Skepticon in Sydney

Monday, November 20th, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I have just arrived home from a weekend up in Sydney for the 33rd Australian Skeptics National Convention, branded as Skepticon Australia.

It was a great weekend, so what were my highlights?

We heard from Britt Hermes of Naturopathic Diaries about how she became a nauropathic doctor, how she came to understand why that was a mistake and finally what she is now doing about it. It was a shame she wasn’t able to be there in person due to illness, but the video conference was the next best thing.

A panel on journalism featuring Kathy Marks, Marcus Strom & Fauziah Ibrahim gave some interesting insights into how journalists are dealing with the news these days. Of particular interest to me was the information from Marcus about – in his time at the Sydney Morning Herald – the level of tracking that occurs on a news website. They monitor every click and how much you read, plus things like constantly running A/B testing on variations of headlines to determine which is more clickable.

The session about War On Waste with Craig Reucassel, Stephen Oliver & Jodi Boylan started off teasing what we could expect to see in the upcoming fourth episode, but then went deeper building on the previous day’s panel. When can you advocate for one side of an issue versus straight journalism and how to balance education with entertainment.

The most powerful talk of the weekend was from Ruth Ellison (who I knew from perious skeptic and tech conferences as a as a user experience person and maker of laser cut jewelery), speaking for the first time in public about what it was like to grow up in and then leave a religious cult. The entire room was stunned to hear about Ruth’s experience, so much support from people later in the day and via twitter.

The other big thing this year was a number of live podcasts recordings (mostly in “the other room” so I didn’t go to them as I went to talks in “the main room”), but there was only one that I was even slightly aware of, and had never listened to. This is not unusual as there a lot of podcasts out there, but the striking thing was that quite a few people I spoke to were at the convention they listened to one of the podcasts (mainly The Scathing Atheist). The two recording in the main room that I watched were Cognitive Dissonance and God Awful Movies (by the same hosts as The Scathing Atheist). They were enjoyable but not quite my taste so I don’t think I will subscribe. I have queued up a couple of their older episodes to listen to, I will see how they are…

I think my next skeptics event like this will be the Surf Coast Skepticamp in February, but much sooner than that I have a technology event, the third BuzzConf in two weeks time…

Tagged with: , ,