On August 1–9, the 1st e-Go Congress was organised by the American Go Association due to the cancellation of the 2020 Colorado Springs US Go Congress.
This is the first time such an online event was performed by the AGA, and probably by any go organisation in the world, so we set out to find out how the AGA managed to accomplish this. For this purpose we reached Lisa Scott, Audrey Wang, and Stephen Hu, who were the Congress Director, the Deputy Director, and the Broadcast Executive Producer of the 1st e-Congress respectively, for an interview with us.
IGF: How did the idea of the E-Congress come up and how did you get involved?
Audrey: I called Lisa and we were wondering if we could recruit enough volunteers to pull it off.
Lisa: For this purpose we launched a survey which turned out successful, so we started planning around June. Our initial thought was that it would be a small event but it turned out really big. At first we just had one pro in, Kim Myung-wan, as well as Hwang In-Seong. In total 30 people volunteered.
Every event needed one or two coordinators so we made sure to have everything arranged before announcing the Congress in July.
Audrey: Many logistic details had to be taken care of. We are really grateful to the team.
IGF: What role did you play within the E-Congress organisation? What were your specific duties?
Lisa: I was the Congress Director. I’ve been organising the US Congress since 2016. I am something of an advisor and mentor. My story goes back to 2009 when I first volunteered in a Congress, and then, in 2011, I was in charge of the Congress in Santa Barbara, California. I’m also Chair of the AGA board.
I normally handle in situ problems, which took less hours than usual for this e-Congress.
Audrey: As Deputy Director I was in charge of the Relay Rengo Go Tournament. In this team competition, each team has 12 players, where two are chosen by the team coach to play in the main room. Meanwhile the rest of the team reviews the game and discusses the strategy in a separate room. Each pair plays for 12 minutes and then a new pair is chosen by the coach to jump into the main room. Everyone on the team has to go up before someone plays twice. This system is very popular in China nowadays.
Stephen Hu: I’m the AGA Broadcasting Executive Producer in. I love meeting go players in real life, streaming top games, setting up great variety for transmission such as the AGA City League among other tournaments. I’m in touch with pro commentators. I help in assisting, decision making, and platform choices.
It’s a great way to lose weight (hahaha). Prizes are still to be given out though.
IGF: How was the organisation structured? How many people or teams took part in organising?
Pro team: Lissa, Audrey. Cat Man.
Broadcasting team: Stephen plus 4 staff.
Tournament Directors plus supporters.
Lisa: We had meetings every Thursday night with everyone and on Tuesdays with tournament directors. The broadcast meetings were held four times a week. In total we had ten General meetings, one for brainstorming.
IGF: Could you talk a little about the numbers in the Congress? Number of attendees, number of events, number of pro players participating, number of lectures, etc.
Lisa: On a face-to-face Congress we normally have 200 pro events. This time we had 36, it’s rather different sending emails than having people sign up themselves on sheets. Seven main tournaments were played plus the Pandanet AGA City League Finals. We had players from 52 countries. 69% from the US, 5% from Canada. We had 702 people on the E- Open and in total 935 people registered but not everyone played. 257 were DDK players.
Stephen: We had a total of 32 hours 35 minutes streamed. 16,000 viewers. We added 368 new followers to reach 5.6k on our Twitch account. I love broadcasting, as a matter of fact I’ve also helped on some EGF broadcasts.
IGF: Did the Congress meet your expectations? How do you feel about it?
Lisa: I didn’t really know, 500 were expected. The Tournament Directors really made it grow. Most of it was single stream so we could have all the public focused on one activity. We had activities all day long so people could play without disrupting their daily life.
Audrey: It definitely exceeded my expectations, we had great feedback, people were really happy.
Stephen: I knew a lot of people would join. I hope real Congresses come back sometime soon. I think the big participation also had to do with it being a free Congress. People were really supportive.
Lisa: It’s also worth mentioning that we had 13 entries for the Song and poetry contest. Finalists played their songs during the closing ceremony. The winner was ‘Komi on your side’ while the runner up was ‘I’ve played every shape, man’, a Johnny Cash song written by a 16-year-old. Third place was ‘Song to Terry’.
IGF: What advice would you give to other organisations who might consider organising an e-Congress of their own?
Lisa: Weekly meetings were the key. We used Google Drive extensively so everyone could collaborate on the same documents.
We had a great mix of genders, ages and regions. Tournament Directors age ranged from 15 to 72 years. Having new volunteers was awesome. Reaching out in ways you wouldn’t do normally. The survey we launched before the event really helped to build up the enthusiasm.
Although some things didn’t go as expected. Small group events weren’t so popular, probably because you had to pay. Also the Hurricane that hit here in the US hurt a lot of people who couldn’t connect.
There were more behind-the-scenes logistics because there’s no physical space where people can meet to solve and settle issues. Although we had enough time in between events to check with TD for troubleshooting or make things better for the next day. That wouldn’t be possible in person. Improving day by day. I have lots of documentation so if anyone else wants to try it you can reach me.
Having a little more time to prepare would have made it less hectic. Have enthusiasm and be kind for it. If you want to make it happen, get your crew together and just go for it.
Interview by Emil García.