Good ideas and bad ideas

Hey, gang, sorry I’ve been neglecting the blog this weekend, but I’ve been off at Skeptech, and this has been a very busy conference…maybe a little too busy. The roster of talks and panels started at 9am, and Friday and Saturday they went on until 10pm, and it was maybe a little too densely packed for my taste…especially since there were all these interesting people to talk to. And then they’ve all been such interesting subjects as well…

One particularly interesting technological development was that there were two screens at the front of the room: one big one for the presenter to use, and a smaller one on which a twitter wall was displayed — all the silent conversations using the “#skeptech” hashtag were continuously displayed, which meant there was a constant flow of commentary from the audience sharing the stage with the speaker. It was rather cool — I’d like to see more of it at more conferences. It certainly made that hashtag explode with content.

It could also be abused, unfortunately. We seem to have a dedicated corps of fringe jerks who like to poison conversations they aren’t participating in. The same idiot anti-feminist/pro-harassment nonsense was going on with trolls on the #AACon13 hashtag, and we got some of that here, too. Two factors prevented it from being a big problem, though: one was the sheer volume of twitter comments from legitimate, involved attendees swamped out the trolls. Another (and it’s too bad no one used it as an example in the panel on anonymity and censorship) was that the displayed twitter wall used the Tweetdeck application, which includes a global filter option. Ha ha: all the slime trying to whine about harassment policies and throwing shit at various attendees didn’t appear on screen.

I just think all the “brave heroes” of the troglodyte faction ought to know that. Their activities are doing a fabulous job of further alienating themselves from the people who are actually active in atheism and skepticism.

By the way, I also have to tell JT Eberhard something. One of the points he made in his Hacktivism talk was that there is no such thing as a bad idea, and contrarian that I am, I immediately thought of lots of counter-examples. Burning churches, for instance, would be a bad idea if your goal is promoting secularism. But another bad idea is spamming conference hashtags with bile and noise, just because you can. Especially since, no matter what your cause, you’ll be perceived as damage and the tech will route itself around you.


  1. says

    Some of the attempts to be annoying turned out to be unanticipated comic relief. So, the tweet-spamming was a bad idea for the haters but not such a bad idea for the rest of us – it saved us having to provide our own village idiot.

  2. Loqi says

    I’m told one of the brave heroes was actually in attendance and made an ass of himself to some of the participants. Some stuff about castrating feminazis and the like. I’m rather insulted that he didn’t approach me. Do I not look feminazi enough? Do I have to wear my high-heeled jackboots next time?

  3. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    If you’re trying to castrate the feminazis, as I understand the use of the term “feminazi”, there’s rather a large gap between the effort one would have to put in and the frequency/amount of any harvest.

    This is, of course, an entirely separate problem from acquiring consent from the relatively few feminazis from whom a successful harvest might be reaped.

    As for you, Loqi, perhaps this person was merely operating on specific stereotypes of castratable feminazis (see what I did there?), and you didn’t make the cut. I’m not sure that high-heeled jackboots would help at that point, but one could always give it the ol’ college try.

  4. Sili says

    I took “castrating” to be participial rather than indicative. It is an attribute of the feminazis.

  5. DLC says

    I have to agree with PZ, grand poopyhead and Mangina extraordinaire — there indeed are bad ideas.
    Such as , trying to use a box of lead as a floatation device; trying to stop a train by jumping in front of it when it’s 50m away and closing at 60 km/h (by the way, assuming a smallish 500 tonne train, what force will it hit with when it hits? ) — I’m sure you can think of more.

  6. Snoof says

    (by the way, assuming a smallish 500 tonne train, what force will it hit with when it hits? )

    The question can’t be solved unless we know how long the impact takes. I’m going to guess a hundredth of a second, and with that (assuming the train is coasting at that speed with no net forces on it) I get about 12000N of force, or 170 Gs. It’s an inverse relationship; halve the time and it’ll double the force, and so forth.

  7. says

    I’m assuming that the framing here would be that “flotation devices” and “stoppable trains” are the good ideas, while the “lead” and the “jumping in front” part would be the execution.

  8. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @ Sili –

    Bwuh? But, why would anyone ever think associate any subgroup of feminists with the idea of castrating non-feminists? Why that makes no sense at all! It would be, frankly, slight less ludicrous if someone was trying to castrate the feminists…

    Perhaps you can explain all this to me????

  9. moarscienceplz says

    there is no such thing as a bad idea

    Why sure! Even genocide has its good points: it reduces future ethnic conflict, and it helps solve global warming.

  10. unclefrogy says

    sounds like letting the comments become public in a more open way highlights the “slimmies” as not being so main stream as they imagine themselves to be. hehehehehe
    uncle frogy

  11. says

    There are no bad ideas, only bad people? Seriously, though, “there is no such thing as a bad idea” is stupidity right up there with “we should respect everyone’s opinions.” There are a huge number of things that are astonishingly bad ideas, and it serves no one but the evil fucks who want to implement them to pretend that they have any validity.

  12. Rich Woods says

    (by the way, assuming a smallish 500 tonne train, what force will it hit with when it hits? )

    I was going to say ‘Screw the Force!’, and worry more about the train’s kinetic energy.

  13. Rich Woods says

    Damn, my pseudo-HTML qualifier didn’t show up in that last comment. Clearly I’ve now made a twat of myself.

  14. says

    Ha ha: all the slime trying to whine about harassment policies and throwing shit at various attendees didn’t appear on screen.

    The irony of the whinging “oh noes, harassment policies are teh offal!” Tweets during the “Sex and the Internet” and Ben’s “The Skeptical Social Network” panels was astounding.

    Not nearly as ironic as Vacula’s poop throwing, while at the same time asking his followers to demand his presence at conventions. Why should they if you’re going to act like a threatened chimp to all the other conference?

    All in all, Skeptech was a lot of fun.

  15. MG Myers says

    Great conference! Kudos to the organizers, speakers, donors and others for making it possible.

  16. rorschach says

    As with this insufferable dialogue of Michael Nugent’s, the term ‘Enough Rope” comes to mind wrt those Twitter messages. It’s actually quite heartening to see people realise what assholes they are dealing with on the slyme side.

  17. rorschach says

    I wasn’t there and can’t tell what it’s like, but I imagine focusing on the speaker while a million tweets screen in the background is a bit like trying to watch the Bloomberg channel.

  18. Aratina Cage says

    Using TweetDeck was a smart move! The bot that Atheism+ had set up (@hashspamkiller) to retweet the SkepTech tag with the haters filtered out was swamped and thus silenced multiple times throughout the conference due to the large tweet volume (the traffic on the SkepTech tag was massive compared to the previous traffic on the American Atheist convention tag, where the bot actually worked).

    The good news is that we got one of the “brave heroes” to morph in an attempt to circumvent our bot, and he lost his “@braveher0” Twitter account! (It now belongs to Atheism+.)

  19. says

    I loved having the screens there, although I can see how for some, this would be too much input along with the speaker. For me, it kept me from being distracted so much by following the thread on my device, actually. I thought the spambot worked quite well on those screens. I didn’t mind at all that in my own app, I could see the troll comments because, as Marcus pointed out, it was unanticipated comic relief. They were obliviously satirizing themselves repeatedly, to the extent that you’d almost think all the trolls were poes. My genuine gratitude goes out to all those #braveheros for their sacrifice to the comedy gods.

    I would have liked longer talks and fewer, with more time for meals so that we didn’t risk missing anything. Maybe ensure that there isn’t quite so much overlap in the talk topics and points. I wish I’d had more time to talk with people too. But these are minor criticisms compared to everything they did so right. For its first year, and as a free conference, Skeptech was remarkable.

  20. says

    My genuine gratitude goes out to all those #braveheros for their sacrifice to the comedy gods.

    You were the bravest hero of all, Melanie!

    I’d agree that my only very minor gripe would be the meal times. I missed Hemant’s talk and nearly a quarter of JT’s because we were having a sit down dinner, though I got to sit and gab with 4-5 FTB bloggers at once during it. Everything else was a great first show.