Tag Archives: skepticamp

Mixing curation and crowdsourcing in skeptic event planning

Neil Degrasse Tyson at TAM9

Neil deGrasse Tyson at TAM9 by Jamie Bernstein, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

As the annual schedule of skeptic and freethought events continues to expand, there’s more variation and experimentation going on. Specifically, some skeptic conferences are mixing old and new techniques in creating their schedule of events. They’re combining old-school curation with newer crowdsourcing techniques.

Traditional skeptic conferences – those run by CFI, JREF and so on – have been heavily curated affairs. The sponsoring organization and planning committee have complete control over all content presented, which is sometimes planned up to a year in advance. One slight exception are the Sunday Papers at The Amazing Meeting, which has an open submission process with an approval committee.

In 2007 my friend Reed Esau broke the mold by bringing the “unconference” model (from the world of high-tech) to skeptic events, and Skepticamp was born. These events solicit all their presentations from attendees, and only lightly curate the content (if at all). This idea was borrowed from the high tech world where the constant need for new knowledge and skills transfer did not fit well with the curated model. (The high-tech prototype for Skepticamp was called Barcamp). Reed’s idea has been very successful – there have been 84 events held since the first one in 2007, and they’ve been held all over the world.

Now in 2014, several skeptic/secular events are starting to experiment in other ways. Find how after the jump.

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Top 10 SkeptiCamp FAILs (part 2 of 2)

Here concludes the “Top 10 SkeptiCamp FAILS”. If you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1 from earlier this week.

#5 FAIL – “we can’t have person X speaking!”

An open invitation to give talks often comes as a shock to traditionalists in this domain. Superficially at least, it’s for good reason.

Allowing anyone to give a talk risks the spread of misinformation whether intentional or inadvertent on the part of the speaker. Who knows what kind of individual will sign up to speak, couching the topic of  their talk in skeptic or sciencey lingo to avail themselves a golden opportunity to grind their axe before a captive audience?

Admittedly such an open policy flies in the face of a strategy of careful messaging that has marked the traditional events of skepticism for decades.

But there’s a method to this madness.

SkeptiCamps are not messaging events. Nor are they outreach events, though anyone with a desire to share and learn in an open environment is welcome to participate.

Nor is there anything wrong with outreach events. The upcoming Skeptrack at Dragon*Con in Atlanta provides a valuable service of attracting new skeptics from outside the community. But not every event needs to serve this goal.

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Top 10 SkeptiCamp FAILs (part 1 of 2)

Here is the first ever guest post on this blog, by Reed Esau of Skepticamp. Watch soon for a note from me about future guest posts and then Thursday for the conclusion of this two-part article.

Five years ago last weekend an experiment began in Denver, Colorado with a few dozen local skeptics assembling for an unusual day of talks.

This wasn’t a traditional conference event with celebrity speakers flown in from afar, but rather an event with talks drawn from the local participants themselves. The eleven talks covered a range of topics, from the abuses of attachment therapy to claims that the Apollo Moon landings were hoaxed. We saw a hilarious talk detailing the bizarre conspiracies surrounding the Denver International Airport and a presentation by local paranormal investigators Bryan and Baxter.

Nor was this event organized in a traditional manner. It deliberately adapts a successful conference model from the tech community called Barcamp, a model that places substantive events within the reach of amateur organizers. We called this Barcamp for skeptics a “SkeptiCamp“.

The experiment didn’t stop there. As of a recent weekend with Edinburgh’s fourth event, we now stand at 51 events in total, spanning three continents, five countries and this year with the first events in a Spain with talks given in the native language.

With such a track record, this novel experiment in introducing peer education to skeptics could be considered a modest success. With continued steady growth, SkeptiCamp’s future looks bright, especially as more of us grasp how the model works and realize the benefits these events can bring to one’s local group and its individual members.

Growing pains have been expected with many events suffering from various small failures, from overburdened organizers to participants who arrive with expectations of attending a traditional lecture event. This article (in two parts) highlights the most common of our mistakes.

So in the spirit of incremental improvement, of building on our successes and avoiding mistakes, welcome to a listing of the “Top 10 SkeptiCamp FAILs”.

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Please Don’t Start Another Blog or Podcast!

Update June 29: Now with video.

My presentation at SkeptiCamp Atlanta 2011 this past weekend was titled “Please Don’t Start Another Blog or Podcast!” I chose that title deliberately to to be a little controversial, of course. It verges on ridiculous for someone who both blogs and podcasts to tell others not to do either.

My real point is to highlight the many other online activities skeptics can engage in that are important and make a difference. Regular readers of this blog (all three of you) will find some familiar topics in this. See below for links to the slides, an audio version and other supplemental information.

The video includes some introductory material from SkeptiCamp, the main presentation starts at 6:26. If you prefer to listen on the go, you can hear the audio for this presentation on the Skepticality podcast #158 “Return to Lake Skepticamp.” The audio of the presentation itself starts at about 20 minutes in to the episode. You will hear in both the video and audio that I originally miscounted my subtopics, I say seven and the audience corrects me. This has been corrected in the slides seen after the break.

Continue reading after the break for my slides and a list of links that to more information (mostly prior posts on this blog) that expand on each of the topics I cover in the presentation.

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Skepticamp Atlanta 2011 Live (plus some UStream.tv tips)

This weekend (June 11 and 12) brings the third Skepticamp in Atlanta, presented by the Atlanta Skeptics. I will be presenting on Saturday June 11 at (changed!) 2:45 pm EDT (18:45 GMT).

Barring technical problems you should be able to watch it via a live video stream below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Or you can click through to watch on UStream, where you can join in via an online chat.

If you want to learn some technical details about how to work with UStream feeds, continue reading after the break. I’ll show you how I embedded that video above (despite WordPress.com claiming not to support UStream). I’ll also tell you how to connect to a UStream text chat for a video using an IRC client.

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