If you are going to be anywhere near Minneapolis next weekend (April 4-6), I highly recommend you attend Skep Tech 2. This is the sequel to last year’s inaugural conference on skepticism and technology, put on by a coalition of three student groups at Minnesota universities.
I knew I had to attend when I found out this event was being planned back in 2012. After all, skepticism and technology is the focus of this blog! I contacted the organizers and they were nice enough to add me to their speakers list somewhat late in the invitation process.
I didn’t know what to expect, of course – first year events are often quite disorganized. But the students involved were up to the task. Not only did they manage to put on a successful event, but they made it free to attend and got an award for their efforts.
This year’s event promises to be even better. For a preview of this year’s event and more, read on.
Great Event in 2013
As I indicated, last year’s event was an amazing success. It included such speakers as Hemant Mehta, Brianne Bilyeu, Zach Weinersmith, Maggie Koerth-Baker, PZ Myers and Greta Christina. It included several very interesting panel discussions, a live podcast recording, and even some breakout sessions in a smaller second room during part of each day. Most skeptic events don’t even attempt a multi-room schedule, kudos to the organizers for aiming big.
I’m not the only one who thought they did a terrific job last year. CFI On Campus gave them the award for Best Educational Event at their leadership conference last summer. Pictured here is the plaque they were awarded.
In reporting on the award, Sarah Kaiser of CFI wrote, “we’re blown away that this was the group’s first attempt at organizing a conference”.
You can see the details of last year’s event, including the entire schedule and videos of most of the sessions at its conference page on Lanyrd.
My talk last year was titled The Ninjutsu of the Internet-Savvy Skeptic, you can see it here on the blog at that link. My theme last year was how skeptics have an array of digital tools at their disposal, just as the legendary ninjutsu warriors of Japan trained with many different weapons. We need to be proficient in as many as possible.
Looking Forward to Next Week
This year’s event has an equally great and diverse slate of speakers including Bethany Brookshire (aka Sci Curious), Ian Cromwell (aka The Crommunist), Debbie Goddard, Kate Greene, David Tamayo, Rebecca Watson and many more. Returning alumni from last year include Hemant Mehta, Jesse Galef and myself. There are also five panels on the schedule, so I suspect if they follow the pattern from last year we will be seeing many more faces among the panelists.
Again, full details on the event are listed on Skep Tech 2 page at Lanyrd. Log in and indicate if you are attending, and the site can push the info down to your smartphone. We’ll be keeping it updated as the event goes on, and add coverage (videos and so on) as it becomes available.
My talk this year will be about adaptation on the Internet – how skeptics need to be constantly aware of the changing landscape of rules and algorithms that govern our online world, and navigate it adeptly. I will be relating several interesting stories about experiments (both successful and unsuccessful) to illustrate my points. Some particularly entertaining segments will highlight the missteps being made by our cultural competitors. If you’ve been following the “bad behavior” tag on this blog, some of that material will be familiar – but I have some new stories to reveal as well!
My talk is on Friday night this year – one week from today. If you are anywhere near Minneapolis and can get to the event, please do, I’d love to see you there. I’ll have some freebies to give away, including an excellent guide to editing Wikipedia. (But ask me early, I can only fit so many of them in my suitcase so I’m bound to run out).
If you are reading this on March 28 when it posted, be sure to head on over immediately to the registration page to sign up for your absolutely free name-badge for the event. You must do that today in time for the badges to be printed. But if you miss the deadline, fear not – the event is absolutely free and you are welcome to just show up.
If you can’t attend, be sure to follow along with the hashtag on Twitter for live commentary before and during the event, there was quite a bit of activity last year. (You do not need a Twitter account to do this – just a web browser).
Thank you to the students of Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists student group at the University of Minnesota (CASH), the Secular Student Alliance at St. Cloud State University (SSA@SCSU), and the Secular Student Alliance at St. Olaf College (SSASTO), who invited me back again this year. I’m sure it will be even better than last year.