Tuesday conversation: Skepticon.

Of course I’m biased, being the event’s co-founder and original organizer, but Skepticon is my favorite event of the year.  The environment is like no other.  The place is an endorphin farm.

So for those of you who have been, what were your thoughts?  Are you going back?  If so, why?  What is your favorite memory from this event?

For those of you who have never been, are you going this year?  What do you want to know from those who have been?

I hope I can see a lot of you there.  :)

For the record, it’s looking like the WWJTD team will be crashing the Freethoughtblogs meetup the night of Saturday the 10th.  Personally, I’ll be going just to let PZ know that I’m taking over.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

    I went for the first time last year, which was my first chance to meet you and many others in person. I had an absolute blast. And you’re right, this event does have a different feel from most conferences, more laid back and with a younger crowd than usual. But what I’m really looking forward to this year is seeing you in that “Ed Brayton is a poker god” t-shirt, which you’ll have to wear to the party on Saturday or I won’t let you in!

    But in all seriousness, more than anything I’m looking forward to seeing a whole bunch of people that I don’t get to see nearly often enough — including you, ya big lug.

  • Charlie

    I went to Skepticon 3 and it was amazing. I would love to go every year.

    I had never really gone to a convention before except for some church summits as a kid/teenager, but I had never actually been excited to meet someone. I had recently accepted the fact that I was an atheist and it was all very new and strange to me. I knew about it from reading PZ’s blog and I was really looking forward hearing him speak. Also, James Randi was there and that was cool, but I didn’t understand how cool at the time. I was just getting into the scene.

    The big deal to me is the access to the speakers. I was blown away at how cool everyone was and that they were willing to just hang out with me. This was beyond words important to me and really connected me to the importance of identifying with this fantastic group.

    I can’t thank you enough for your efforts. I can’t suggest attending highly enough.


    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Thank you for that!

      When Lauren and I conceived of Skepticon, the choice to not have a green room, to make all speakers sit in the audience and interact with the crowd, was something we consciously did. I think that is a large part of why the event seems so fun: everybody is an equal. You can walk right up to PZ, or any other speaker, and say hi.

      • Charlie

        Yes, and I did. The problem was I didn’t know to expect him/them to be so warm to the interaction. I was just hoping for a handshake and he seemed dissappointed when I didn’t have anything good to say. I’ll admit to being star struck. We connected later on, I had a brief chat with Randi, posed in many pictures and made lasting contacts that still exist years later.

        My advice to any that would read this comment is to be prepared for the utmost in hospitality. Interact with everyone you meet in a forthright manner and you will be surprised at how much you can pull from this amazing event.

        • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

          As someone who frequently speaks at such events, I can tell you that you should never feel starstruck or be at all hesitant to come up and introduce yourself. I suppose there might be someone out there who might not like that, but virtually everyone I know who is a regular speaker at conferences, including me, really like meeting people and talking to them. And I, at least, don’t like being treated any differently. I actually had one of my blog readers a few years ago ask, when he met me at a talk I was giving, “Can I call you Ed?” Aww hell, I’m still just a guy who rants on the internet. If you introduce yourself to JT at an event, you’re likely to get a big hug. If you introduce yourself to PZ, you’ll find him nothing but charming and funny. So just walk up and say hi. It beats the hell out of being treated like some sort of celebrity, believe me.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

          I want to tack on to what Ed said.
          As I become more well-known, I’m noticing more and more that I’m not getting to meet people. Increasingly I’m encountering characters that I think will impress me the most. It’s actually one of the big downsides of this gig. I love meeting people as they are, flaws and all! I love differing opinions. I really just want people to be themselves so I can feel connected to this movement, rather than separated from it by people acting a part in order to impress.

          What’s more, Skepticon endeavors to bring speakers who wouldn’t want to stay back in a green room even if it existed. It was always a priority for me to get affable speakers, and I know the present team is continuing in that vein.

          So seriously, no need to get starstruck. Just come up and say hi. The roles of the speakers may be different that the roles of the people in the audience, but we are no better. That’s the beauty of Skeption: we’re all equal there (and really, we’re all equal the rest of the year, it’s just more obvious at Skepticon).

  • http://researchtobedone.wordpress.com ResearchToBeDone

    First timer here; what should definitely not be missed?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      A lot of the social events occur on the fly. During the breaks, fun just…happens. It’s weird.

      I’d say definitely try to catch the meetup on Saturday night.

  • Amanda

    I’ve never been to Skepticon, and I’m going this year, and I am so. excited.

  • Scott Warner

    I’d definitely love to go, but my current financial situation tells me it’ll be next year. Can’t wait though!

  • Wren

    My hubby and I are going this year, for the first time. Anyone know if the Doubletree is in walking distance?

    • Wren

      I could look it up… :) Comfortable walking distance? Do people stay at the Doubletree? Are we just weird?

  • Amyc

    I’m going with a group from the DFW area (TX). We’re the same group who rented vans to get to the Reason Rally, and we’re doing another van trip to get to Skepticon. This time, we will have a hotel room to sleep in though, instead of a crowded, smelly van. I really can’t wait for it!

  • SparkyB

    I’ve only discovered the atheist/skeptical community through this blog in the last couple months. I watched a lot of the old Skepticon videos and it seems pretty awesome. It is definitely the kind of thing I’d like to attend, but not quite strongly enough to make the trek from Boston. I’ll probably attend my first conference if I can find something convenient on the east coast.

  • John Eberhard

    I’ve been to all of them. They are fun, the atmosphere is laid back, friendly, and party down. It is just awesome to be surrounded by so many thinking people! The speakers rock and the good information they present is boggling. Can’t wait for this one!

  • ewok_wrangler

    Am I going? Well, depends on where and when it is. (clicks through to site).

    Dude, tell your organizers: there is nothing immediately evident on the front page saying where and when this clambake is happening. Yeah, if you scroll a bit you can read “Join us November 9-11″ so there’s the when part, but I still don’t know where. If I click that, I find it out it is at the “Springfield Convention Center.” Still no state, I’m gonna guess OH but I’d really like to be sure before I start booking flights.

    And then, what’s it consist of? In order to find a schedule I have top float over “About” to get a popup menu. That’s not intuitive. And the resulting schedule is very unforthcoming: flat text, no pics, and all it says is, quote, “Workshop, Workshop, Workshop, Lunch…” Oh, yeah, I want in on that…

    There’s a lot of stuff on that front page that has some interest but is not at all relevant to the questions behind the casual, hurried visitor that just wants to know, where, when, and who/what. And from a marketing perspective “you” (I know, not you personally) get only at best 30 seconds to interest and engage the mildly-curious visitor. This site definitely does not do that. It conveys zero of the feeling you (JT) express about Skepticon.

    • BradC

      Click the “About” link to get the details:

      Location: Springfield, Missouri
      Date: November 9-11, 2012
      Venue: Springfield Expo Center

      But yes, for a long time even that page still said “TBA” for venue. I’m planning to attend the workshops, but it’d be nice to know what they actually are…

  • John-Henry Beck

    I’ve been to Skepticons 2-4 and, now, a few other conventions around. Maybe I’m biased being a local, but it’s still my favorite.
    In some ways I think I might miss when it was smaller. Easier to meet the people there. But I’m just not great with crowds. There’s also a lot to be said for the energy of the large crowd. I’ve definitely enjoyed them all.

    Friday night the Springfield Freethinkers are having a pub event at the Farmers Gastropub, so I imagine I’ll be there two nights in a row. Seems likely we’ll swamp them, though. (We did the last two years, and one year ran them almost entirely out of booze.)

    This year I’ll be volunteering with it, besides helping with our own table. So maybe that way I’ll get to run in to some of you cool people.
    One of the highlights last year was sitting at our table and chatting a bit with Ed there, and Surly Amy, both just a few feet away, for example.

  • Brad

    Why doesn’t the UK have a Skepticon? :(

  • neatospiderplant

    Hubby and I are going for the first time this year. We’re really looking forward to it.

  • Andrew

    Can anyone tell me if there is a Skepticon equivalent in the UK? It sounds amazing!!