The Skepticism Convention Guide opens events up to all

Lanyrd logoTwo years ago this month here on the blog I introduced skeptics to Lanyrd – a website that compiles information about multiple speaker events like conferences, symposia and workshops. It can compile all the info about an event in one place for easy reference by attendees and others.  Since I’ve been promoting the site, it has been adopted by many skeptic organizations.  It has become the official scheduling application for The Amazing Meeting, several Center for Inquiry events, Skepticamp, Germany’s SkepKon, Skeptics of Oz and more.

As a convenience to skeptics and skeptic event organizers, I and others have been curating what Lanyrd calls a “guide” – a special list of just the skeptic conferences that are upcoming and listed on the site. The guide acts as an entry point to Lanyrd for skeptics.  It has other uses too, for instance an RSS feed from this guide automatically populates the list of upcoming skeptic conferences that is visible on the right here at the blog.

Of course, numerous skeptics cannot attend these events in person due to cost or travel involved or for many other reasons. Some skeptics only attend them rarely. If you fall in this category, you might wonder why I mention Lanyrd repeatedly here, on my blog and on the Virtual Skeptics webcast.

Last week I launched social media feeds associated with the guide, to promote its value better.  Let me explain why I think this is a useful thing for all skeptics, not just those who regularly attend these events.

Not Just For Planners and Attendees

The reason I’m so positive about the site is because the value of Lanyrd does not end when each event ends. The site is also a valuable way of recording the reaction to and coverage of each event in one place for posterity.  Lanyrd calls these types of links “coverage”.

An unfortunate trend with the web pages associated with conferences is they tend to be recycled or abandoned entirely by organizers after the event is over. This means interesting details of what happened at the events in our movement often gets lost in the “memory hole”.

This is also problematic because the opportunity to capture and showcase material from the event can be  lost. Because video and audio recording has become so easy and ubiquitous (and there are so many free and cheap ways to host this content) many conferences now record all sessions. Sometimes they are live-streamed during the event, two examples are Skeptrack (which has been doing this for years) and Skepticon. But sometimes this content can be hard to find, spread across many different YouTube or Vimeo channels.

Lanyrd allows this content to be easily linked to the original event, allowing it to be found by keyword, by tag and other meta data.  This continues to work long after the convention website may be gone.  Lanyrd also encourages links to other content such as slide presentations, digital version of session handouts, photo galleries from the event, blog posts and more.

Thus as it is continually updated the Skepticism Convention Guide serves as living and unified document of what goes on at skeptical events – for both in-person and at-home attendees.  And none of this requires any extra effort on the part of event organizers.

To top it all off, additions to the site are crowdsourced in a manner similar to Wikipedia. So the curation of content relating to events can happen without any effort required from the events’ own organizers.  Other skeptics will pitch in and add the material.

What’s Already There

Since we’ve been entering data for over two years now, including data on past events, there are huge amounts of material there.  Over 300 events are now included, with thousands of sessions and hundreds of speakers.  If you search the coverage on the site under keywords relating to skepticism you can currently find (as I write this post):

…and even more.  All of it is searchable and filterable by speaker, year, event, topic tags and more. Just click on the blue tags and other links you see down the right side of the display, and the list automatically changes to show only matching content.

What this all means is that skeptic conferences are not just for people who have the freedom and resources to travel anymore – everyone can participate vicariously through this online material.  And the Skepticism Convention Guide puts it all in one place for easy reference.

Social Media

In order to help promote the value of this resource, last week I set up social media feeds for the skepticism convention guide on the three major services:

These feeds help update everyone on what has been added to the guide.  They are curated to keep volume low –  two scheduled posts a day (one in the morning, one in the evening).  Usually there are also a few retweets on Twitter beyond that, but not many.

You Can Help!

Please follow, like, circle and +1 these accounts as appropriate on each service.  And please  interact with the content by retweeting and liking it whenever you see it.  All of this activity helps make the content visible to other skeptics on these services, and get the word out about this valuable resource.  My hope is these social media feeds will become great ways to keep up with what is going on in skepticism.

I’m soliciting assistance with both the guide and the social media feeds, and some folks like Nathan Miller and Eric Weiss have already expressed interest.  If you’d be interested in helping keep the guide updated and schedule the posts on the social media feeds, contact me here or on social media.