Tools for Dragon*Con Skeptrack

This is an obsolete post, but do see a guide to Internet at DragonCon 2014 is which is now available.

If you follow me on Twitter (or on Facebook or Friendfeed), you’ve probably seen me talking about Dragon*Con in the last few weeks. Although the event is primarily known by science fiction, fantasy and comic book fans for its programming in that area, it has rapidly become one of the largest skeptic meetings in the world.

Dragon Con

Dragon Con

Yes The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas is still the largest in terms of sheer attendance by skeptics: over 1000 skeptics in one room in 2009. But Dragon*Con’s skeptic programming room Skeptrack actually offers more panels, lectures and other events than you get at TAM, and an awesome list of guests. If you are anywhere near Atlanta this weekend, come to the Atlanta Hilton downtown and check it out.

Review the Schedule

For those attending, mapping out your weekend is key. There are literally thousands of program events spread across four hotels, so you need a plan of attack. The convention’s publications department has done an superb job this year of making the schedule available ahead of time.

The program schedule has been posted online in an almost bewildering array of formats. This includes:

I already use Google Calendar for many purposes, including as a repository for the Skeptic History trivia items that I post on Twitter. Here’s my advice on using the it to manage the schedule for this weekend. The sheer volume of data is quite large, so you need to filter it. Follow these steps:

  • Navigate to Google Calendar to view the data
  • Click the logo button in the lower right to add this calendar to your own Google Calendar account
  • Once in your calendar, use the search feature to find events you might want to attend.
  • For each event you want to attend, click the copy to my calendar link to copy that event to your own personal calendar.
  • Repeat above two steps as necessary to find everything you wish to attend.
  • If you usually access Google Calendar directly, for instance from your laptop or iPhone, then you’re done. Otherwise there are a number of synchronization tools for Google Calendar that allow you to pull the data onto other devices for mobile use.
  • When you have everything the way you want it, you can unsubscribe from the full Dragon*Con calendar to remove clutter from your Google Calendar display. (Depending on what synchronization tool you are using, this may not be necessary to get a clean display on your mobile device).

Of course, don’t forget to include my presentation on Internet Skepticism on Monday!

Personally, I use the built-in iCalendar subscription capability of Apple’s iCal application to pull my Google Calendar onto my desktop. Then I use a desktop synchronization tool to sync this data onto my smartphone (a Palm Treo Centro). That way I always have my calendar information with me.

Once you get on-site, make sure to keep up with any schedule changes via the Daily Dragon, the daily newspaper of the convention. It is published online and on paper. Fun Fact: Back when I used to volunteer with Dragon*Con myself, I was the original creator of the Daily Dragon.

Other Planning Resources

There’s also an entire website devoted to Skeptrack, which has lots of great information including the schedule of skeptic events, discussion forums and so on.

The episodes of the Dragon Pod podcast also have some great tips on how to plan your weekend.

During the Event

Once Dragon*Con starts, there will be many ways to keep up with the activities. Even those not attending at all should be able to get something out of it.

On Twitter there are several official (and unofficial) accounts posting news including Dragon_Con, Daily Dragon, skeptrack, dragonpod and of course Derek and Swoopy of Skepticality who are running the Skeptrack and Podcasting tracks.

A number of the speakers on Skeptrack post on Twitter as well, including skeptical parent Heidi Anderson, Dr. Rachael Dunlop of Skeptic Zone, Brian Dunning of Skeptoid, D. J. Grothe of Point of Inquiry, musician George Hrab, Skepchicks Carrie Iwan and A Kovacs, Daniel Loxton of Skeptic Society, Skepchick Jen Myers, Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, Skepchick & artist Amy Roth, Australian skeptic & origami expert Richard Saunders, Mythbuster Adam Savage, John C. Snider of American Freethought podcast, writer Michael Stackpole, Brian Thompson of Amateur Scientist podcast, Jeff Wagg of JREF and Skepchicks Maria Walters and Rebecca Watson. And, of course, me. You really should follow me on Twitter. (For some reason I update there more regularly than here).

If you don’t fancy the notion of having to follow all those people individually, you can use Twitter search to watch for updates about Skeptrack. Or if you want to drink from the firehose, monitor the word DragonCon.

Live Video!

There are plans to offer live streaming video from the Skeptrack room via Livestream.com. It is courtesy the hard work of Doctor Atlantis and others.

The video is also available embedded on the Skeptrack web site if you prefer.

Be aware that network connections are sometimes flaky so if the feed drops be patient. Follow me on Twitter for live updates if trouble occurs.

See you this weekend!

Update: Fixed link for live video stream, which has moved to livestream.com. (9/2/2009 3PM EDT)