I’m home from Skep-Tech, and I just have to say that that was one of the better conferences I’ve attended — which is remarkable considering that it was student-run and -organized, and completely free.
It was a good mix, too. There were several people I hadn’t heard from before, Kate Greene and Jessica Kirsner, who brought in fresh blood and interesting ideas. There were surprises: Ian Cromwell is a really good science communicator, and I learned a lot about the technical details of managing a health care system from his talk. You mean black people can talk about things other than race? Spread that news to other conference organizers.
Other standouts were Debbie Goddard, who gave a heartfelt talk about bringing meaning to atheism/skepticism, and Rebecca Watson, who gave an evidence-based and humorous talk about using social media — it’s not all selfies and photos of your dinner plate. Jesse Galef also accomplished a great synthesis of pop culture and a game theoretic approach to morality that explained how it evolved. They were all good talks, not a flop among them (well, I had to miss the last few because I had a long drive ahead of me…but I have complete confidence that Heina Dadabhoy was good, because she always is).
It also had an interesting audience. It was down a bit from last year, as Stefanie explains, but it was a healthy mix of familiar faces from the atheist community in Minneapolis/St Paul, and new strangers who wandered in. I didn’t bother to try and count heads — it was held in a gigantic auditorium, with a lot of flux as people drifted in and out (long breaks between talks encouraged a lot of discussion) — so I only took a quick count on Sunday morning, which is usually the worst time as people are recovering from all the late Saturday partying and increasing conference fatigue, and I saw about 60 people there. Total attendance was either significantly higher than that, or the talks were so engrossing that no one wanted to miss even the one held while they were hung over.
It was well worth the time, and it was held right there in my back yard, which was sweet. You should go next time it’s offered. Or if it’s too far for you to travel, organize your own — this was excellent outreach.