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Assembly Organizers Interview
by Unlock/Vantage^Padua [issue 11/2002]

PAiN: Hi Abyss and Deck. You both are Assembly organizers and you're the two guys who take the responsibility for the general main organizing and the PC demo competition organizing, right? The last Assembly was the first Assembly for me and I really enjoyed it. What did you do better than other big-party organizers?

Deck: Hi there Unlock, glad to take part in this interview. Yep, my responsibility was mainly the demo/intro compo organizing but I also worked on the seminars, most notably on bringing Mr. Hubbard to Finland :) Hard to say what exactly we did better than other big-party organizers.. Though I'd like to think it is atleast partly because we truly believe in the demoscene and are willing to really work for it.

Abyss: Hi Unlock! At ASSEMBLY we have two main organizers (Me and Pehu), who are the key responsibles for the event. Our core organizing team consists altogether of around 10-15 persons and Deck is definitely one of the key dudes behind the event! My responsiblities aren't very clear as I tend to get involved in just about everything =). This year I and Deck worked very closely together to make the Game Development Seminars happen.

It is always great to hear that ASSEMBLY succeeded in being a great demo party =). I haven't personnally been to other big parties in a couple of years (getting a little bit old, I guess =)) so I can't say on my own experience if ASSEMBLY is better or not. However, we have made a huge investment (time, money, personnel, mind share) into making sure that our heritage and roots in the demo scene play a key part in today's ASSEMBLY. We have focused a lot on the scene since year 2000 and I believe that those investments have made ASSEMBLY a lot better party for everybody.

PAiN: Who are you anyways? Why are you Assembly organizers and what did you do and do you do in the scene and in private life?

Deck: My real name is Juuso Salmijärvi aka Deck/Scoopex. I'm 24 years old and I live in a city called Tampere here in Finland. In the scene my function has always been music.. I first entered the scene in '93 as far I can recollect. But got interested (and even did some music) in it in '91-'92. I was (and still partly am) on the Amiga 'till about '96-'97 when I bought my first PC. I'm a software/systems engineer in my day job and on my freetime I like to all sorts of stuff like breakdancing, listening to music, taking my daily jog, coding, making music and finally, drinking too much beer :D I am an Assembly organizer because I truly believe in organizing this party and in making it the best scene event there is. I started as a 'hangaround' back in '95 and quickly felt the magic of it ;)

Abyss: My name is Jussi Laakkonen and I hail from Helsinki, Finland. I originally got involved with the demo scene through my BBS (the Starport), which very luckily got selected as the Future Crew HQ back in spring 1992. Back then I was 16 years old (now I'm 27) and I happened to meet Gore, who had also just recently joined Future Crew (as an organizer). In addition to maintaining the BBS, I did misc organizing tasks in the group (I even tried to code a little bit, but that never was what I was good at =)). I got involved with ASSEMBLY at the very first party as Future Crew was organizing the PC side of the party with Sonic PC. I sorta got stuck with ASSEMBLY and eventually became a main organizer (in 1995).

PAiN: I was impressed by the size of Assembly - a whole ice hockey arena full of computers. Unfortunately, they all were gamers. The scene people were located in a dark underground room below the tribunes. Have you got any feedback on this? Did the people like that arragement?

Deck: This is a popular misconception.. Not all of them are gamers, not by far. Infact, in a survey we had, 55% (was it 55% Abyss?) said they were mainly there for.. you guessed it.. the competitions! And that's friggin' awesome if you ask me. There is a lot of demoscene oriented people in the main hall aswell. Apart from a few gripes I think the oldskoolers liked the arrangement although to be honest, we still got some issues we have to solve by next year.

Abyss: Actually the figures are even better: According to our customer survey:
- 99% watched the compos
- 93% voted in compos
- 52% programmed, drew graphics or composed music
- 45% played games
- 36% attended the seminars
- 62% rank themselves as demosceners
- 22% came to only play games
As ASSEMBLY has over 4700 visitors it is of course true that a large proportion of the people are "main stream". That doesn't mean that they can't appreciate demos or that they don't have potential to start making demos. I'm personnally very happy if just a couple of new people from the ASSEMBLY main stream visitors start making demos. That means that we have succeeded =).

The oldskool area was separed intentionally to allow the die hard sceners to locate next to people with the same mindset. The response to the arrangement is of course somewhat mixed. Some people feel that they are cut off from the rest of the party, while others prefer the peace and quiet of a separate area. This reflects the ages old wisdom about parties "It is impossible to please everybody" =).

PAiN: On your party-internal website, you had the feedback-polls. What are the results of them?

Deck: I think this a question Abyss is the best one to answer but from what I saw, the results were very positive.

Abyss: Well, we got results in 14 different categories and in each category there are at least 5-6 different questions =). Here are some highlights:
How good was the party:
- 16% perfect
- 58% pretty good
- 17% good
- 5% pretty ok
- 3% average, or somewhat bad

- 74% thought the party was better than last year
- 50% thought AssemblyTV rocks
- 71% thought that the seminars should be organized again next year
- 54% thought the Concert ruled
- 84% thought the Security was friendly
- 79% thought the Infodesk was friendly
- 71% thought the compos were better than last year
- 68% are fans of Pehu & Abyss
- 91% will be back next year

PAiN: Is there going to be another Assembly party then?

Deck: Definitely, absolutely so ;)

Abyss: Assembly '03 is already being organized =).

PAiN: What are you going to handle different at the next one? Any improvements for sceners? Or do you think it was pretty much improved-to-the-max this time?
Deck: There's always room for improvement! We got a lot of valuable feedback from our visitor polls and will evaluate it all for next year. Now hmm, did that sound a bit too bureaucractical? ;) To be honest, the sceners are very high on our list of things we consider each year. And I mean very high indeed so there will be improvements every year! But we need to hear feedback and suggestions to really be able to work it out for the sceners.

Abyss: You can always improve and we will =). Some key improvements will be better sleeping areas, more variety on food, more relaxed scheduling, better jury organizing etc.

PAiN: How do you manage to make the gamers shut down all their screen and sound systems that easily? I know parties where it is a bigger problem.

Deck: I think it's something called Respect. We've worked on this for years and every year the situation actually seems to get better and better; this year was almost as good as it can get in this respect. Abyss can tell more about this one!

Abyss: That is something you have to work for years to achieve. I believe strongly in the power of setting an example (that is, of yourself) and educating the people. In the party info booklet that we sent to everybody who bought a ticket in advance we had one full page dedicated to explaining the party etiquette. We have also talked about this on our web page. "Respect" was also the topic of my opening speech at the event. Still, respect is not simply about shutting the monitors. Respect is a two-way street and if sceners don't do anything else than disrespect the mainstream visitors, you will not get anywhere. So, both sides need to contribute for a good atmosphere. I believe we succeeded very well this year, but we definitely need to continue also next year.

PAiN: As you know, there is the Boozembly party taking place every year in the forest behind the party place. Did you visit Boozembly too?

Deck: I did, tho time is always very limited during the Assembly ;( Res to all of them wackos out in the woods.

Abyss: Yep, but not for so long this year. I was very tired this year and a little bit ill (some fever and shit) so I preferred to sleep =).

PAiN: How good can you life with Boozembly? Have you been taken into responsibility due to the fact that there already was police at the Boozembly party place?

Deck: I think we've managed to live with them quite well indeed. No offenses from either side ;) And for as long as I can remember, the police has visited the Boozembly place every year, heheh.
Abyss: The main Helsinki police station is just 500 meters from Boozembly woods, so I'm not that surprised that the police makes a visit every year =). I don't have any problem with the people at Boozembly. This year we also made a conscious effort to make sure that people visiting Boozembly were treated properly by our Security staff. This year nobody (not even the most obnoxious drunken dudes =)) got their ticket removed. So, I'm glad that we have a side event like Boozembly =).
PAiN: Who of you is going to clean up the forest after Boozembly?

Deck: Good question ;)

Abyss: I don't think anybody does. That is something I hope that the people attending Boozembly would understand to do.

PAiN: Is there a good reason why the Combined demo competition takes place on Sunday morning, early as hell? I feel asleep while watching the demos - what certainly wouldn't have happend if it was on Saturday evening.

Deck: I think it's mostly because it's considered the 'main event' and thus is the last one.. There's really no other sensible place for it I guess :(

Abyss: There are a lot of good reasons. You need to have 2-3 hours of time for people to vote after the last compo, then you need 1-2 hours time to prepare prizes and to finalize the prize ceremony. The actual ceremony with the prize giving takes around 1½ hours. Then you should have at least 2 hours for people to get out before the party is over. Now, when you start calculating backward from the closing time (18:00) you end up with a morning show.

The other alternative would be to hold the Combined demo compo during the dead of the night, but I don't think that is good alternative either. The night is now used to show the entries in the demo and intro compos that didn't make the finals.
ASSEMBLY has a lot of program and we are aiming to make the schedule a little bit more relaxed next year. It is always a challenge...

PAiN: Assembly is strictly using the jury-voting system. Is this something you wouldn't miss anymore? How did the audience accept it?

Deck: This is so not true! NO jury votes are counted in the final results, only the ones from 'normal' visitors and oldskoolers. One oldskool vote is 6 times more 'powerful' than a vote from a normal visitor, 6:1 so to speak.

Abyss: Deck is right. The jury votes don't affect the final votes at all. The jury only selects the entries shown on the big screen. The votes from the public and the oldskool decide the winners from the finalists.

PAiN: At the entrance to the arena you had security guards always looking into the bags again and again. Why is this necessary? We always had to hide our beer in the forest when wanting to watch a competition (and still we were able to have a beer or two during the price giving). Didn't this work out as you wanted it?

Abyss: The simple fact is that the party is alcohol free. There are a lot of reasons for making the party alcohol free including relaxed security requirements from the state and the city, a much more safe party etc. Checking the bags is the only way to make sure that people don't bring in alcohol or other forbidden items (knives, hazardous material, drugs etc).
PAiN: Why did the people at the info desk not have a clue about what they should have had one? They didn't really know about the oldschool competitions etc. Did they got a bad introduction into their job?

Deck: Infodesk's job is not to know everything, that's just impossible when taking into account the size of the happening and everything going on at the same time. But they always should direct the person asking a question to a person who knows about that particular field, ie. in this case the oldskool organizers. And to the extend of my knowledge and experience they did it with extraordinary success this year.

Abyss: The Infodesk's role is to know a lot and when they don't know, they will find out (not necessarily possible to do it on the spot though). Assembly has 4700 visitors, 200 volunteers, 18 compos and a lot of other program. It is impossible for the Infodesk to know everything, but if you got bad service, than I must apologize.
We have worked for years to enhance our information sharing at the event. The Infodesk should always be a hub for any information that is targeted at the visitors. That is, we aim to route all key information through the Infodesk. However, as people get very busy they tend to forget to "cc" the Infodesk. That places the Infodesk people at a disadvantage as they are supposed to know but nobody tells them =). So, this is not a problem of the Infodesk but of the whole organization.

PAiN: It was okay, I found out what I needed to know after running around on the party place asking random people that had a green bracelet and looked oldschool :) About Assembly in general. What is the annually transaction volume you have?
Abyss: Sorry, but our financials are our own =).

PAiN: How much time do you have to invest into Assembly?

Deck: Countless of hours beginning from December/January.. Although not nearly as countless hours as Abyss did! :)

Abyss: I basically work on the event year around and I also take holiday from my regular job to work on the event. Altogether I believe that I put in several months worth of work into the event.

PAiN: You're getting rich with it?

Deck: Hell yea. I just ordered my second Porsche - say, you don't think yellow as a colour is for losers? Seriously speaking, we're all doing it on a totally voluntary basis. Function heads (I am one) get a small compensation for their work and the best organizers picked by Abyss and Pehu after the event is over get awards for their work but that's all.

Abyss: I'm still driving an used Ford Ka =). ASSEMBLY makes a profit, but the vast majority of that profit is actually given out as prizes. This year we had almost 45 000 euros worth of prizes (more than any demo party ever). That money comes from the visitors and the sponsors. Naturally, if I would pocket that 45 kEuros for myself, I could go shopping for a new car =).
PAiN: You sold VIP-tickets, also called oldschool tickets. Why does every kid get one of them? Not all of the people running around with such a ticket were VIP - not to speak about being oldschool.

Deck: Each year we try to be fair about this one and we have certain rules about the VIP-tickets but ofcourse as you can imagine it is more than a tedious job to actually control that all the 'right people' get one.. Abyss might have more to say on this one.

Abyss: VIP ticket = oldskool ticket. We had a total of 1000 VIP tickets, of which around 600-700 were sold as the oldskool tickets. Then 200 tickets were used for the personnel bracelets, that is, every ASSEMBLY Organizer had a VIP ticket (naturally =)). The remaining 100+ VIP tickets were given out to sponsors and some friends. I'm sorry but you are wrong about "every kid having a VIP ticket".

PAiN: I just had the impression that it was like this. Though, it could of course have been scene newbies (which I wouldn't consider as oldschool then :)) Rob Hubbard was the special guest at this year's Assembly. How was it working with him? To me, he made the impression that the was not really understanding what was going on.

Deck: It worked pretty well after all, albeit a few quirks here and there.. But he did understand what was going on, although you could say he was a bit shocked to see it all; he thought he was in for a trade show or something like that :) He was bloody amazed when I showed him the legendary FR019 from the Farb-Rausch bunch.. He just couldn't believe it was real. And he did enjoy being The Legend on board and seeing how many loyal fans he actually got. You just couldn't read that from his face too well as you implied ;)

Abyss: The man is over 50 years old, so of course there are a lot of things in the today's demo scene that are not familiar to him =). For me it was a great honour to hang around with Rob and to listen to him to speak.

PAiN: He didn't show up at the highly promoted Machinae Supremacy feat. Rob Hubbard concert. What happend?

Deck: Things just didn't work out artistically between them and although we hoped for the best it just didn't happen this time around. I have to take partial blame for this for not properly organizing this part of Hubbard's stay in Finland :( They would've required a lot more time to practice to make it work. But hey, you can't have it all, can you now? :)

PAiN: Do you plan to move the concerts to a better location? It was very small and tight there and the acoustics haven't been too good.

Deck: Nothing has yet been decided about this one I presume. Though as I'm sure Abyss can tell us, the space is very limited at the arena as it is already so we have to see what kind of magical tricks we (or in this case, Abyss, as he's the maestro of all of the actual arrangements inside the hall) can pull out of our sleeves.

Abyss: We are going to probably hold the concert in the same place as we held the Seminars next year. The space is small (only 150 visitors can get in), but it will be easier to arrange. As Deck said we are very short on space.

PAiN: Thank you for the answers and comments on my questions. Is there anything you wanted to tell the scene trough the diskmag media?

Deck: It's truly been my pleasure, your questions were right on the mark! I only have one thing to say to all the sceners out there: Keep producing. Keep doing your stuff. Parties are ultimately organized for the people and for the releases. My greatest payoff from organizing Assembly comes from the very fact that people are there to enjoy, have fun, meet other people and release awesome productions that will be remembered years and years from now. That's all there is to it, really. You people rock my world.

Abyss: There are two things that keep me going at organizing ASSEMBLY: 1) people who give great feedback and tell me that they want to come again and 2) sceners that contribute to the compos. Those things make all the hard word worthwhile for me. I must sincerely thank all the great people who came to ASSEMBLY this year and made the event a very memorable one! Respect to the scene!

PAiN: Thanks. Let's hope we'll meet again at the next Assembly.

Deck: Thank to you and we'll be sure to meet at the next Assembly. Till then.. Cha cha!

Abyss: Thanks for the interview and I'm looking forward to seeing you again!

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