#FtBCon Interview With Miri Mogilevsky

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Skepchick Events Writers Melanie Mallon, Courtney Caldwell, Niki, and Ed Cara recently sat down with Miri Mogilevsky to discuss the ins and outs of organizing, e-hosting, and speaking at an online convention. Miri Mogilevsky is a Freethought Blogs writer at her blog Brute Reason. In this interview, she spills all about the success of the first FtBCon and dishes about what we can expect for the second event!

MEL: Hey everybody, this is a group interview with various people involved with FtBCON Freethought Blogs ConsciousCON-science. Oh my god I’m going to be a dork right in the beginning, I’ve ruined it all. We’re here especially with Miri, one of the organizers of the CON as well as three of the panelists. We have Niki, Ed, and Courtney, and I guess let’s just get started with the questions.

MEL: Okay, most of these questions will be directed first at Miri and then whatever you guys want to add, feel free to jump in and all that good stuff. So, Miri, my first question is, what surprised you about the CON most positively and negatively?
MIRI: This is going to sound terrible, but I did not expect all of the tech stuff to work all of the time, and it pretty much did. As we started on Friday night my panel was the first [dog barking]… wow wait a minute this is working. So that was a really pleasant surprise. Also we ended up having a lot of viewers. The most popular panels got over 200, most of the others had less, but given that we kind of put things together at the last moment and didn’t publicize as well as we could of that was a really pleasant surprise. Unpleasant? I don’t know because I really enjoyed it. The one thing that I found out was that it was actually really really stressful. We really didn’t think about how it would be to have literally full days from 8 in the morning until 10 or later at night of panels with not a single break. That was just something we did not even think would be hard. But it was because I had to Tweet and Facebook and put on the blog every single session that we had so that everyone could find it. I had to deal with all these people Tweeting and Facebooking at me “It’s not working on my computer. It’s not loading.” And I would have to be “Okay, have you tried restarting, I don’t know…”
[Laughter/talking over each other]
CC: There was some serious multi-tasking talent that went into that weekend. I was very impress with everything you were doing; it was like everywhere I turned that day there was Miri doing something. It was great.
NM: I don’t believe in miracles but you are a miracle worker. If that made any sense at all.
MIRI: By the end I was surprised by how exhausted I was and how much my eyeballs fucking hurt from looking at the screen all day every day. But we’ll know for next time that it’s not as easy as it seems.
MEL: Do you plan to have more of a pause in between panels or alternate based on, not schedule yourself back to back or anybody else, that sort of thing…
MIRI: With the schedule I think that was something that we accounted for. We did our best to make sure none of the organizers were doing any organizing back to back. Although at the end things got confusing because we added new panels or someone had to drop. So we did end up having an organizer who ran a panel and had to go and jump to another one right after. That part I think we did okay with. The one thing though that we are thinking about is trying to do is breaks between sessions because that’s not only hard on us, I didn’t really think that would be frustrating for anyone. I thought they would “Oh if I need to run to the bathroom I’ll run to the bathroom. And then if I miss it”…[dropped] So a lot of people responded saying that it was frustrating not having any breaks and would we consider doing that. We haven’t really talked about all the details like that, but that would be something I would push for.
MEL: You don’t think about that with something that’s on-line. It just seems like it’s so at your own convenience and you can start the videos late if you want to but you kind of miss out on the chat then, if you have the chat room going you kind of want to be there live and all that. You mentioned that your most popular panels were 200 or more people which were the most popular panels?
MIRI: The only person to actually see the view counts is the person running them. I could probably say that mine was one of the most popular ones, the sex and skepticism one, that was the one that had around 250 at one point and also that was something that got brought up over and over again in the survey responses. But there were a lot of panels that people really liked. A lot of people liked the mental illness ones, they liked the chronic pain one, they liked the reproductive rights one. A lot of people really really liked because that was just fantastic. And the fun ones too. The atheists music panel was just really fun. And it was a great way to finish off Saturday night.
MEL: Most of the people here, you were each on something to do with a mental illness right? I know “What’s the harm” Courtney and Niki were on, and Ed you were on another “Mental illness in the Freethought community” panel, correct?
EC: That’s right.
MIRI: “Supporting Freethinkers with mental illness.”
MEL: “Supporting Freethinkers”, that’s right, thank you. Because we brought that up and that was a popular one, as a panelist what surprised you? Just start with Courtney and we’ll go down the row if that’s okay. Same kind of question, what surprised you about your panel positively and negatively?
CC: I was, and I guess this is sort of ironic because I was on a panel to talk about my anxiety, but I was surprised at how anxious I was. I was much more anxious than I thought I was going to be. But it was also good because the longer we were all talking together the more comfortable I got, which is really really good because I think that just goes to show at least for me personally what talking to other people about your mental illness can do. And having that sense of community makes you feel a little bit more comfortable and it makes it easier as time goes on. So I was surprised that I was as anxious as I was but at the same time I was glad that it got easier as time went on.
MEL: Ed, same question. What surprised you about your panel, positively, negatively, either, both?
EC: [connection/noise] strange noises nearby. I was most impressed by the subject matter on panel, in that all the things we used [connecton/noise] debunking pseudoscience is easy enough, homeopathy, [connection/noise] all that’s pretty easy to do. I have seen people tackle pseudoscience and psychology or even talk about what’s effective and what’s not. That’s refreshing. The fact that even existed at the CON that’s such a refreshing take on things. I think that that was something definitely I was surprised at the minute I saw that. Actually a really good subject to take on. I think that’s was I was most impressed by.
MEL: Actually Miri you’re next just because before my question was about the CON as a whole and this one is about specifically the mental illness panel.
MIRI: I guess I was surprised by how personal it got. I kind of knew that that would happen because that was sort of the point. But I thought that people would kind of, I expected more that people would speak in generalities and be “You know something that’s helpful is this’ or ‘Something that’s not helpful is that.’ But people really got into personal stories and stuff like that and I thought that was really really cool because that’s not something that a lot of in the skeptic/atheist community hear a lot. Unless they maybe read  Greta, me, or whatever. But if they don’t then they’re not really ever going to hear that perspective.
MEL: Niki?
NM: I wasn’t expecting to suddenly need a tissue during my panel. It really was a big deal because it was the first sort of panel I’ve ever done for anything atheist or skeptically themed. And just like what Courtney said it got easier and easier as we talked and realized I’m talking to other people who have been there and there’s a power in that, a power in that we are trying to communicate to other people pretty much how your life is how they can help and what you’ve been through it’s easier to have people near. So other than that, it was actually kind of awesome at the end and I’d like to do it again.
MEL: That was my next question actually. If this is something that you would want to do again. Either a the next Freethought BlogsCON or just in general more speaking out, speaking up officially on panels or at events on-line or off about mental illness?
CC; I think that’s something we’ve talked about. Just as a whole in order to bring more awareness, I think the community as a whole gets mental illness pretty well for the most part it’s not perfect. But I do think there is a lot to be said about the sense of community. I know Miri and I we’ve talked about this. We haven’t gotten too far along in our plans yet, but we do want to have something a little more structured and a little more regular hopefully for people that we can have something public and we can have something private for people who aren’t out in their community to gather around on-line probably, likely, just to talk about these kinds of things because that is really important.
MIRI: What that’s going to be, probably, after I move to New York and get settled in, we want to do a series of Google hangouts and some of them are going to be private and they’ll be more like support group and others will be public and they’ll be vlogs or whatever, where we choose a topic in advance and then invite people that for whom the topic is relevant. I might do them on different types of disorders, or do one on experiences with therapists, do one on pseudoscience if people want to do that again, or one on dealing with a partner with a mental illness because that’s something that comes up over and over. I’m always getting comments on very old blog posts of mine that are “My boyfriend has blah blah blah and I don’t know what to do, help.” I think that’s a really neglected area we can talk about. It would be regular but I wouldn’t want it to be super formal because that makes it hard for people to commit to it.
MEL: Right.
MIRI: It’s going to be “We are doing the blah blah show every Monday at 7.” It’s not going to be like that, I don’t think. I don’t think I’m capable of doing anything that professional.
MEL: That’s a pretty terrible title for it too.
[Laughter]
CC: Well, there goes our first choice.
[Laughter/talking over each other]
MEL: Back to Miri, we started to touch on this so we might as well ask it full out. What are you, if you can share these insider secrets, what are you planning to do differently with the next CON and why?
MIRI: I mentioned we want to give more thought to how we structure it in terms of timing and breaks and stuff. We also were considering varying it up. This time we had a bunch of hour long things and a bunch of two hour things. Then we figured out that an hour was really too short for anything that had more than one person speaking. We’re thinking about varying the lengths of times, doing some hour and a half stuff, some hour stuff, maybe some two hours. There’s definitely things that lasted two hours that felt like they could keep going, but we’re not going to do that. We’re definitely going to try to be a little wiser about how much time we allocate to things. Another thing, a lot of people noticed a lot of the participants noticed one of the most fun things was after the panel ends you all just stay in the Google hangout and talk forever. Friday night we stayed in until 4 or 5 in the morning. It was ridiculous. And a lot of people did the same thing. We might figure out how to actually incorporate that into the schedule. For instance, we might have hangouts where the speakers stay but then we can cycle in audience members who want to hang out with us, or they could just watch. Some of us have thrown around an official Cards Against Humanity thing going after the CON.
[Agreement]
MIRI: I’m trying to think what else. We already have names that we’re hoping that we’ll reach out to. And we realize that with something like this where it’s so easy for a speaker to commit just for an hour on a random weekend I think we can afford to reach out to some pretty well known people, so we’re going to try to do that. There’s really no harm in trying. [connection] we want to address as many intersectional issues as possible. We covered a lot this time around, but we’re going to try to do new different stuff this time. Some people have talked about doing something about the drug war or the criminal justice system, something about domestic violence. Things that can be looked at from a skeptical/secular perspective but rarely are. For instance, since I mentioned it, the drug war. That’s somewhere where a lot of the policies are being driven by denialist anti-skeptical crap. That this should be perceived as a social justice issue and not a skepticism-evidence based policy issue which it should be. …Always expanding, different types of topics that we cover and never considering anything to be out of our reach or anything to be “mission creep”. We really can do whatever the fuck we want.
CC: If you do a drug war panel you gotta get Jamie and Allison.
NM: Oh please do. Please.
MEL: I think you should do a LARPing battle of a drug war and we all… never mind.
[Laughter]
MEL: We had a suggestion when we were group brain-storming some of these questions. About the panels, the mental health panel the chronic pain, are you considering at all including somebody who is in advocacy or a professional in the area that works with disadvantaged populations with these conditions or anything along those lines.
MIRI: We haven’t considered specifics for panels like that. At least not that I know of, I don’t think anyone has looked at specifics that closely.
[Siren/Laughter/Talking]
MIRI: The reason I did not do it this time was, because professionals are really important and I myself am going to be a mental health professional, but I’ve noticed that the voices that are heard in the main stream media are, in general, the voices of professionals. And the voices of those being treated by those professionals are often not heard. I would definitely consider including a professional and I think that that’s a great idea but I also think that FtBCON is a unique opportunity for people who don’t usually get to speak to get to speak. So that would have to be a tradeoff I would have to think about. Do I want to take a little bit of attention away from marginalized people who never ever get to speak out and give it to someone who has a platform already? I don’t know, it might be a worthwhile tradeoff. I’ll have to think about it.
MEL: I thought your emphasis on somebody who’s in advocacy might actually be an interesting perspective, as opposed to just somebody who treats people with mental illness and that sort of thing.
MIRI: I would actually love to get someone from the Secular Therapist Project. Because, in fact, it can be hard to find mental health professionals who operate from an explicitly secular and skeptical perspective. I can tell you I’ve ran across many of them who are “I use the faith-based approach” or “I encourage my clients to try yoga.” No, don’t do that.
[Laughter]
MIRI: I would have to vet them very carefully. Because I do not want that crap at all.
MEL: I totally get that, totally get that. What was your process for choosing, you the collective you, for choosing which panels to include among all of these suggestions? What percentage of suggestions did you end up using?
MIRI: I unfortunately don’t know that, because they all went to PZ Myers. I could ask him for that. I do know that we got a lot of suggestions first of all. And many of them were sort of half-baked. People would just “Oh I want to get some people together to talk about social justice and atheism.” We didn’t tend to jump on those as much. PZ would forward us a lot of the proposals that were getting made and people would jump on them and pick them up. I think several times we did take on something that was a little vague at first because maybe we knew the person who made the suggestion. And we knew that they would put something cool together. I think what I’m going to try to get us to do this time around is to make that process a little bit more formal. Have a submission form that’s going to ask what are you going to title this, or the panel is going to be what, a brief outline. Because the more specific they get the easier it will be for us to pick things that are going to be good. And because we can’t accommodate everyone it’s only fair for people to make [connection] create suggestions as opposed to “I want to talk about race stuff.” The think is we’ve had a lot of people offer to help organize and stuff like that but because of the way it runs from the technical end each panel has to be run by an FtB person. And there’s a lot of good reasons for that. Because we want to make sure that if anything goes wrong… But that also means we have to be opening the hangouts, doing all that stuff all weekend. Hopefully a few FtB people who are not very involved this time around have said that they really enjoyed it and now that they understand how we did it from the tech side, they’re going to be more able and willing to help out next time. So, maybe more of us organizers means more panels.

MEL: What would you do if you had a really solid idea for a panel and it came from several different people and they were all following your guidelines on and all gave you the outline of the panelists and … just out of curiosity, as an organizers problem, how would you decide who got to do what?
MIRI: We actually had that happen and we would often put those people in touch with each other. I’m pretty sure that some of the panels actually consisted of people who originally came up with the same thing separately, but I’m not entirely sure because I wasn’t the one doing all of it. If that happened I think I would look at their previous speaking/writing and just pick the people that I thought were going to be the most interesting and well spoken. Because, although obviously we had plenty of people involved who don’t have any experience with any of it, if I have to pick I’m going to pick the person who is going to be interesting.
MEL: We’ve kind of touched on this already a little bit, what other topics that are often left out of our conversations would you like to include in future? You mentioned a few earlier do you have any others?
MIRI: Yes, actually let me open up my list. I know that I wanted to do more sexuality type of stuff. First of all let’s be honest this is really popular and we get excited about it and that’s really cool. Also that is an area in which a lot of people have a lot of unexamined biases. You will catch atheists saying stuff like “But that’s weird, that’s just not normal” and they never really challenge where that’s coming from and I’m not going to say that it’s all because of religion but shocking not everything bad is because of religion in fact …
[Laughter/Talking over each other]
MIRI: One of the things I wanted to do at SSACON in July I gave a talk on sex education that I think went really well and I think is an area where there is a lot of discussion to be had. Sex education in the U.S. is all tied up in all sorts of issues like separation of church and state, religious crap, scientific misconceptions, and stuff like that. So it would be really cool to do a panel on that where I would actually include sex educators, other than myself. A lot of the ideas people had were really just expansions on what they’re personally into. Someone suggested some stuff on philosophy. Kate and I want to do more stuff on different mental illnesses. People want to do stuff on the education. One idea I had, is not relevant to my life personally, is godless parenting. I don’t have children.
[Agreement]
MIRI: I think that would be a really good idea. That’s one of those areas “Raise children without god?” we’ll show you how, it’s very doable. So I’m going to organize that. And that’s not something you normally see at a meat space conference.
MEL: That’s true. That’s often noticeably absent. In fact it seems that just as a community, if I generalize us one community, there’s been a little bit of, not hostility, but it’s been only recently it seems that more and more organizers are going out of their way to make events more family friendly. That’s kind of nice change. I mean there is definitely a group out there that does think it’s logical to look at having children with disdain, or maybe that’s just my picking up on it.
MIRI: That comes up a lot among my secular friends actually. It will be “Ew, I’m never going to be a breeder or whatever” and I’m “whatever that’s fine” I totally don’t know if I’m going to have kids either. The thing is one of the reasons why many people women especially stay in religion is because it provides community to raise their children in [connection] help with child rearing. And we don’t really do that in our community and I think that that’s our loss, honestly. We don’t know how many closeted atheists are questioning still in religious communities for that reason.
NM: And it’s not like we’re going to clone ourselves. These kids are literally our future.
MEL: There’s definitely a place for it. And I didn’t mean to imply, I meant not in the sense of, because I didn’t want to have kids actually. We changed our minds for personal reasons much later. I’m not offended by people who make jokes about… I’ve actually had people lecture me because I had kids. That’s what I’m talking about actually that hostility. I’m really going on a tangent, I apologize. How well did the survey work out for you? Did you get enough responses? Were they useful? Were they self-selected? Overly similar?
MIRI: I don’t know to what extent they were self-selected. Sorry, I’m trying to open it before I start blabbing about it. Or I will keep saying stuff. There was some good faith criticism that I think [connection] For instance that’s how… Was I drowned out again? So we got a lot of good [connection] we also asked “Did you learn of any new [connection] Freethought blogs… [connection] Sorry, I’m still trying to open it.
MEL: That’s okay. Is it just my connection and the tornado thing or could you all hear Miri say that whole thing or did she break up?
[Talking to each other about connection issue]
MEL: Could you go back to what you said before because you did go out, you were there but we couldn’t hear you.
[Talking to each other about connection issue]
MIRI: We got over 100 responses which is pretty good. We asked people what their favorite sessions were and what’s kind of cool is that there’s a huge variety. There are some that came up often, but pretty much every session was represented. Most people thought that overall that the conference was “Excellent” or “Very good.” Only two people said it was “Not good at all”. Screw you people, but whatever.
MEL: Was there a reason why?
MIRI: Because I don’t have access to the original survey data, just a PDF of it, I don’t think it [connection] if they wanted to. Under suggestions a lot of people said that they wanted more panels. A lot of people said that they wanted more panels on gender, on race. Someone said “Getting Dawkins would be cool.” A lot of people brought up diversity. A lot of people said that they wanted to see more non-white people involved. I agree, I think that would be great. Because… white people. A lot of people had some frustrations with the tech side of things, for instance, it would have been great if the chat could be in where you look at the video. I also think that would be fantastic. But I just don’t think that’s feasible. It would just be comments and some of us made the mistake of leaving our YouTube comments turned on and that was really not pleasant. The reason we use the Pharyngula chat room in the first place is because it has moderators who know what they are doing. This is the one I’m torn about. Some people thought that it was too informal. They were “A bunch of people talking on Google hangouts is not a conference” and I’m “Well, at that point it’s a matter of semantics.” The whole point of it is to be fun and friendly and not going to a professional conference where people dress up and have name tags. I think that’s great but that’s not what we were going for. Some people complained that we were dressed too casually, which my response is likely to “Go screw yourselves”. I was at least doing this in a 95 degree apartment with no air conditioning or I couldn’t even have my fan on because it killed the sound. I’m sorry I’m not wearing a suit jacket for you. So that’s not that legitimate.
MEL: They seem to fall in the same kind of category of “Why aren’t you like my stereotypical,” which isn’t even true of other CONs, there are a lot of CONs that are very casual, actually. And in any case it’s like “Why aren’t you you’re doing a different kind of CON for the first time ever? Why aren’t you like all these other CONs?” and that kind of misses the point perhaps.
CC: Why couldn’t I hang out with people in the meat space in your CON Miri?
[Laughter]
CC: That was my biggest disappointment.
NM: People didn’t quite get the concept of a fully on-line convention, where you can sit, and you don’t have to worry about paying for admission, or having to sit in a crowd if you’re not the sort of person who’s a big fan of crowds.
EC: I wanted more Richard Dawkins and was immensely disappointed.
MEL: More, more than there was. I want it all.
[Talking over/to each other about more Richard Dawkins]
MIRI: Something that I forgot to mention that we want to do is, when we originally came up with this idea… [chatter about connections] What we really wanted to do was to actually have sessions going at all times because we wanted to have people in other time zones in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, and stuff like that doing stuff. And that didn’t work out primarily because we don’t have that many FtB writers on other continents. And the ones that we had just happened to not be available to host panels. So when we scheduled the date for the next one we took care to make sure all of them would be available, because this way we can have stuff going even overnight for our time. And then if they do more stuff with people in their own areas then that means that we get a really awesome variety of international atheists and stuff like that. Which I think would be really useful. We did do that to some extent, we had a group from Australia do something, which is really cool. I thought “Wow I’m doing a Google hangout with people I know from Australia, that’s fantastic.” We had some people from Europe and Asia and Africa. We had every continent except South America and Antarctica, but I don’t think anyone really cares about Antarctica.
[Talking over/to each other about Antarctica]
MIRI: One more thing. I keep remembering cool things. One thing that we also really want to encourage next time is for people to have watch parties. A few people did it in their areas this time which is really cool. But we were hoping actually to reach out to groups in different cities. Tell them about FtBCON first of all if they don’t know and to just encourage them to have a party where everyone can watch, because I’ve ran groups before, having a ready-made event idea is really fantastic. And it’s fun. So, someone had the idea of actually having a session where we turn by turn we invite each watch party to a hangout. Just to say “hi” and maybe promote their group. Which would be really cool and also really meta because we’re watching the watch parties then they’re watching us watch them. So I’m really excited about that. And obviously I’ll be in New York so I’ll be living an amazing life and I’ll throw a watch party probably while organizing it and while speaking in it, because I can do everything at one time.
[Laughter/Talking to/over each other about Miri’s soundtrack]
MEL: If you were to choose a panel that touched on issues not talked about enough in the community like the most, what would you?
EC: That was my question.
MEL: And I butchered it. Which was one that most touched on issues not talked about enough in the community?
MIRI: A lot about the mental illness panels, but also the chronic pain panel, and also the “Asians in Freethought” because something that was really nice was seeing a bunch of Tweets from people being “Wow, I’ve never heard this talked about”. And in fact it isn’t often talked about. People are always “Why aren’t there more Blacks and Hispanics” which I guess is the wrong way to ask the question anyway. But Asian-Americans are actually, I believe they said, more likely to be atheists than the general population and yet they are very underrepresented in the movement. So they did a panel talking about that, which was just super fucking cool. I think any time that we do any sort of intersectional social justice issue [connection] category of things that don’t get talked about in our movement a lot. Because obviously there are plenty of people talking about this elsewhere but they don’t tend to be people who are allied with secular causes either because they are not secular or because they have not felt accepted. Like Melissa McEwan who runs Shakesville, the blog Shakesville, is very much one of those people. She’s written about it before, and I remember reading her posts and I would see all these very well-intentioned atheist men responding and being “But we’re nice. This is wrong. You should join.” That doesn’t convince anyone. What I think would convince people is for us to do less talking about how much we support that stuff actually talking about that stuff itself and doing things and doing activism around that stuff. So hopefully that’s what FtBCON will be. Not that’s there isn’t a space in it for just straight up atheism. Obviously we’ve had [connection] so there’s always [connection] that’s also cool.
MEL: Just to get the rest of you involved a little bit more, what would you want to see at the next CON, what kind of panel, topic wise, or not topic but along the lines of what she was talking about with the watch parties or the ancillary sorts of ideas? Courtney?
CC: I really like the idea of having watch parties. I think getting people more involved from a social perspective is really good. The chat room was really great, although I think for people who aren’t as familiar with the IRC-type channels it might be a little more difficult. So maybe I would like to see more social type scenarios in the next CON, which I know is harder to do when it’s on-line but also it’s kind of not because you’re all really in it together in a way. That didn’t make any sense. But, make it more social. That would be my recommendation.
MEL: Ed?
EC: There should definitely be more panels with just older white men.
[Laughter]
EC: I think would be nice, Kate Donovan did a talk I think on Sunday, just about a topic I think it was about the DSM and skepticism. I felt like there weren’t enough talks. And they don’t have to be anywhere near as long as the panel discussions can be and they can fill the gap in-between the times and a talk is something you can go back and look at and be very precise about. A 30 minute talk is something you could look at any time you want. It would also let more diversity through. Someone could just get 30 minutes to talk about the drug war and you could do a whole bunch of different topics. I think more solo talks but by people who don’t get the chance to discuss certain topics.
MEL: That’s a good idea. If someone couldn’t make it, you could even make and record ahead of time even.
MIRI: I really agree with that. We haven’t talked about it as a group but I personally would love to see more talks. The reason I think we end up with so many panels is because a lot of people wanted to participate and the most expedited way that a lot of people to participate is to do panels. But that means that there’s not much variety. I think that it would be cool to have other formats, more solo talks, also maybe more debates.
EC: A Q&A?
MIRI: A Q&A, like an interview, that would be really fun. With debates you would do have to be careful because we’re not going to be debating like whether or not we should have harassment policies. That’s not cool.
[Talking over each other/Laughing]
MIRI: Something that I think would be really cool, because there’s a lot of debate about this in the community, is styles of activism/argument. Because a lot of people are really harsh and a lot of people are really soft spoken and gentle about telling people that they are wrong. And there’s so much debate to be had when you start including research in psychology on people learn and how do people get convinced it starts to become really interesting. But then there’s also all these accusations of “tone trolling” or whatever. That, I think, is very much an open question. Is yelling at someone and calling them a privileged asshole effective? I’m not saying that it’s not I’m saying that that would be an interesting debate to be had.
MEL: Niki, what would you want to see, topic wise or otherwise, at the next CON?
NM: To be quite honest, the thought of a watch party frightens the fuck out of me. It sounds like a great idea and people should totally do it, I probably won’t be. It’s people. I was thinking a panel idea or maybe even a debate idea popped up while everyone was talking, “How to be an ally of or for any cause, how to support something that is not your experience, and how to do it without being a jackass about it to be quite blunt. That could be a panel that could be a debate, we could have people with different styles, it could be a discussion, a Q&A. That’s what came to mind.
ME: Especially white knighting is a tough one that people don’t get.
MIRI: I had an idea for a CONvergence panel but this might actually be better for FtBCON about how to support people who have been harassed on-line. Because this isn’t an issue that we faced and I’ve noticed a lot of really well intentioned, really great people have not figured out how to support people who have been victims of that. There’s this whole sarcasm thing where people will post something awful that someone said about them on-line and people will go “At least they think you’re cute, right?” and I’m “No”. I don’t want to call these people out too harshly which is why a talk or a panel on that would be a really useful.
MEL: That’s the really excellent thing about this being an on-line CON, I mean more CONs are doing video-taping anyway as well but, having a video, it will be around. If a talk or a panel or a debate or whatever goes particularly well, it can be something that you refer people to, for example. Any sort of basics educational wise about many different topics I think is worth sprinkling in just for that reason. You often have people who are new and they may be topics that are old for us. It’s useful to be able to have videos that you can actually have refer to for years to come.
NM: So a lot of 101 topics.
MEL: Not necessarily a lot, but why not. If you’re going to be adding panels and that sort of thing. Or even just a solo talk could be some 101 topic. So did anybody else have any questions for Miri or anything they wanted to say about the CON, their panels?
NM: Other than great job. You guys rock this was a great idea.
EC: When will the submission process start for next time?
MIRI: You ask me these questions like we figured any of this shit out. I do not know. But I do know that it will be more in advance than it was last time because we were literally having, we were having some talks added during the conference which is just bad because then people are not going to know about it. So we’re really going to try to have a hard deadline for submissions and then release the schedule more in advance. But I do not know when that’s going to be so it will be on our Twitter and our Facebook page when we know.
MEL: Well, thanks everybody for coming in and talking and especially Miri for sharing all the behind the scenes super dirty secrets about FtBCON that we will censor out of the final video, sorry guys. We will have this up on Skepchick Events with a transcript, you will know that audience because it will be up now while you’re watching this or reading this.
[Laughter]
MEL: So feel free to add in the comments any further questions, maybe we’ll be able to do a follow up.
[Talking over each other about time travel]

About the Author:

Courtney Caldwell is an intersectional feminist. Her talents include sweary rants, and clogging your social media with pictures of her dogs (and occasionally her begrudging cat). She's also a political nerd, whose far-left tendencies are a little out of place in the deep red Texas.

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