I wrote this last night in Florida, but the hotel wifi was on the blink, so I couldn’t get it on-line. I am now at Newark airport in New Jersey, having just eaten my first bowl of matzoh soup. Oy vey, good stuff!
Audience frowning in concentration
I’ve been to gaming conventions and academic conferences and recently my first blogging convention, and now I’ve experienced my first skeptics’ convention: The Amazing Meeting 5.5, a 1.5-day mini-con hosted by the Amazing Randi himself.
James Randi demonstrating Geller-like powers
Friday offered a solid four-hour round-robin lecture on podcasting and blogging by Bart Farkas, Rebecca Watson and Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid podcast. I’ve listened to podcasts regularly since 2005, and now I learned a lot about how they are made. For instance, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe is made as a Skype teleconference, with everyone recording themselves locally and then sending their sound files to Stephen Novella for editing after the session’s end. Rebecca Watson recorded about 20 episodes sitting in her closet because of acoustics!
I don’t plan on going into podcasting myself: in order to reach any respectable number of listeners who share my interests I’d have to do it in English, and Stockholm, Sweden isn’t the best place to find reliably Anglophone people to come on a show. I’m a happy blogger, and what I do here is far more visible to the search engines than what it would be if I read it out loud and put it on-line as a sound file with brief show notes.
Podcasting panel: Dunning, Stackpole, Watson, Farkas
The main part of the conference was today, with talks by Kelly Jolkowski of Project Jason, Brian Dunning, Mark Roberts on 9/11 conspiracy theories, Rebecca Watson, Michael Stackpole, Bart Farkas, Alison Smith of SAPS, Robert Lancaster of Stop Kaz and Stop Sylvia Browne, Jeff Wagg and James Randi. Our MC was the Bad Astronomer himself, Phil Plait (who told me he just submitted the manuscript for his new book a few days ago!). Finally, there was a Q&A panel onto which I had managed to insinuate myself, so I got my moment in the spotlight too and bragged about the Swedish Skeptics’ accomplishments. After I’d mentioned Zenon Panoussis’s brave work against Scientology, the audience gave him spontaneous applause. The quality of the day’s talks was very high indeed. My favourites were Mark Roberts and Robert Lancaster who had interesting things to say and did so with great rhetorical skill.
Many thanks to all the good people at the JREF who got the whole thing together for us! TAM is characterised by the invisible network of on-line friendships that many participants already have in place at arrival thanks to the JREF’s on-line forum. With all these smart and friendly people apparently on the forum, I’m definitely going to check that out. And who knows, maybe I’ll attend some skeptical con in 2009 too?
Phil Plait: good man, Bad Astronomer