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?

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 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.

Skepticon, Guns, and Policies

Friday night at Skepticon, I went to bed early. I had some sleep to make up from driving through the night to get there. I’d given blood. It seemed like a good idea. I knew I’d missed stuff, though, so I checked the hashtag shortly after getting up. Unfortunately, I found this.

Screen cap of tweet. Text provided in the post.

@EllenBethWachs: So apparently Skepticon isn’t safe. American Atheist employee receives a death threat at the end of loaded 38 #sk6

Never what you want to see. Nor is it fun to see things like this before you have any idea what’s going on.

Screen cap of tweet. Text provided in the post.

@Sc00ter: @EllenBethWachs I’m sure the anti-harassment policy at #sk6 will take care of that no problem. Be safe @davemuscato

So it was going to be one of those days. Yay. But first to find out what had happened to Dave. [Read more…]

Don’t Miss Skepticon Workshops!

If you’ll be at Skepticon tomorrow morning or early afternoon, don’t miss your chance to be part of the workshops. Skepticon added these for the first time last year. The sessions were crowded, even on Friday as many people were still traveling, and the reactions to them were so enthusiastic that I stole the idea for the Minnesota Atheists regional convention this summer–where the reactions were similarly enthusiastic.

These workshops are time for audience participation, and they allow time to be given to “niche” topics, ideas that don’t necessarily command main-stage attention. For example, there’s atheist music with Ashley Miller, Dave Muscato, JT Eberhard, and Shelley Segal. Rebecca Hensler will lead a session on how to manage grief, just before I lead a session on  handling being criticized in public. Dave Muscato will talk about becoming a professional atheist, and Amanda Knief about using your activism on your résumé. Monette Richards will lead a session on swearing as an atheist, and there are two sessions on comics.

If you think workshops are a way to kill time before the main speakers, you couldn’t be more wrong. Check out the schedule, find the ones that interest you, then plan to be there a little early. Even last year, these things filled up quickly. Now that everyone knows how good they can be, seats will go even faster.* Don’t worry, though. There’s still plenty of good stuff going on on the main stage if you can’t get into a workshop.

*Workshop rooms are small and set up to hold as many people as possible. Please be aware of accommodation issues as you’re queuing up for the sessions. Getting wheelchairs and people with limited mobility in and out of the rooms can certainly be done as long as everyone else is willing to hold back a little in the crush.