eTroll...The Same But Different
By Lady Mary of Montevale
You’re here already, which means you also already know there have been a few changes to the Pennsic checking-in procedures (often called “trolling in”). Things were just beginning to get much, much busier for the staff at Troll when I was there on Friday afternoon as the familiar middle weekend rush of new arrivals started. Despite that, I was able to talk with Head Troll, Master Vorlin o’r Gwig (Midrealm), about the new electronic features of Troll at Pennsic XLI.
“It’s the same thing, only different,” is how he described it, adding that this description could have been applied equally well to a number of other changes that have come to Pennsic over the years.
Efforts have been going on for several years, Master Vorlin told me. A key turning point in the process occurred when the Coopers developed a program that runs on tablet computers. Last year the Troll staff were told, “We’re going to try this.” The first actual tryout came at Æthelmearc War Practice in mid-May this year.
As with virtually every newly-developed computer program, there were some tweaks that needed to be made. The troll workers at War Practice made suggestions, and the program designer implemented many of these changes. Earlier this summer, training sessions with the new program and the tablets were held for veteran Troll workers and for anyone who had volunteered to work “Shift Zero.”
Most people arriving at the War this year have found almost everything about the check-in process at Troll to be just like it was last year: the “Welcome home” greeting, the need to show photo ID and an SCA membership card if they have one, a perusal of their information in the database, and the need to provide vehicle information including license plate number before moving on to the cashier’s counter to pay any balance due and receive their medallion and the familiar two books.
In all of that, there was really only one change and it was in form only. The personal data was viewed on the screen of an electronic tablet and the signature was made on the computer screen as well. Admittedly, signing your name on a screen with one fingertip does make your John Hancock look a bit as if you have already been party-hopping down in the Bog, but the volunteers on the other side of the counter assure you that this doesn’t matter.
Master Vorlin does hope that as the folks at Troll work out the growing pains in the system to come up with some procedural changes for some situations (and many of those have turned out to be minor, but often something that could not have been predicted), the people coming through Troll will be able to be patient.
“Our goal is the same as yours-to get you through the line as quickly as possible while meeting the requirements of the Society and of the Coopers,” were his exact words.
There are many variables that can slow down an individual’s trip through Troll, and most of them have little or nothing to do with the switch to electronic check-in. There is no doubt that the biggest single factor in how quickly you get trolled in is the day and time of your arrival.
Traditionally the two busiest days at Troll for any recent Pennsic (meaning they encompass three weekends) are the first Saturday and the second Saturday. Records kept at Troll show that more people troll in on each of those Saturdays than during all the others days combined.
Troll is prepared for those two Saturdays with as many trained SCA volunteers and members of Cooper’s staff as they can get. They set up and have materials ready for X number of arrivals, based on past years’ figures, and then... sometimes it just happens that a much higher number of attendees show on one of those busiest days and the workers at Troll have to scramble to adjust.
If you’ve been reading the Mayor’s posts to his blog since Pennsic XLI began, you already know that, completely unrelated to the weather on the first Saturday afternoon, the unpredicted arrival of more people than usual was a major factor in some slowdown of the check-in process.
Master Vorlin told me that they already had backup systems in place and these were actually up and running quite quickly. For the middle Saturday, now that the Troll crew has had a week to become much more familiar with the tablet program, things should go even more smoothly and speedily.
Would you like to help take the pressure off these two Saturdays next year and maybe not have to sit in a row out on the battlefield? Consider adjusting your trip to Pennsic so that you arrive on Sunday instead.
Photo by Master Philip the Pilgrim
Signing in at Troll.