FtBCON is over at last

We did have one final session, but it was mainly us getting punchy and giggling, so you can skip it.

Although, if you did attend FtBCON, you can do one more thing for us: fill out our survey. It’ll help us plan FtBCON 2: Electric Boogaloo, or whatever the heck we’re going to call it.

P.S. If you express an interest in volunteering for a panel in the survey, be sure to include contact information!

Recovering from FtBCON

Hey, this FtBCON thing is fun and all, but it sort of sucked yesterday away from me — I’ve been on this cycle of an hour of moderating, an hour off (a chunk of which is taken up with setting up the next session), and then another hour of moderating. And it continues today, a little more lightly this time. Here’s a reprise of the events I managed.

Our first evening’s introduction:

The Right Way to be Wrong, with Kim Rippere and Monette Richards of Secular Woman:

Science Communication, with Bora Zivkovic:

Creationism, with Aron Ra and Lilandra:

Skepticon, with Lauren Lane, Micah Weiss, and Floyd Zamarippa:

Immigrants’ Rights and Social Justice, with Chris Schmidt, David Neale, Esteleth Squidly, and Jadehawk:

Science, Skepticism, and Environmental Activism with Chris Clarke, Jennifer Campbell-Smith (+bird), and Madhusudan Katti from coyot.es:

Today I’m moderating David Silverman again at 9am Central, the Immortality Debate at 2pm with Eneasz Brodski, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and David Brin, Neurodivergence and Skepticism at 5pm with representatives from Atheism+, and our closing event at 8pm.

I’ve been going back and cleaning up the video comments a bit. I left them on just to give the youtube commentariat another chance, and because I wanted to see if youtubers left useful input during the conversations (yes, I was watching the hangout window, the youtube comments window, and the IRC chat room window during every panel).

They were worthless.

We got a couple of categories of responses. Some were complimentary; thanks very much. There were a lot that were sneering variations of “I can’t comment on your videos, I hate you.” There were mindless eructations: “GAY!” “SHIT!” etc. And then, weirdly, a lot of trolls were obsessed with my hair color, accusing me of dyeing it. Apparently, dyeing it between sessions. Say what?

Anyway, lesson learned: I’ve now made disabling youtube comments the default on all my videos.


And here’s Dave Silverman on blasphemy:

Here’s me, Eneasz Brodski, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and David Brin talking about immortality. This was great fun, and even after we ended the recording we kept talking for another half hour.

The neurodivergence and skepticism panel with Grimalkin and Kassiane:

FtBCon Final Schedule

This should be the one place you can go to to follow the con. All the events are linked to there, by date and time (NOTE: all times are given in the Central time zone, UTC -5 — calibrate accordingly.) For instance, the welcoming introduction starts at 5pm Central tonight. Click on the “Welcome” link, it will take you to the Google+ event page, where I should have the youtube video set up ready to go.

And look, we’ve got stuff going on solidly from 5pm to midnight tonight. Then we start up again at 8am Saturday and don’t shut up until 11pm. Sunday you get to sleep in until 10am before we fill up the screen until 9pm. We’ve even got some hours where we’re running parallel sessions and you’ll have to choose (actually, I hope you choose anyway — you’d be nuts to stare at the screen all those hours. Even we moderators have juggled the schedule to make sure we have one hour breaks between our sessions.)


But it’s not the FINAL final schedule! We’re still adding stuff! Would you believe Roy Zimmerman will be joining the atheist music panel? We don’t care if you believe or not, because we deal with evidence and facts, and ROY ZIMMERMAN WILL BE ON THE MUSIC PANEL.

FtBCON starts today!

In just a few hours, we’re all going to go stark raving mad trying to pull together this new FtBCon thing. Brace yourself for glitches (we are) as we try to hammer out all the details.

If you’re looking for the schedule, it’s on FtBCON.org and also on Lanyrd. You can search Google+ for FtBCON and it’ll list us all; we’re also going to be posting youtube links to the ongoing discussions on the Google+ events, so I think you’ll even be able to watch everything just from that one page. You can join in the chat room to talk and ask questions; we’ll be watching that as we moderate the panels. You can also get there via irc.synirc.org and #pharyngula, if you’re using an IRC client.

If you’re participating in a panel or talk, please pay attention to these suggestions:

Advice to participants in FtBCon

What you’ll need:
A reasonably fast internet connection (WiFi works)
A webcam
A Google+ account
Headphones or earbuds
Good lighting

The last two are often neglected and regarded as optional. They’re not. If you just use your computer speakers to listen while you talk, you will generate annoying echoes that will reverberate between all the participants. Any kind of audio gear other than broadcasting sound that will be picked up by your microphone is necessary — but simple earbuds are adequate to prevent the problem.

Lighting isn’t difficult, either. You should be illuminated from the front: the worst case is to have a bright light source behind you, in which case you will be a dark silhouette against a light background, and no one will be able to see your face. Ideally, you’ll set up three point lighting, with two sources of light, one to your front left and the other to your front right, and a third softer light illuminating the background. But putting a lamp or two in front of you and avoiding bright sun or other bright illumination behind you will be adequate. (If you’re at all vain, though, the best thing you can do to make yourself look good is to have good lighting.)

Before the event

You will be given contact information for your facilitator, and you will have given them your Google+ ID. Get on Google+ 15 minutes before your talk/panel; your facilitator should be sending out invitations to join a hangout around that time. If you don’t get one, don’t hesitate to send urgent alerts to your facilitator!

When you’re in the hangout, you are encouraged to use the Hangout Toolbox on the left sidebar. Select Lower Third and fill it out with your name and (optionally) affiliation, and turn it on. This will put a bar on the bottom of the screen with your identifying information for anyone tuning in.

If you are using a PowerPoint presentation, set it up in the background, and switch back to the hangout.

During the event

Your facilitator will give a brief introduction, and then the time is yours or your panel’s. Allot 45 minutes or less for your talk, please — we would like to have a little time for Q&A, but if you use the full hour, that’s OK, discussions can be had in the FtbCon chat room.

If you are using PowerPoint or similar presentation software, you can display your slides instead of your face. Click on Screenshare in the hangout (it should be in the left toolbar), and when it asks which window to use, select the desktop. Then go to your presentation software, and start up the slideshow. Everyone else will see your slides and hear your voiceover.

During your session, the facilitator will be watching the chatroom and Google+ and Youtube channels for relevant and intelligent questions and comments, and will address the good subset to you during any Q&A. They will also compile those good comments/questions and email them to you, if you’d like.

Your facilitator will be present in a small window at the bottom of your screen during the entire presentation. They will work out any signals you’d like to get (for instance, waving wildly when you’ve only got 5 minutes left). If you’re using Screenshare, you won’t see them; you’ll have to get audio cues. The session will have to end promptly on the hour, since we’ll have other talks starting at that time.

I can’t emphasize enough how important using headphones or earbuds is — without them, we get echoes all over the place, which are really annoying…and the moderators will start muting you. Some kind of decent lighting is also important, because you’ll look bad if you’re all grainy and dark gray against a black background, or worse, a black silhouette against a bright white background. It’s easy to fix, too — I bought a couple of clamp lights and presto, I can illuminate myself adequately, just by sticking them up in a few places.