?
It would have required a significant alteration of the check-in staff interface to handle unpaid registrations. I did not have the time or risk appetite to take that on last year. This year, I do.

To seamlessly handle cash transactions at authorized stations and several other duties described below, the check-in application will need a thorough redesign.

A digram of the new check in flow. It begins at an idle state which can go to a cash required state or a paid but uncollected state. After a badge is collected, it transfers to a collected state, which has a set of accessory functionality for reprints, returned reprints, badge upgrades, lost badges, and in-tow badges. The rest of these states have a way back to the idle state.

Parents and guardians may request in-tow badges, either for themselves, or for their minors, within the registration form, and after registration before the convention in a similar manner to how the volunteer form was embedded. Similarly, staff will be able to add in-tow badges without leaving the check-in application.

When a badge is reported as lost, staff can disable that badge from collecting any swag rewards. Staff may then request payment from the attendee by card online or through cash in person to reprint their badge. Attendees will have a section that automatically appears when a reprint payment is requested on their registration page, rather than go through the "Upgrade" section. And, if the attendee returns with the original and the reprint, a refund can be processed from the same interface.

Should an attendee's card be declined, we will show a generic declined message, rather than blame the ZIP code or CVC code being typed incorrectly, as banks have falsely used these error codes. The message may also suggest using a different card.

When attendees upgrade their registration mid-convention, we will have a process within the check-in application that automatically shows when an upgrade is due. Staff will be guided to collect and destroy the old badge and badge rangers will know which station to bring the newly printed badge to.

Badge rangers will have their own display that informs them which badges need to be found and brought to which station. This display will automatically update as staff scan someone at check-in. With a touch screen, badge rangers can claim a badge item so others on duty do not redundantly search for the badge requested.

A mock up of a view with four stations. Three stations have badges selected and one of them is marked as claimed. There is a legend indicating whether a badge is sponsor, or general admission. A matching indicator is on each of the requested badges.

And lastly, staff that scan photo IDs will be correctly prompted to select from a list of matches if there are any partial matches, rather than be directed to a badge that may not match the person in front of them.


As one of the main attractions of the convention, "Dealers Den" has to be curated for quality, variety, and demand from furry attendees.

To get their foot in the door, vendors must submit an application to FurSquared with what products and services they plan to sell. This information must be received and preserved in an application that sets staff up for success in their goal to curate the Dealers Den.

A browser window with a form asking for what products are sold and to upload a photo of how their wares might be set up.

The vendor's application will be processed in a case, which collects all history, actions, and communication to the vendor. It may also retain internal communications as the vendor is considered.

A mock up with case details over time for a vendor application

During the curation process, it should be easy for staff to filter Alibaba resellers and queue a rejection response.

A mock up where a staff member may drag a vendor application into the accepted or rejected pile.

Vendors staff may set soft quotas for how much of each merchandise type is desired for the Dealers Den. They may assign vendors to the invite list and standby list.

Once the quota is met, and the standby list is filled, the final responses may be sent to vendors requesting they complete their application with a payment. Those in the standby list will be informed of their status as well.

A prompt asks to confirm sending out a bulk response on sending invites to dealers.

As before, vendors will receive an email and a reminder email to complete their application and payment.

A mock up email of a vendor being invited

As part of the payment process, vendors will need to submit a Wisconsin tax ID to get into the Dealers Den.

At this stage, vendors staff can focus on supporting dealers who have been selected and this part of the pre-convention life cycle comes to an end.


Swag needs internet connectivity just as much as registration does, as every item dispensed is recorded and given only once to an attendee. It should depend on the same internet source as registration. Simply, we need an access point to go with our networking gear.

As a pilot for 2025, I will be bringing the cheapest Mikrotik access point.

A small square circuit board with a metal ethernet port

It is quite small physically and has very few resources.

A screenhot showing a 650Mhz MIPS processor with 64MB of RAM

Despite RouterOS being incredibly ugly, the amount of configuration it provides for the price should be sufficient to support our needs in 2025.

Future Scale

For 2026 and beyond, I am researching what badges might look like with an alternative to CR-80 badge printing. In particular, I am working with Zebra label printers, which I hope to use to print with thermal transfer onto transparent stickers. Larger conventions like BLFC print stickers on demand to handle their population of 4,000-5,000 attendees.

An alternative would be to get faster printers and share a printer between each pair of stations, such as ZXP Series 7 which can print full color in ten seconds. However, a price tag of $2,900 per unit might not be too appetizing when we are also using old laptops that will eventually need to be refreshed.

For now, I believe I'll stick with sticker printing, which can only do 1-bit black and white.

Very toothy dog with the words I bite please pet
Artwork by pidgeon.
Bwhaaah! I need my 🦖🦖🦖 colored emojis!!!
Sorry, we have to make tradeoffs somewhere as we grow.

Later, I may research card transactions with an in-person terminal, such as a Stripe M2 for those who don't want to pay online but would happily pay with their card in person.

These payment terminals want to couple with an android or iOS SDK, which means a mobile app is needed. This may be out of my skillset.


There's a lot of work ahead. I have to balance this with work, my social life, and other hobbies to keep me sane. There might be an update at the end of this year for how things have turned out.

Do let me know if you're interested in working with me! I could really use help on the front-end side of things.

For now, goodbye!