Meeting Creepy

Kate Leth did another great comic for Comics Alliance. This one is for those fans who are afraid of being creepy in expressing their admiration for the creators of the content they love. Here’s a quick taste of the dilemma.

Two panels of cartoon. Panel one: Fan says, "Hi! Um, I'm a huge fan. I've read all your work!" Artist says, "Thank you!" Panel 2: Fan looks stressed and says, "Oh, God, that must sound so CREEPY!"

This comic sparked a discussion between a few of us who are relatively new to speaking and conferences about what we are and aren’t comfortable with at conferences. With Women in Secularism this weekend, this seemed like a good time to talk about where my boundaries fall for meeting creepy with fans. [Read more…]

So You’ve Got Yourself a Policy. Now What?

I talk to a lot of people about anti-harassment policies. For a long time, those discussions were mostly about why we should have them for our events. After that, figuring out what to put in them predominated. Much discussion has gone into how to treat people who come forward to report abuse and how and whether to share information with people who might have a legitimate interest.

Those are all good discussions to have. I think they’ve generally been productive. Some of them, like sharing information, will be ongoing for a while as we make good decisions and bad in these uncharted waters. Lately, however, a different topic has been surfacing.

We know from situations in which they’ve failed that “zero-tolerance” policies, policies in which any act that is deemed to be unacceptable results in expulsion and exclusion, don’t work well. They fail in three main ways. People who are against harassment policies in general are quick to point out that they leave no room for honest mistakes. They are correct when talking about zero-tolerance policies, even if they make the same criticism about all policies.

These policies also fail because they discourage reporting. People who experience undesirable behavior under zero-tolerance policies know that reporting may well lead to expulsion. That frequently isn’t what they’re looking for. They just want the behavior to stop. This means that much undesirable behavior goes unreported. Even people who have experienced significant harassment won’t always report if reporting means taking responsibility for someone being expelled and excluded.

Finally, zero-tolerance policies fail because they’re difficult for organizers to follow. This seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. When there’s a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy, it gets harder for organizers to determine they’re making the right choice. Patterns of behavior are easier to work with than a single incident. Except in blatant cases, a single incident may be ambiguous where a pattern of behavior won’t be. This can lead to very high standards of evidence being required for action because the only action allowed is drastic.

It’s little wonder that we avoid zero-tolerance policies. At the same time, however, we haven’t talked much about how event organizers should deal with behavior that, on its own, may not merit expulsion. And if organizers don’t feel they have the knowledge to do more than expel or ignore, we end up with de facto zero-tolerance policies. [Read more…]

Skeptech Is Over

My weekend started at 8 a.m. Thursday morning and finished just a few hours ago. I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in that time. I’ve tweeted a ridiculous amount, took a shift overseeing a conference safe space, and moderated two panels, one with very little notice. I’ve had a house full of people, who all decided to congregate in the living room for some reason. I’ve seen people drool over our kitchen knives and our dog. I’ve had several conversations about what the skeptical and secular movements need and how to make those things happen. And I’ve heard more people griping about the snow….

Now, Skeptech is over. People have made dates to talk about planning for next year, then caught planes or collapsed in their respective corners. I’m too tired to really think about the conference, though I swear I had IDEAS up until the time I stopped moving. But here are some scattered thoughts. [Read more…]

What I’m Really Doing at Skeptech

No, I’m not interviewing Rebecca Watson at Skeptech, on destroying movements or anything else. I am, however, moderating a panel at 11 on Sunday morning.

Do read the comments; creating a constructive online community
How to we go beyond the trolls in our online spaces? Preventing malicious comments is fine, but the goal of many online communities is to exhibit robust and nuanced discussion in the comments. How do we reach this goal? What are the effective techniques used? What is the role of moderation, whether used too little, too much, or just used badly?

Panelists:
Heina Dadabhoy (of Skepchick)
Arif Hasan (of the Daily Norseman, editor in chief of Vikings Territory)
Beth Ann Erickson (of Skeptic Ink)
Miri Mogilevsky (of Freethought Blogs)

I don’t think I’ve never met Arif, but I already know there are some very different approaches to moderating comments and goals for comment sections among the panelists. That’s good. It should be an interesting discussion.

Rebecca Watson Interview at Skeptech

You might have heard me mention (oh, once or twice before) that this weekend is Skeptech. It’s a cool conference with a great set of speakers. They could still very much use some funds to make this an ongoing concern. But I’ve told you all that.

What I haven’t mentioned is that I’m playing a role on stage as well. I haven’t mentioned it because we weren’t sure it was going to happen. Rebecca Watson has graciously agreed, however, to get up early Saturday morning so we can fit one more session into the schedule. (We promised her really good coffee from Open Book, just down the road.) So the morning’s opening remarks will start at 9, and as soon as they’re done, I will interview Rebecca to get her tips on single-handedly destroying a movement.

Here are a few of the topics I expect to ask her about:

  • How did she manage to limit American Atheists to running two special capital campaigns of $100,000 and $50,000 with a 1-for-1 match, down from the multimillion-dollar campaigns with triple matches they were running just a few years ago?
  • How did she undermine the Secular Student Alliance so thoroughly that they’ve been forced to rely on unpaid, untrained interns for key positions?
  • How did she so thoroughly sap and demoralize the Center for Inquiry that they’ve stopped taking on new, important projects?
  • How did she work with Meetup.com to halt the spread of new atheist groups in the U.S.?
  • When will she be rerunning her special seminar on community dismantling that we heard such rave reviews on from D.J. Grothe, Michael Shermer, Ben Radford, and Lawrence Krauss?

So get up early on Saturday and bring your coffee. You won’t want to miss this event.

Skeptech: Updating a Harassment Policy

Last year, Skeptech asked me to join their Safe(r) Spaces committee. I said, “Yes”, as I try to do whenever a student group asks me for help, and I’m really glad I did. One of the tasks of this committee was revising Skeptech’s harassment policy after having it in place for one conference. They started with the Geek Feminism Wiki’s sample policy, which worked well enough but wasn’t perfect, as templates almost never are.

I’ve been asked to comment on policies in the past, but this was the first time I had a hand in shaping a policy to meet specific needs. I learned a good deal. With the permission of Skeptech organizers, I want to give you a little peek into how the process went. [Read more…]

You Don’t Want to See Me Gaming

No, not even for charity. I don’t do twitch. Watching me game would be remarkably soporific.

Jason, however, is running a gameathon to benefit Skeptech, which is mere weeks away at this point and still raising funds to cover the last of their expenses. And I will show up. What I’ll be doing during that time is up to the people who donate. Skeptech itself has some forfeits for donations listed:

Here are some initial incentives (more will be added):

  • $5 to be a member of our Organ Trail team.

  • At $200, we’ll buy Super Meat Boy and fail horribly.

  • At $1000, we’ll buy Amnesia, and play it at full-volume in the dark. You’ll be able to watch our horror on the hangout.

Jason has others, including one that raised my eyebrows. He’s brave, that one. I’ll just highlight this one instead:

For $20, you can jump into the Hangouts for 15 mins and try to go all debate-club on us, while we try to multitask and out-debate you while also staying on the course on Rainbow Road in Mario Kart or some other such outlandish gaming stunt.

As I said, you don’t want to see me game. There do seem to be people out there, however, who think I should debate. This is their chance. It’s cheap at $20. Somebody really ought to take me up on that.

People of Color Beyond Faith Online Conference This Weekend!

I just found out about this today. I can’t see all of it live because of other meetings this weekend, but yay for YouTube!

Please join us for our LIVE Webcasts February 15-16, 2014, Saturday and Sunday!

Please note the times below are listed PST (Pacific Standard Time).

February 15, 2014 (4 panels)

10:00-11:00 am PST Blacks Folks DO Do Atheism

11:30-12:30 am PST Using Social Media for Social Justice Activism

1:00-2:00 pm PST Sex, Sexuality, & Gender Politics

2:30: 3:30 pm PST Black Diasporic Perspective

 

February 16, 2014 (1 panel)

1:30- 3:00 pm PST Radical Humanist Traditions in Communities of Color

Our Guests will include: Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Donald Wright, Dr. Ben Fiore-Walker (Quaker), Minister Meredith Moise, Dr. Chris Cameron, Danielle Monique Whitelow (Blogger), Émelyne Museaux (BFT Host), Bougie Black Girl (Blogger), Mc Brooks (BFT Host), Lauren Lawrence (Educator), Sesali Bowen (Writer at Feministing), Reggie Beloved, and more!
Please tune in both days.

This is a LIVE Youtube event!

“The LIVE link is created the DAY OF THE BROADCAST!”

Please subscribe to our Youtube channel for the latest updates and watch the LIVE Webcast.

The Facebook page for the conference is here.

Countdown to FtBCon2!

If you think you’ve heard some scrambling as you’ve read FreethoughtBlogs in the last few days, it’s because we’re getting all the administrative structure in place for FtBCon(science)2 this weekend. The schedule is here and just about complete, minus those last-minute, “Wait, what time did you have the down for? In what time zone?” kinds of snarls. We’ll have those sorted out in the next day so you can make your plans.

How do you attend FtBCon2? You can reach all the information you need through our main conference page. The schedule and the chat room are both linked at the top of the right column. The schedule page for each session will contain a link to the Google Event page on which the hangout is being hosted. If you open that page, the video feed should auto-load when it starts (reload if it doesn’t).

Once again, the Pharyngula chat room will be open during the conference for people to ask their questions. The moderators will identify themselves for each session as they start and collection questions for the panelists or speakers. Some moderators may also watch the #FtBCon hashtag on Twitter, but that’s not guaranteed. They’ll tell you at the start of the session.

As ever, the videos for each session will stay available on the Event page, and all videos will be collected in a playlist at the end of the conference for convenience. Even if you can’t watch live, or if you want to see two sessions that are scheduled opposite each other, you don’t have to miss anything.