Arisia/Sci-Fi Convention panels

So, over at Wet Asphalt, Eric Rosenfield has written an article about some...concerns he had after attending Arisia 2010 and found it to be a bit more of a "Lifestyle Con" (It isn't, but that's the term he used).

After posting some thoughts on his concerns and telling a commenter there who turned out to be Eric's "partner/co-poster" on the site that he was full of shit" (oopsie :)), I found a track of thought that I'd been wondering about while I was at Arisia.

What do we want to get out of these panels?

Eric was talking about how at a West Coast con, a Dr. Who panel, for example, would have people from the show, whereas at Arisia (in this case) you basically had fans who ended up talking about their favorite episodes. Which is all cool, and I've been at panels like that, but...how does this differ from just getting a bull session going in a hallway? Is it better? Worse?

What about the one with the people from the show? A chance to ask questions about the show? Can't I just watch the DVD extras and get the same things? Read about the show on their website? How is that different?

How much of the "Is there a -name- in a panel?" interest comes from wanting to rub elbows with the celebs? Or do you get something more useful?

At the "Future of School" panel, one of the best comments an attendee made was "if you vote, this is something you can go out, right now and do that will actually have an effect." (He was talking about campaigning against standardized testing). That alone was worth having suggested that panel, so that there were other commenters, is just a bonus.

So, going forward, as I suggest MORE panels for Arisia next year, I'm going to be thinking "what do I want people to get out of this panel?"