Regretfully, I won’t be going to The Amazing Meeting next month. It’s a small thing; it’s a great meeting, I do think DJ Grothe has made a good effort to improve it over the years, but recent events have simply cooled my enthusiasm. It was a terribly clumsy mistake to accuse Rebecca Watson of undermining the meeting (a mistake he has apologized for) — she has not only cheerfully promoted TAM every year, but has been an activist doing fundraising to send more people to the meeting. Then we got the accusation that “one blog network” (this one) fosters the idea that going to skeptic/atheist meeting means you would be “assaulted, harassed, or worse“, which is simply not true. Every year I have promoted TAM enthusiastically, and as an activist, I’ve been encouraging people to attend these kinds of meetings everywhere…and I’ve been specifically encouraging women to increase their participation.
So I find myself a little less than gung-ho about flying off to Vegas next month. Sorry. Maybe next year.
I know DJ is wondering why fewer women are registering this year, and I’m sure he wants to keep the meeting lively and enticing for the coming years, so I’ll explain a little more why I can be lackadaisical, and it might help DJ understand where the problem really lies. It’s not in the people who offer constructive criticism — they’re the sensors who help the meeting be more adaptable — it’s simpler than that.
TAM isn’t the only game in town any more. There’s Skepticon, NECSS, SkeptiCal, and lots of local meetings. Atheist meetings have adapted and become a lot less dry and far more inclusive; I’d go so far as to say that the TAM style has been stolen and freely used, with atheist meetings becoming more diverse and including science and skepticism in their purview. Heck, science fiction conventions like Dragon*Con and Convergence are doing it. The success of the movement means we’re entering Darwin’s domain, and competition is growing fiercer.
It is a huge mistake to see attendance at one con experiencing a few rough spots, and to then turn to your most fervent, reliable participants and pin the blame on them. You’re in a situation where the little things can cost you your edge; adapt or die.
So, in this world of many great conventions, I simply have no difficulty at all in crossing one off my list this year. It’s not a condemnation, just a little “meh” from one potential attendee (I know, those can add up), and maybe next year the current wobble will be corrected and I’ll be back cheerleading.
Also, let me emphasize that I have no illusions that I’m ‘punishing’ TAM — in this happy world of an expanding movement, there is also no shortage of participants, and I certainly don’t consider myself indispensable. It’s also the month before the meeting, so most of you will have already made the commitment or not, so I’m not trying to dissuade anyone, either. I do hope DJ listens more attentively to this year’s attendees, though.