Bradford C. Wallker has, over the course of many posts, stated his belief that cons are useless and not worth attending. Here's his one on CONvergence. It's worth a read, and definitely has a number of good points regarding the internet being a great replacement overall.
However, there is one part where I have to disagree, and that's the socialization aspect. If you're talking a con where it's all people within an hour, then yes, he's right, you don't care enough to see them. But, and this is a big one, it ignores the cross country(and more) spread that our communities have, including the pulprev and superverversive crowds.
Here's the thing. I was at LibertyCon(don't look for my name, it's not there), and I, from Illinois, got to meet the following: Declan Finn(NYC), Dawn Witzke(Souix City, IA), Russell and Morgon Newquist(Huntsville, AL), Hans Schantz (also Huntsville), Jon Del Arroz(Bay Area, CA), Dan Humphreys, Matthew Bowman, and more. I don't have anywhere near the income or vacation time from my job to do that kind of travel. This is a BIG factor for those of us in the lower classes.
Oh, yeah, we interact online, but the fact is, it's not the SAME. LC let us meet, chat, hang out, and just BE together. While you don't necessarily need a convention to do this kind of thing, it enables this more easily than trying to arrange things altogether. Here's why:
1. The Con has a location already picked out. There's no bickering over type of vacation, or what part of the country. There might be some over which con, but then, authors involved might have more influence than others.
2. Guess what? You've also got the the date picked out if you have a con. Just make sure you can get the vacation time.
Now, if you don't have that kind of cross section that's really hard to get to see, then yes, Bradford has a point. And yes, panels, readings etc. are getting to where they can be handled much better as podcast/streaming events.
So, if you want to go to a con, make sure that there's value for you. If that's a limited release, or networking (authors/game designers), or a group of friends to meet, that may indeed be the value for you. But, make sure it's there before you commit.
When you play Social Justice, the world loses.