Tuesday conversation: looking back at Skepticon 5.

Alright, back to the blogging grind (or, as I like to call it, what I do for fun).

Skepticon has sadly come to a close.  The feelings of sadness are thankfully somewhat canceled out by the feelings of “Holy shit if I don’t get some sleep I’m going to die.”  So that’s good.

It seems a fitting topic for our Tuesday conversation: what were your impressions?  What were the highlights for you?  What could be improved?  Do you have any post-con resolutions?  What will bring you back for another Skepticon?  What will keep you away?  What did you learn?  Did you make any new friends?

As for my end, you all know I gave Michaelyn a shmancy Doctor Who ring.  That is, of course, my highlight.  That includes the outpouring of well-wishes on the blog and a torrent of them on facebook.  I wish I could thank everybody individually, but a shout out to all of you here will have to suffice.  :)

The best one came from my brother, who broke up the homogenous makeup of my changed relationship status on facebook.

My brother wrote "I fapped to this."

Michaelyn about had to call the paramedics because I was laughing so hard.

Another highlight was how much time I got to spend with people.  It’s unfortunate that I never get to spend as much time with people as I want, but because I gave my talk on the opening night this year that freed me up the rest of the time to be social.  I got to get shit-faced with Amy, Liz, and Kevin from Texas; I got to eat with the SOMA group from the University of Kansas; I bumped into Canadian attendees Zach and Ryan while they weren’t doing anything and invited them to run errands with me; I finally got to meet Bob Seidensticker, who writes the Cross Examined blog here at Patheos; I got to play nerf war with Kayla and the crew from OKC; I got to grab sushi and run errands with Hannah; and I got to shake hands and meet/hug a bunch of readers.  Hugging is the best, and I wish I had whole days to spend with everybody.

And it’s always a highlight for me to get to see old friends again.  I miss everybody from back in the day.

For me, the speaker highlights was Matt Dillahunty.  I thought he had the best talk of the con (and not just because he was complimentary to me).  Behind him were extremely strong performances by Jessica Ahlquist and Richard Carrier.  I really didn’t think there were any weak speakers this year.  I was skeptical about Deborah Hyde’s werewolf talk, but that one turned out to be awesome too.

Another great moment was a post-operation skype call from Greta Christina.  As she always does, Greta used all the right words combined with a perfect sincerity.  The crowd teared up and gave her a well-earned standing ovation.

Overall, Skepticon remains the best conference in the biz to me.  Despite being an ardent skeptic, to me, it’s just…magic.

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.

  • Desiree

    I really love the atmosphere at skepticon. It’s awesome to get to make new friends and really feel like I’m in a safe environment with like minded people.

  • Nick Johnson / Remijdio

    what were your impressions? Wow. Lots of really nice, fun people!
    What were the highlights for you? Seeing friends and meeting a few people IRL for the first time.
    What could be improved? I have no critiques of skepticon but several of myself. Mostly relating to how little time I got to spend with friends and how I didn’t get to see all the talks I wanted to see because of time constraints.
    Do you have any post-con resolutions? I missed most of Julia’s talk so finding out more about the organization she is a part of is on my to-do list. I’m hoping to try and be more active in the community but gas ain’t cheap!
    What will bring you back for another Skepticon? Having enough money to go.
    What will keep you away? uhh…dying? :P
    What did you learn? too much to say
    Did you make any new friends? I think! I don’t remember names very well so…sorry!

  • Erülóra Maikalambe

    What were your impressions?
    Once again, a great event. Everyone I spoke to was really great, even if I was a bit of a fanboy.

    What were the highlights for you?
    There’s so much to love. Perhaps this year what stands out the most (and maybe this is just because of the kind of year it’s been, with the election and all) was just how great the community is. This liberal atheist from Kansas got to spend a Saturday night getting blitzed with some like-minded and thoroughly fun people. That kind of acceptance is rare where I live.

    What could be improved?
    I don’t really have anything for that. My own problems came down to a lack of familiarity with the location and lack of prior research regarding where to eat. From the convention center it’s a bit of a walk to get good food and I ended up eating pretty much the same stuff that weekend.

    Do you have any post-con resolutions?
    Read more blogs. Tweet more. Get over myself and go talk to the awesome people at these conventions. Give JT a hug next time.

    What will bring you back for another Skepticon?
    Schedule it when Kansas State has an away game and I’ll be there.

    What will keep you away?
    I can’t think of anything other than scheduling conflicts, or if the registration fee went up to like $100 or something.

    What did you learn?
    Lots. And I’ll learn more when I watch the videos. I learned that for me to actually sleep at least 6 hours on a hotel bed apparently requires plenty of liquor.

    Did you make any new friends?
    Sure did. Wish I’d gotten all their names. Also got better acquainted with friends from last year.

  • neatospiderplant

    Impressions: busy but fun. It’s amazing how quickly it flies. It feels like there’s so much to do and not enough time.there were talks I meant to attend that I was too busy talking to people (New friends and “soul savers” alike). I have other impressions that I can’t articulate yet. I’m still on my way home though. I bet when I get home this evening and decompress, I’ll be able to better describe the experience better.

    Highlights for me were meeting people. At reason rally, I got everyone I met to sign my backpack. I really wanted to do something similar for skepticon and brought a scrapbook type journal thing in which I collected signatures. My favorite messages were probably from Rebecca Watson and Jessica ahlquist. I also took the prayer card from the hotel and pasted it in my book. I’m really glad I thought to keep a book. It will be nice to have something to remember the people and the event in general.

    I will attend in future as long as all factors line up (enough $, vacation time and such). Next year my cousin is getting married in Punta cana in late October so I might not be able to manage taking so much time off at once. we’ll see though.

    I was surprised at how many people thought we were nuts for driving. Yes, I realize we are probably some of the last ones that only get home today, but both hubby and I like driving better. It’s not necessarily a hatred of flying(well, I’m not keen on it, but hubby loves flying) we just prefer driving. Taking our time enjoying the journey seeing new places (well, New to me, hubby has been everywhere! Lol!) Our truck is more comfy to us than plane seats.

    I learned lots, but one that stands out is getting a first hand view of Christians in that part of the continent. On Sunday, while talking with the folks outside the venue, a lot of church groups were going in to the food packing group. One lady hurried a group of girls about 10 years old inside. She stood between the kids and us protectively and said loudly almost shouting over us “ok girls hurry in, we are here for peace and love and to be christlike…” Or something, as if she was worried about kids being infected by being in our presence. It was a good reminder for me why it’s important to be out.

  • http://facebook.com/llamagirl Kevin Butler


    As awesome as Skepticon was (my first!), Zachary Moore’s post kind of hits too close to home for me (http://doubtingthomases.net/2012/11/12/the-atheist-con/).

  • neatospiderplant

    Oh yeah, the finding food thing applies to us too. Next time, I’m definitely going to have to research that. Especially coffee. I had just come off of my night shift cycle so coffee was important to not fall asleep during the day and the ones I had at the hotel and venue were not very pleasant. I found Starbucks on Saturday, but next time, I definitely need to find out where the other options are.

    • Erülóra Maikalambe

      It turns out there’s a Steake & Shake and a Chipotle in exactly the opposite direction of where I kept going to look for food. Next year I’m mapping all this out and marking favorite places on my phone.

      • neatospiderplant

        Yeah, we had that same thing happen where a few minutes after we left, we found places we would have gone if we knew the area.

  • http://eepineapple.wordpress.com Jessica

    For those looking for good coffee: check out the Mud House next time.

    My favorite talk was Sean Carroll’s. I’ve never been so excited to realize how little I know about the world. I also really enjoyed the exposure to speakers I had never heard of before. Keith Lowell Johnson and Tony Pinn were awesome new finds.

    I will be back next year! Unless the world actually ends in December or something…but really, I can’t forsee any possible reason I won’t be there. I <3 Skepticon!

    • Johnny Taylor

      Keith Lowell Johnson is pretty funny. But Keith Lowell Jensen is better.

      • http://eepineapple.wordpress.com Jessica

        Aw, crap. I fail.

    • neatospiderplant

      Thanks for the coffee recommendation. I will keep that in mind for next time!

  • http://gravatar.com/huckleberry549 Saganite

    What were your impressions? A delight to see the youth purging religion out of politics and science.
    What were the highlights for you? A better understanding of Skepticon’s purpose.
    What could be improved? Sticking with the original goals of Skepticon which I thought was enlightenment of the necessity to purge religion from politics and science, promoting science and exposing pseudo-science. Less focus on self promotion and self woes, and more focus on global imperative issues.
    Do you have any post-con resolutions? Indeed, to retain my life long disgust with superstitious notions, and forever embrace the scientific method and to detach myself and my support from conventions that deviate from those concepts via embracing hedonistic values in personal relationships and in marriage. Wrong venue for the latter.
    What will bring you back for another Skepticon? Wild horses couldn’t drag me to another Skepticon in it’s present form.
    What will keep you away? Hedonists, mind hive, and repetitive pseudo-elitists speakers, and the dismal use of pathos for personal sympathy and profit. The air of a superiority complex was glaring.
    What did you learn? Nothing new. Only a validation that “causes” often have deceptive underpinnings.
    Did you make any new friends? No, I didn’t attend this year. But did watch the livestream. But gained a colossal number of cyber-allies who like myself will shift our support to organizations with more noble and higher goals for the many, void of appeals for personal popularity. If I had attended, I would have likely moved over to Friends Against Hunger and got some actual redeeming value.

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

      I’m sure whatever conference gets you and your colossal number of cyber-allies will be in for a real treat, as grand as you are with your higher goals.

      Could you repeat your point about how people being self-aggrandizing turns you off?

      • http://gravatar.com/huckleberry549 Saganite

        If you can’t handle the feedback then why ask? There’s no point to be made about self aggrandizing. In some cases it’s essential. In other cases, fame is a by-product of merit, such as Noam Chomsky and many others. Nothing to fret about. We all throw our support in the direction we deem most suitable for whatever sacrifices we make to do so. I see other places where I can derive more satisfaction. It’s your project, and if it’s proceeding to your satisfaction, then go for it. And I wish you success. There’s room for everything. I’m not your enemy.

        • John-Henry Beck

          Responding to criticism is not remotely the same as not being able to handle it.

          I gotta say, I didn’t even understand what your criticisms were. Doesn’t seem to make sense. Hedonistic values? Mind-hive? Pseudo-elitists?
          Yes, you should definitely go to other places instead.

          • http://gravatar.com/huckleberry549 Saganite

            Rest assured that your suggestion will be honored. Not because you suggested it, but because we were already predispositioned to do so.

          • Stogoe

            He’s upset about the polyamory thing I think. And maybe werewolves.

            Anywho, I didn’t attend – it’s a long drive, and I had no time off left this year besides. But I keep meaning to make the effort. One more thing on my Next Year list. Sounds like fun.

  • http://rockass.net KLJ

    I am pretty sure JT is an undercover fundie infiltrating our community. Allowing him to marry one of our own would be a huge error.

    • http://gravatar.com/huckleberry549 Saganite

      Surely you jest. Our community doesn’t allow or disallow much of anything to my knowledge. Even disagreements are allowed, albeit sometimes reluctantly. If JT were an undercover fundie, then he’s the best in the business. JT and Michaelyn are likely to have a bright rewarding future. I’m confident they will.

      • http://rockass.net KLJ

        Surely. ;)

  • Tim

    I just watched the stream, but Sean Carroll’s talk was just brilliant – for anyone who really wants to get the best lay persons understanding of the Higgs Boson, I will refer them to that talk.
    The Werewolf talk was also really good. I found it really engaging, which was a surprise because subjects like that dont usually interest me.