Moscone Center allows kids… sometimes

Remember last year, when I reported that session panellist Amy Muller was refused entry to Web 2.0 Expo because she was carrying a baby? At the time, it was claimed that Moscone’s insurance didn’t cover minors.

I just wanted to point out a few small things…

“Some kids checking out a fully functional R2-D2 remote controlled droid.” — pat_o_rama on Flickr, under CC-BY-NC-SA

“Wonderwoman, Supergirl, and some admirers” — ClockworkGrue on Flickr, under CC-BY-NC-SA

These pics were taken at WonderCon, which was held in San Francisco’s Moscone Center in February. I think the R2D2 pic is taken by the escalators where the security guard stopped Amy and prevented her from entering the conference space with her 4 month old daughter.

I think this shows that there is no fundamental reason (insurance or otherwise) why children can’t be allowed at Web 2.0 Expo or any other tech conference at the Moscone Center, if they behave appropriately.

To pre-empt the likely comments about badly-behaved whining kids and crying babies, I’ll just quote from my previous blog post on the subject:

If given a choice between a crying baby who can be taken outside and out of the way, let alone a well behaved kid, and that bearded guy in the second row who’s always interrupting speakers to ask tangential, rambling questions (which, in fact, are actually statements), I know who I’d rather have at my tech conference.

4 thoughts on “Moscone Center allows kids… sometimes

  • Zebee

    I expect that the problem is the “if”. Specifically “crying baby who can be taken outside and out of the way”

    I recall 2 panels at linuxconf where the parents did *not* take the baby out. To the point it was hard to hear the speaker, and the howling continued for some time. (I didn’t time it. Subjective time is what matters in these cases.)

    This isn’t a reason to lie about why they can come in, it is probably a reason to work out what the cultural answer is.

    hould a parent be expected to remove themselves from a panel they really want to be at the moment the kid opens its mouth? How much crying is too much?

    Also, I’m not sure I agree about the difference between crying child and annoying geek. If the child *is* removed then obviously the still present geek is worse. But the crying of a child is designed to upset every adult within hearing, it’s way harder to block out or live with than a rambling adult twonk.

    So to me at least the cultural norm should be “kids are fine, howling kids should be removed immediately.” Which leads, in any sensible venue to “and parents with kids get the seats near the exit”. (Which also means, alas, “whether they like it or not”)

    On the other hand… should the cultural norm be “kids are like that, get used to it, that’s what volume controls on microphones are for”?

  • bignose

    > If given a choice between a crying baby who can be taken outside … and that bearded guy in the second row who’s always interrupting …, I know who I’d rather have at my tech conference.

    Sounds nice. But how is this relevant? Who actually gets presented with an explicit choice between the two options you present?

    I’d rather have *neither* of them at the conference. Only the well-behaved adults. But that’s just as unrealistic.

  • Skud Post author

    @Zebee: I think it’s important to train and empower event staff and volunteers so that they are confident going up to parents and saying, “Could you please take your noisy kid outside?” Providing parent seats near the doors might also be helpful. At Wiscon, they recently had chairs down the front with blue tape on them for disabled people, eg. people who were deaf, or whatever. Something similar would be easy to do at the back/near the door for parents.

    I disagree wrt blocking out/dealing with adult twonks, but I guess that’s a matter of personal preference. I will say, however, that either of those becomes easier to deal with as you become more used to them. The geek community has become very used to rambling twonks, and so doesn’t notice how disruptive and offensvie they can be; conversely, they aren’t so used to babies, so can sometimes be hyper-sensitive.

    @bignose, I agree that “only well behaved adults” would be nice. However, at the moment our geek events/tech conferences tend towards welcoming ill-behaved adult <a href="“>men, and discouraging women and their children (however behaved). I believe we need to tilt that the other way a bit.

  • Zebee

    I’d definitely be happy with venues having expressed policies about kids. “If your baby is crying, please leave the room until it is quiet” along with suitable changing facilities and a rest room where people with babies can be pretty sure of being able to sit down.

    If there’s an express policy then everyone knows what the expectations are, and volunteers can feel more able to deal. I suppose it’s a matter of reminding organisers they need to think about these things. Just as they need to think about disabilities.

    Older kids are harder because kids are not adults. Most of them *need* a chunk of run around and scream time which isn’t that compatible with most programmed events. I’d hope parents are in tune enough with their kids to know how to deal with this or if their kids need a little or a lot, but experience tells me it’s not always so. Having any kind of children’s area means kids are left, seen it way too often just about everywhere.

    What should the policy be for kids old enough to walk and young enough not to be treated as adults? “annoying behaviour” is such a subjective thing! I guess I’d be happy with “must be with their guardians at all times, and leave a panel venue if asked by the volunteers” and then some work with volunteers to try and set the “disruptive” calibration somewhere sensible. (Can see why many organisers would see this as too much work for not enough reward when banning’s easier!)

    I think it is easier to learn to not react to adult horrors because the annoyance is forebrain not hindbrain. We are designed to react to screaming children.

    That will be a male vs female thing until there’s a lot more men looking after kids. I don’t know if more female geeks will mean more of the bores will be female, there’s a PhD thesis! Is it nature or nurture? Is the boring male geek boring because he’s borderline Aspergers and way more men than women are that, or because he’s been socialised in a way that as more women get geeky more women will be socialised?

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