SkeptiCamp Wiki


A page of tips, automatically posted to Twitter  once a day via a server script.

Tip list[]

  1. INSIGHT if you seek the trappings of a traditional conference (keynotes, etc.) then perhaps an "unconference" like SkeptiCamp isn't for you.
  2. INSIGHT traditional skeptic lecture events inform; open events provide us a tool to become more skilled and knowledgable skeptics.
  3. TIP past experience suggests that regular meetings of organizers (via Skype and/or in-real-life) is a key predictor of a successful effort.
  4. INSIGHT we value first-time speakers not merely to keep things fresh, but as a path towards goals of skill development & knowledge sharing.
  5. TIP employ your community in your promotional efforts by asking for the help of local bloggers and Twitter users in beating the drum.
  6. INSIGHT what is SkeptiCamp? A global, collaborative effort to adapt the participatory Barcamp conference model to science-based skepticism.
  7. TIP set expectations that all participants employ their critical thinking skills and ask questions of speakers during their talks.
  8. TIP to benefit future organizers, contribute to the "What Went Wrong" page on the wiki
  9. TIP for events with multiple rooms, consider limiting the larger room to short talks (for most) and allow longer talks in smaller rooms.
  10. INSIGHT "Conference Curiosity Didn’t Kill The Proverbial Cat. It Awakened The Attendee"
  11. TIP both at the start and conclusion of your open event, be sure to mention and thank any sponsors and supporters.
  12. INSIGHT open events can benefit skepticism at large by building a community of more articulate, skilled and better informed skeptics.
  13. TIP if you feel compelled to curate talks, please don't call your event a SkeptiCamp. These events are open for specific reasons.
  14. INSIGHT by tearing down the barriers to having substantive events, SkeptiCamp can reach places & people who otherwise would see few or none.
  15. TIP for a session idea, consider facilitating a group discussion on a topic of your choice drawing from expertise of participants.
  16. INSIGHT open events can serve as a mirror of one's group, reflecting what we're thinking about, and how we interact and develop as skeptics.
  17. TIP sponsor-supported custom printed t-shirts can promote future events and contribute to a sense of shared ownership among participants.
  18. TIP expand your skill portfolio. If you helped organize the last event, consider giving a talk at the next one.
  19. TIP if your "Lead Organizer" isn't coordinating efforts or scheduling meetings, then it's time to find another person to fill that role.
  20. TIP your event sucks because one or two people are doing all the work. Collaboration is key to great events that can occur year after year.
  21. INSIGHT through our registration fees we support curated lecture events; by contrast we support open events thru our active participation.
  22. TIP to forestall problems that might get you kicked-out, ensure all organizers are familiar with the rules of your venue.
  23. TIP boredom is everyone's fault. Ask questions. Keep speakers on time. Keep the pace moving quickly. Have designated downtime/breaks.
  24. INSIGHT in-real-life events complement social media by providing rich and substantive opportunities for interaction not found online.
  25. TIP the Barcamp model asks that we accommodate as many talks as the venue and schedule will allow. Consider multiple rooms and/or days.
  26. TIP you can host your event's site for free at our wiki. See for a recent example.
  27. TIP on the day of your event, consider 'greeter' volunteers who can direct people to the registration table and answer questions.
  28. TIP reduce risk of fraud in organizing your open event by keeping costs low, favoring in-kind donations & using public page to track money.
  29. TIP where our traditional skeptical events rely on established personalities, open events unearth the faces and ideas of our Long Tail.
  30. TIP in the schedule allow for breaks/downtime during the day for participants to talk and relax.
  31. TIP when promoting your event, avoid comparisons with our traditional events that will set the wrong expectations for participants.
  32. TIP sharing your organizing experience in the wiki of "What Went Right" with your event allows others to build upon your success.
  33. TIP speakers should show mercy for their fellow participants. Keep talks focused and solicit questions.
  34. INSIGHT where our traditional events focus on fueling orgs, SkeptiCamps instead focus on knowledge distribution and skill development.
  35. TIP good presentation tips (found in books, blogs, etc.) can enrich talks and help us to avoid common mistakes.
  36. TIP even if you expect to lead the organization of the event, defer the core decisions (where, when, etc.) to the kickoff meeting.
  37. TIP when promoting your event, openly relate the experiences (both good and bad) of past events, as documented in blogs and at the wiki.
  38. TIP if you're planning to charge a nominal fee to participants to offset your costs, ensure that the rules of your venue will allow it.
  39. INSIGHT if a Barcamp-based event doesn't work for your group, consider other 'unconference' models
  40. TIP to better set expectations for your next event, ask attendees to share their experiences on their blogs, podcasts, Facebook, etc.
  41. TIP if your talk was too short, perhaps you could offer an expanded version at your group's next Skeptics in the Pub?
  42. TIP encourage attendees to participate, but lay off on the pressure—allow each to freely choose their own level of engagement.
  43. INSIGHT if SkeptiCamp could be said to have an official book, it'd be Carl Sagan's 'The Demon-Haunted World'
  44. TIP if your local group leadership shows no interest in an open event, don't be deterred. It happens. Organize independent of the group.
  45. INSIGHT those who don't see value in 'free' events may not realize that open events ask that you 'pay' through your participation.
  46. INSIGHT don't be offended if participants come and go during your talk. At open events we actually encourage everyone to move about freely.
  47. TIP for help in finding potential venues for your event, get in touch with local Barcamp (Podcamp, etc.) organizers.
  48. INSIGHT "The Unconference" (2006) by Jeff Jarvis
  49. TIP stumped for a topic? Perhaps speak to how you apply the tools of skepticism in your hobby or occupation (snake oil in hi-fi audio, e.g.)
  50. TIP many insightful experiences in organizing open events can be found at the Barcamp site
  51. INSIGHT short talks (that are effective) must necessarily be focused talks.
  52. INSIGHT when lecture-oriented events are all you offer your local skeptical community, passivity on their part shouldn't come as a surprise.
  53. INSIGHT can an open event model succeed in skepticism? Much depends on overcoming our scattered expertise and passive expectations.
  54. TIP don't hesitate to raise your hand to correct a speaker during their talk, but try to do so in a constructive and civil manner.
  55. TIP even with a primarily goal of sharing knowledge within a community, nothing prevents you from inviting local scientists and academics.
  56. TIP if you could not find a sponsor but still wish to offer t-shirts, consider having an option to pay for one during registration.
  57. TIP if you aren't giving a talk at your coming event, plan on offering one at the next one.
  58. INSIGHT "This Is Not Your Grandma's Conference" by Jeff Hurt (2010)
  59. TIP Speaker Wranglers might consider inviting local bloggers and podcasters, even those outside of the skeptical community.
  60. TIP use signage (balloons, etc.) to direct participants to your event location.
  61. TIP those expecting a traditional lecture-oriented event may be confused by their role in the open and interactive conference model.
  62. INSIGHT our big skeptical conferences have value, but only a minority of us can overcome the barriers to attend. We must do better.
  63. TIP if your lead organizer is editing graphics, ordering food, etc., ask them to step back and focus on delegation and coordination.
  64. INSIGHT if leadership of your local group doesn't consider member development (via open events) a priority, consider an independent event.
  65. INSIGHT SkeptiCamp is an ongoing project to develop an event model which focuses on distributing knowledge within communities of skeptics.
  66. TIP if you had signed up but cannot attend your local event, please remove your name from the list of participants to make way for others.
  67. TIP do not abuse SkeptiCamp. Speakers using bait-and-switch will find their talks derailed and morphed into group discussion.
  68. TIP first-time organizers take note. Regularly-scheduled planning meetings leading up to event have proven important predictor of success.
  69. QUESTION in what ways do open events reflect our communities? What does it say about those who choose to participate (and those who do not)?
  70. TIP Speakers: if your slides will be posted online (SlideShare, etc.) please let us know so that we can avoid having to take so many notes!
  71. TIP don't pay mere lip-service to collaboration. SkeptiCamp will burn-out quickly if we don't approach organization as a team effort.
  72. INSIGHT allowing anyone to speak at an open event may sound naïve, but the policy is deliberate, providing both opportunities and challenges
  73. INSIGHT social media (Twitter, etc.) offer experiences that complement (but cannot yet replace) the in-person interaction that events offer.
  74. INSIGHT many will attend traditional events to validate (rather than challenge) their views. Will this happen with open events as well?
  75. TIP newbie organizers struggling in their efforts might ask if they're fighting the Barcamp model rather than adopting its tested practices.
  76. INSIGHT to understand how SkeptiCamp events might scale, we can look to and learn from the larger Barcamps.
  77. INSIGHT why an event model? To avoid the complexity and financial risk of trad approaches and instead place repeatable events within reach.
  78. INSIGHT if you aren't encouraging interaction and discussion during talks, perhaps another event model might be a better fit (Ignite, etc.)?
  79. TIP even with specific organizers focusing on speaker wrangling, finding good speakers remains a shared effort open to all.
  80. TIP no one speaker is indispensable. With interaction and discussion, your event can succeed with most any slate of speakers.
  81. TIP because you can expect questions during your talk, make your main points at its outset as you may otherwise run out of time.
  82. TIP if you're giving a talk, consider staying for the entire day. You may have more to contribute (and learn) than your brief time on stage.
  83. INSIGHT traditional, curated events often feed the status quo; open events threaten to disrupt it.
  84. INSIGHT open events are not for everyone. Don't read too much into those who choose not to participate.
  85. TIP when soliciting for talks, don't yield to the bias of badgering only friends and acquaintances. Venture outside your comfort zone.
  86. INSIGHT open events can often be organized with a total budget smaller than the individual registration fee of a traditional conference.
  87. INSIGHT if you're planning to have an official photographer, consider asking that photos be posted with CC licensing (for free distribution)
  88. QUESTION with an open, interactive format, are speakers less (or more) likely to make controversial claims?
  89. INSIGHT interactive and participatory events provide value in ways that differ from larger marquee events where little is asked of attendees
  90. INSIGHT amateur organizing efforts notably lack professional experience and must necessarily compensate through collaboration.
  91. TIP option of self-organized scheduling requires that speakers arrive early to "get a slot on the wall" where they select a time and room.
  92. TIP so the session was too short? Take your questions and discussions out into the hallway.
  93. INSIGHT open events uniquely provide a shared burden for first-time speakers. You are not alone in being anxious about giving your talk.
  94. INSIGHT unconferences feature 'the law of two feet', meaning that you should feel free to abandon one talk for another
  95. TIP anticipate common questions and concerns. For example, your event page should make it obvious how to contact organizers.
  96. INSIGHT for various reasons (such as cost) only a tiny minority of self-identified skeptics will attend our larger, traditional events.
  97. INSIGHT open events set no specific agenda for skepticism, but rather provide another tool from which direction and priorities can emerge.
  98. INSIGHT organizing a large traditional event requires skills and financial resources that lie beyond the reach of most part-time amateurs.
  99. TIP even with specific organizers focusing on promotion, publicizing your event remains a shared effort open to all.
  100. INSIGHT why open events? To discover and develop members of your local community.
  101. INSIGHT SkeptiCamps are not driven by celebrity speakers, but rather by those of us in the Long Tail of skepticism.
  102. INSIGHT we say that these events are 'open' in that their organizers will collaborate on key decisions (date of event, venue, etc.)
  103. QUESTION should SkeptiCamp prove to be a success, launching dozens (more?) of events around the world annually, how does that change things?
  104. QUESTION what are the measures of success of open events? Number of attendees? Number of speakers? First-time speakers? Repeat events?
  105. INSIGHT of the many measures of the success of a group, open events suggest that among the most prominent should be 'member engagement'
  106. TIP at end of the day, encourage speakers to post their slides to Slideshare (or similar service) and link from your Event Page.
  107. INSIGHT ego will be a factor at any event. Open events blunt ego by making things less speaker-centric and more conversational.
  108. TIP angry that certain topics were discussed at a recent open event? Consider participating in your next local event to add your voice.
  109. TIP be sure to provide a clear session title and description for your talk to reduce the risk of walkouts and awkward questions.
  110. INSIGHT the Barcamp model might be the most democratic way to organize a conference, providing events sustainable from year to year.
  111. TIP feel free to share any of the tips from this feed. You can find the full list at
  112. TIP groups in cities that aren't yet hosting an annual open event should at least discuss what it might offer their members.
  113. TIP if sending attendees out for lunch, schedule a popular speaker afterwards to entice everyone's prompt return.
  114. INSIGHT 'open' events do not mean anything goes, but rather that the agenda and discussion is driven by participants (not organizers)
  115. INSIGHT why open events? To improve the SkeptiCamp model so that we can have substantive events everywhere.
  116. TIP temporarily silence doors with tape on latches. Be sure to remove the tape at the conclusion of your event.
  117. INSIGHT the Barcamp model owes its wild success to its narrow focus on the collaborative planning of simple and repeatable events.
  118. INSIGHT featuring both substantive and social dimensions, open events gain your local group "glue" to bind together your other efforts.
  119. TIP set expectations of your attendees to enable them to get the most out of our interactive, open events.
  120. INSIGHT compensate for your lack of experience as an organizer by learning from the experiences of Barcamp (and SkeptiCamp) organizers.
  121. TIP don't hide your organizing efforts in private email. Where possible keep them public, such as via Twitter or in a wiki-based Event page.
  122. TIP once your event is complete, please help document our history by adding it to the Event Archive
  123. TIP ensure that you at least have a hallway (or better yet a comfortable lounge) where discussions among participants can occur.
  124. TIP to keep things moving forward, ask your local group(s) to sponsor your open event rather than be directly involved in its organization.
  125. INSIGHT to "phone in" a talk at an open, interactive event isn't likely to be tolerated by your fellow participants.
  126. INSIGHT why not employ these events to raise funds for organizations? Because we risk failing to meet central goal of distributing knowledge
  127. TIP finding it difficult to organize your event? You may be doing it wrong. Discuss problems with organizers in other cities.
  128. INSIGHT our early adopters are learning much about organizing these events. Don't silo that knowledge. Share via wiki so others can benefit.
  129. TIP open, interactive events can provide rich opportunities to exercise one's critical thinking skills and apply the tools of skepticism.
  130. INSIGHT BarCamps are the open equivalents of trad conferences, in which top-down planning is replaced with a bottom-up self-organized model.
  131. TIP have you a personal issue with one of the organizers or participants? These events are as close to neutral ground as you'll find.
  132. INSIGHT regional events can provide a substantive and inexpensive introduction to skepticism and our community.
  133. TIP though open events aren't focused on 'celebrity' speakers, they're welcome to join in on the fun. No special treatment however.
  134. TIP create dedicated social media accounts for your event (Twitter, etc.) to share news and communicate with participants.
  135. TIP imposed group activities, such as asking individuals to introduce themselves, are anathema to the voluntary participation of open events
  136. INSIGHT open events win not through perfection, but rather by having GOOD events that can be sustained yearly and replicated anywhere.
  137. TIP resist the urge to plan every detail! A relaxed & adaptable approach will often produce better results than one that is formal & rigid.
  138. INSIGHT SkeptiCamp adapts the open technical conference called "Barcamp" to the domain of contemporary skepticism.
  139. INSIGHT SkeptiCamp serves as a reflection of our community as well as our desire to share information among ourselves.
  140. TIP did someone drop the ball in your event's organization? These are open events where anyone can step forward to pick it up!
  141. TIP problems with no-shows? Next time consider prominently featuring your list of participants to encourage a commitment to attend.
  142. TIP quiet the door (with tape, etc.) to allow participants to enter/exit during the session with minimal disruption.
  143. INSIGHT at curated events, organizers drive the quality of experience for attendees. For open events, attendees drive the quality control.
  144. INSIGHT events based on traditional formal models might be viable for established groups, but are unsustainable for smaller, informal groups
  145. INSIGHT what are the priorities of your local skeptical community? Open events can provide a glimpse into what its members care about.
  146. TIP what specifically drives your passion for science and skepticism? Build a talk around that topic to share with your fellow skeptics.
  147. TIP encourage questions DURING talks to address misinformation where it will count the most. There may not be enough time at end of talk.
  148. INSIGHT talk is cheap. You might have great ideas for an event, but nothing beats actually organizing and participating in one.
  149. TIP because you can expect questions during your talk, move your important points to its beginning in case you run short of time.
  150. TIP consider an incremental promotion strategy. A choice morsel of information each day will have greater impact than everything at once.
  151. INSIGHT in 2009 Edinburgh Skeptics hosted the first SkeptiCamp outside of North America.
  152. TIP a reg service like EventBrite serves as an alternative to the wiki but may hide list of participants and limit turnout as a result.
  153. TIP ask influential skeptics to promote and participate in your local event, to contribute their experience & to interact with the speakers.
  154. INSIGHT though we may validate our skepticism through the lectures of our traditional events, we can also exercise it through open events.
  155. INSIGHT how to run a useless conference, by Seth Godin (2005) —conferencing as a way to change people's behavior.
  156. INSIGHT by adopting open events you pursue untapped talent in your community as well as providing avenues for everyone's growth as skeptics.
  157. INSIGHT open events can include the young who might otherwise be excluded from social events or lectures taking place in bars and taverns.
  158. QUESTION in what ways do open events compete with our larger, traditional events? In what ways do they complement them?
  159. TIP after the event, speakers might consider rewriting their talk for publishing, such as in a magazine or group blog.
  160. TIP a secondary, smaller room can accommodate longer, more in-depth sessions than in a larger main room.
  161. TIP find a skilled volunteer to produce your event graphics. You'll likely need them for shirts, presentations, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  162. INSIGHT since its launch in 2005, there have been Barcamps in over 350 cities around the world. (SkeptiCamps in 24+ cities since 2007.)
  163. TIP note that attempts to bait-and-switch one's topic are subject to derailment by your fellow participants through in-talk discussion.
  164. TIP organizing efforts begin with a Kickoff Meeting featuring the (tweaked to your needs)
  165. TIP help promote SkeptiCamp (and your local community of skeptics) by wearing your shirt to other skeptical and science events.
  166. TIP if serving food, consider a vegetarian option in the menu.
  167. INSIGHT we promote openness in that anyone with something to contribute or a desire to learn is welcome and invited to participate.
  168. INSIGHT Barcamps are known for eclectic mixes of cutting edge presentations not found at traditional events. Can SkeptiCamp do the same?
  169. INSIGHT lacking a viable model that stood within reach of informal groups, we should not have been surprised at the paucity of events.
  170. TIP Speaker Wranglers: contact local paranormal/UFO/crypto groups to present their best evidence, but don't be snarky about it.
  171. INSIGHT your group's open events are all its own, helping to build an identity and stake a claim in the future of skepticism.
  172. INSIGHT open events impose only enough structure to keep them from flying off the tracks.
  173. TIP during event sign-up, make it clear to users what data will be posted publicly. Many won't wish to share their email to all, for example
  174. INSIGHT what do you need to host your first SkeptiCamp event? A free venue and moderately-high expectations of your fellow skeptics.
  175. TIP with "open" scheduling the day starts with a short introductory session followed by each speaker choosing their own room and time slot.
  176. TIP at beginning of day, announce any event tag to use for posted pictures, video, tweets, etc. (#vanskepticamp, e.g.)
  177. INSIGHT tech communities around the world have held over 1,000 Barcamps in 350 cities since 2005. A nice goal for skeptics, no?
  178. TIP so you attended a SkeptiCamp and hated it? These events reflect our community. Next time, try giving a talk and asking more questions.
  179. INSIGHT why open events? To distribute knowledge and benefit from the experience and expertise within your community.
  180. TIP have a backup projector handy just in case a bulb burns out (or other technical problem) occurs.
  181. INSIGHT "We Participate, Therefore We Are" by Jeff Hurt (2010)
  182. INSIGHT there is an 'i' in SkeptiCamp but no 'we'. This is clearly an oversight. Move along. Nothing to see here.
  183. TIP though participants may be science literate, don't assume that they identify as skeptics. Don't assume that all skeptics are atheists!
  184. TIP all organizers and participants each play a part in creating 'buzz' for your open event through blogging, podcasting, Twitter, etc.
  185. TIP for early morning events, having coffee and snacks available can be an inexpensive and appreciated touch.
  186. TIP chat with attendees after the event to identify problems and strengths. Share them in the wiki for the benefit of other organizers.
  187. INSIGHT organizing annual open events demonstrate your interest in developing and increasing ownership within your local skeptic community
  188. TIP in burying your list of participants, you limit their ability to serve as a driver of the turnout you seek. Keep them front and center!
  189. INSIGHT because curating speakers is often political and a barrier to organizing, open events instead recruit and cajole to build diversity.
  190. INSIGHT does your local community of skeptics have any value? If so, what are you doing to unearth and develop that value?
  191. TIP featuring a keynote or celebrity speaker may drive attendance, but it will set the passive expectations of a traditional event.
  192. TIP you learn much from organizing an event of your own. Rather than hoarding your hard-won xp, share it through the wiki.
  193. INSIGHT Chicago's Skepchicamp in 2010 was the first to feature a band. Is that awesome or what?
  194. INSIGHT why not charge money to attend? We wish to set expectations that you 'pay' by helping to organize, offering talks and participating.
  195. INSIGHT open event models must overcome the barriers to having events as well as the barriers that keep them from growing.
  196. TIP for a cheap venue for a first-time event, consider a meeting room at a library or community center.
  197. TIP whether or not you have sponsor logos on the back of the t-shirt is up to the conference organizers. Some like them, others do not.
  198. INSIGHT if you REALLY want featured speakers at your event, investigate other conference models that should prove to be a better fit.
  199. INSIGHT if you wish to curate the speaker roster to decide who can speak and who cannot, then the SkeptiCamp conference model is a poor fit.
  200. TIP if your event is growing, you might consider multiple rooms or multiple days. Both have their pros & cons. Collaborate on the decision.
  201. TIP consider joining forces with another speaker to collaborate on a joint talk.
  202. TIP please help promote this feed by sharing (retweeting, etc.) the tips and insights you find most valuable.
  203. TIP find a volunteer blogger to chronicle your event, summarizing the talks and discussion, etc. (with licensing allowing free distribution)
  204. INSIGHT sharing knowledge through open events comes naturally to domains (tech, e.g.) where tools, knowledge and skills are available to all
  205. TIP is one open event per year not enough? Why not encourage other cities in your region to host and travel to participate in their events?
  206. TIP a "Master of Ceremonies" keeps the day moving, fills the gaps between speakers and allows the Lead to continue coordinating.
  207. TIP if attendees are paying for shirts, don't plaster them with sponsor logos. Also keep the cost low and don't use as a fund raiser.
  208. TIP a secondary room can host sessions that appeal to a minority of attendees (niche or micro-topics.)
  209. TIP keep your content interactive. Long videos are not. Reading from books is not. Lectures are not. Soliciting questions is.
  210. TIP when choosing a date for your event, ensure it doesn't conflict with local events, sports games, concerts or national skeptical events.
  211. TIP keeping your event open means that you should never require participants to donate to or join an organization.
  212. TIP don't dim the lights so much that it discourages interaction between speaker and participants.
  213. TIP choose a venue that allows participants to come-and-go during talks with minimal disruption.
  214. TIP consider using a wiki page (rather than a dedicated site) as your Event Page. It has worked successfully for hundreds of Barcamps.
  215. INSIGHT open events avoid an odd contradiction of our traditional events, where high registration fees discourage participation by the young
  216. TIP ask what sort of event you seek (size, diversity, etc.) It may determine whether or not you send out a press release to the local media.
  217. TIP participating at an open event is not an entitlement, but a privilege. Organizers can kick you out at their discretion.
  218. TIP so long as safety isn't an issue, it's the duty of participants to turn a bad talk into a useful discussion, or suffer until it's over.
  219. INSIGHT open events can attract nutty speakers. What to do? Consider it a learning experience. Derail awful talks w/questions & discussion.
  220. INSIGHT "Eight Ways to Vary Your Conference Seating and Improve Your Attendee's Experience" by Jeff Hurt (2010)
  221. INSIGHT open events provide opportunities for skeptics to exercise their critical thinking skills in an interactive setting among friends.
  222. TIP if you plan to charge a nominal fee to attend, don't play favorites. Ensure everyone, esp those organizing and giving talks, pay the fee
  223. INSIGHT hosting an annual open event increases the visibility of your local skeptical community as participants share in its promotion.
  224. INSIGHT curated events can feature 'safe' speakers who validate the views of their paying attendees. Open events offer no such assurance.
  225. TIP review your event page (or website) regularly to fix any errors, remove spam and clarify any ambiguities.
  226. TIP domain expertise for speakers is not necessary, but do be conversant with your topic from multiple points of view & solicit corrections.
  227. TIP "Respect your fellow organizers. Respect their time, and appreciate what they contribute to make this happen."
  228. TIP if you're traveling, you might find out if there's a skeptical group along your way who might be interested in listening to your talk.
  229. INSIGHT open events reflect our local communities, providing a range of opportunities for all to engage, or to remain conspicuously absent.
  230. INSIGHT why do open events encourage first-time speakers? They gain us access to ideas that might otherwise be lost.
  231. TIP reduce barriers to signup. Whether using a wiki, web form, spreadsheet or service, also provide an email address to submit one's details
  232. INSIGHT because open events reflect your community (both the good and bad) we ask that talks be interactive to compensate for cruddy ones.
  233. QUESTION what else could we do to improve the quality and substance of our events without taking away their openness?
  234. TIP prominently feature your list of attendees! Many will decide to attend your event based upon others attending
  235. TIP choose a venue with couches or other seating outside the room(s) for those taking a break from the talks.
  236. QUESTION do our traditional lecture-oriented events continue to reinforce passive forms of engagement? Or are they changing?
  237. TIP a list of SkeptiCamp-specific Twitter accounts can be found at Tweet me to add yours.
  238. TIP a traditional event scales in size by finding a larger room. SkeptiCamps grow with MORE SPEAKERS, requiring more rooms and/or days.
  239. TIP planning meetings that are infrequent, poorly organized, poorly promoted, and closed add substantial risk to your event.
  240. TIP "In-person meetings are overrated. Unless you all need to view the space [...], keep it online."
  241. TIP while we encourage your active participation at open events, we nevertheless want you to be the one to choose your level of engagement.
  242. INSIGHT "the ability to engage in free-flow conversations spurred from user-driven content was incredibly empowering"
  243. TIP Long Tail events complement our trad events by expanding opportunities, perhaps even driving the growth of the 'head' of skepticism too.
  244. INSIGHT reserving questions for the end of a talk (as with trad lecture) raises difficulty of correcting speaker where context is often lost
  245. INSIGHT among the innovative 'unconference' formats, we chose to adapt Barcamp, as it has seen wild success since the first Barcamp in 2005.
  246. TIP to fill the minutes between talks needed for presentation setup, Colorado events have employed multi-round trivia contests.
  247. TIP should you charge a nominal fee to attend your open event? Ask how it will affect turnout, participation, attrition, satisfaction, etc.
  248. INSIGHT by breaking down the walls separating organizer, speaker and attendee, you build a shared responsibility in your event's success.
  249. TIP consider labeling talks as introductory (or advanced) to better set the expectations of participants.
  250. INSIGHT unique among conference models, Barcamp-type open events don't require the support or backing of formal organizations.
  251. TIP in organizing, experiment as you see fit, but try to share and learn from the experience of others (in the wiki, etc.)
  252. QUESTION what are the benefits of developing the Long Tail of the skeptical community, such as through open events?
  253. TIP when composing slides, speakers should keep in mind that less is (most often) more.
  254. TIP the SkeptiCamp Rule: be prepared to cite your sources on any claim likely to be challenged.
  255. TIP Speakers must take questions during their talks, even if it means they run out of time.
  256. TIP be transparent in your finances! Post your expense report publicly at your event site and notify all those who submitted donations.
  257. INSIGHT the promise of SkeptiCamp lies in substantive skeptical events in dozens of cities around the world every year.
  258. INSIGHT open events can fail in big and small ways. In planning your event, review the mistakes listed at the wiki to avoid repeating them.
  259. INSIGHT open events can serve as "glue" to bind together other forms of skeptical education and activism.
  260. TIP excessive collecting of personal information during sign-up can serve as a barrier to participation. Collect only what you need.
  261. INSIGHT open events don't require the involvement of a formal organization. Instead, they only need to draw together interested participants
  262. INSIGHT humble beginnings: Atlanta's first SkeptiCamp in 2009 took place in a Boy Scout meeting hall.
  263. INSIGHT contrast open events with traditional events, where questions only occur at end of lectures, when time is short and context is lost.
  264. TIP in promoting your event, emphasize a local focus (Meetups, etc.) but be sure to plug it on social media (Twitter and Facebook) as well.
  265. INSIGHT it's okay to criticize the shortcomings of your recent event, but couple your words with greater involvement at the next one.
  266. INSIGHT how can open events occur year after year? By relying on a collaborative model that tears down barriers to organizing events.
  267. TIP those who are not self-identified skeptics are welcome to participate, but talks should relate to theme of science and skepticism.
  268. TIP according to Atlanta SkeptiCamp organizer Taylor Proctor, the second rule of SkeptiCamp is to BE AWESOME.
  269. TIP purging nutty or awful speakers from your roster is an option, but perhaps an open event isn't what you're after?
  270. TIP if you harbor expectations about how an open event should be run, don't pester the organizers, but rather become one.
  271. INSIGHT though SkeptiCamp is borne of the highly-successful Barcamp, we expect to improve upon it -- to serve as a model for other domains.
  272. TIP are established speakers reluctant to offer a talk at your open event? Try to find out why. Articulate the goals of your event.
  273. INSIGHT we have little idea of the value that is present in our own communities. Barriers exist to keep it from being discovered & developed
  274. INSIGHT SkeptiCamp doesn't aim to change the world, but rather to promote the distribution of knowledge within communities of skeptics.
  275. TIP network with local organizers of open events (Barcamp, etc.) to learn of potential venues, sponsors, etc.
  276. TIP on your Event Page, feature all of your participants whether they are speaking or not. Together they create buzz and increase turnout.
  277. TIP consider closing your event with a fun session, such as a skeptic-themed trivia contest to wind down from the intensity of the day.
  278. TIP your Event Page (or site) should be updated regularly to build confidence that planning is actively moving forward.
  279. TIP for a taste of what a first-time event can be like, listen to Episode #97 of the Skepticality Podcast
  280. TIP by sharing one's organizing experiences in the wiki ( we avoid repeating mistakes and can build upon our successes.
  281. QUESTION could our large traditional events benefit from evenings of open talks? (as fringe events, Birds of a Feather, etc.)
  282. TIP being a sponsor does not entitle you to give a 20 minute sales pitch. Talk with organizers to see if your talk will be a good fit.
  283. TIP sharing your organizing experience in the wiki of "What Went Wrong" helps future organizers to avoid repeating your mistakes.
  284. TIP speakers shouldn't gamble on perfect projection. As a backup, bring a high-contrast PDF version of your slides on a thumb drive.
  285. TIP if you have multiple rooms, encourage participants to move between them freely, even during talks (but without being disruptive.)
  286. INSIGHT through SkeptiCamp we seek to make the distribution of knowledge within communities of skeptics the norm rather than the exception.
  287. TIP plan for ample downtime and breaks to allow participants to interact (check email, use restroom, etc.) outside the talks.
  288. QUESTION will traditional lecture-oriented events (and purely social events) be sufficient to grow the skeptical community going forward?
  289. TIP because national skeptic organizations are often strapped for cash, ask them to sponsor by contributing swag and books instead.
  290. INSIGHT what sort of churn do you see in your local group (meetup, etc)? Are you giving members a reason to come back and grow as skeptics?
  291. INSIGHT at our traditional events, consider that the most interesting content may not be in the main hall but rather in hallway discussions.
  292. INSIGHT "Four Steps to Overcome Conference Attendee Resistance to Active Participation" by Jeff Hurt (2010)
  293. TIP because you can benefit from the knowledge and experience of participants, be sure open your talk by encouraging questions.
  294. INSIGHT the first cross-event participant/speaker is Don Lacey, who gave talks at events in Phoenix and Denver in 2009.
  295. INSIGHT experiment with the conference model, but in doing so be sure to consider the xp of the thousands who preceded you as an organizer.
  296. TIP avoid coupling your event to activist causes (esp protests) that will deter participation. Keep it focused on knowledge sharing.
  297. INSIGHT SkeptiCamp is not for everyone. Don't blame them. It's me, really.
  298. QUESTION some Barcamp derivatives (Eventcamp, e.g.) serve as "innovation labs" to explore new ideas. Will SkeptiCamp play such a role?
  299. TIP after the event, organizers should meet to discuss what went right and what went wrong
  300. TIP choose a venue where the seating arrangement encourages discussion and interaction.
  301. INSIGHT "The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage." --Dave Winer
  302. INSIGHT Clay Shirky's "Here Comes Everybody" (2008) strongly influenced the early development of SkeptiCamp
  303. INSIGHT some skeptic group might give a 'session-oriented' unconference a try
  304. TIP at end of day, be sure to re-thank your sponsors.
  305. INSIGHT an open event is a vote of confidence in your local community of skeptics. It's a commitment to their development and growth.
  306. TIP is the event always scheduled when you're busy? Consider getting involved in organizing the next one where you can influence the date.
  307. INSIGHT your passive community members will often need to experience open events first hand to understand the benefits of knowledge sharing
  308. TIP must-read set of Barcamp tips for SkeptiCamp organizers:
  309. QUESTION how does skepticism change with the proliferation of tools (open events, etc.) that enable each of us to engage & grow as skeptics?
  310. INSIGHT skeptical paranormal investigators @parabaxter and @ghostchaser spoke at the first SkeptiCamp event in Denver in 2007.
  311. TIP don't feel the need to check your ego at the door for your talk, but keep in mind that it could be a liability with interactive format.
  312. TIP Speaker Wranglers should consider contacting academics from local educational institutions to participate.
  313. INSIGHT open events provide your group a tool to mine the knowledge and experience of your membership.
  314. INSIGHT "Lessons learned at FOO Camp 2010" by Scott Berkun (many good ideas from the conference that led to Barcamp)
  315. TIP as a goal, your venue ought to accommodate all the speakers who wish to give a talk.
  316. INSIGHT in-person events offer opportunities to make connections and start friendships in ways that complement social media sites.
  317. INSIGHT through SkeptiCamp we seek to replace the non-interactive lecture with the interactive talk.
  318. TIP SkeptiCamp takes open events based on BarCamp into new territory, contributing the knowledge and critical thinking skills of skepticism.
  319. INSIGHT central to development of SkeptiCamp is lowering the barriers to organizing substantive skeptical events. We want them EVERYWHERE.
  320. INSIGHT at open events no speaker is entitled to a captive audience. During talks, attendees will ask questions and move between rooms.
  321. TIP what will you do if a 9/11 "Truther" signs up to do a talk? Remind the attendees that the quality control lies in their asking questions
  322. TIP when posting event news and updates to social media, customize the message for effective presentation (no #tags on Facebook, e.g.)
  323. INSIGHT why don't SkeptiCamp events feature celebrity speakers? Because we focus on distributing knowledge within communities of skeptics.
  324. TIP shirts and food are great, but don't let them stand in the way of you having an event.
  325. TIP to sit passively in the back row is to miss out on much of the value of these events. Next time move up and ask questions of speakers.
  326. INSIGHT more rooms don't simply allow for more talks, they allow for simultaneous discussions.
  327. TIP promotion of your open event is a shared burden. Talk about it at other events. Ask podcasters and bloggers to plug their appearances.
  328. INSIGHT rethinking conferencing for skepticism must necessarily swim upstream against decades of formal lecture-oriented tradition.
  329. TIP without new blood you risk stagnation. Consider "Speaker Wranglers" to promote first-time speakers and the participation of outsiders.
  330. TIP not having a timekeeper to keep the speakers within their time limits risks antagonizing your participants.
  331. TIP "Assign tasks quickly to those who say they want to help. Be direct, be open, and be thankful for their help"
  332. TIP collaboration is the key to great open events that can sustain themselves from year to year.
  333. INSIGHT there is value in the traditional lecture format (it scales nicely, for example) but it's a poor fit for open events.
  334. INSIGHT talks both eclectic & unexpected prove to be a major draw for open events. Skepticism's breadth is impressive:
  335. TIP to thank your sponsors, consider setting up a slideshow loop to play before the day begins
  336. QUESTION what are the most effective ways to deliver criticism during an open event?
  337. TIP 10 Tips For More Effective Presentations, a free eBook by Jon Thomas (pdf)
  338. TIP is your event attendance growing (or shrinking) over the course of the day? Take the time to find out why and share it in the wiki.
  339. INSIGHT creating a conference format from scratch isn't likely to prove sustainable. Hence we chose to adapt the wildly-successful Barcamp.
  340. INSIGHT events in traditional curated lecture-oriented model have value, but fail in discovering and developing our Long Tail.
  341. QUESTION how do open events compare to Large Group Awareness Training seminars, such as in their structure and goals? (we hope not at all!)
  342. INSIGHT @reedes may have played a role in getting SkeptiCamp off the ground, but it's up to the community to develop and refine the model.
  343. INSIGHT if you're concerned about having first-time or untested speakers at your event, you might find other conference models a better fit.
  344. INSIGHT SkeptiCamps are informal, community-organized conferences borne from the desire for people to share & learn in an open environment.
  345. TIP if there was an official SkeptiCamp anagram, it would be "CasketPimp"
  346. INSIGHT open events reflect the weaknesses and divisions within our community as well as our strengths. They are us.
  347. TIP so you didn't like the date or location of your recent event? Why not get involved in the event's organization next time?
  348. INSIGHT organizers of open events endeavor to create participatory spaces where knowledge can be distributed within communities.
  349. INSIGHT as with any new idea, each of us will project our own desires and goals onto these events. That's fine so long as they're kept open.
  350. TIP allow time for networking before your event starts. Recruit the idle and bored to help set up the room.
  351. TIP if you're charging more than a nominal fee to attend, or using fees for non-event purposes, please don't call your event a SkeptiCamp.
  352. TIP to ensure speakers arrive prepared, any conditions that might impact their preparation should be communicated WEEKS before the event.
  353. INSIGHT open events tear down the barriers to having events, reducing the hassle, the complexity and the politics of organizing.
  354. INSIGHT Edinburgh in the UK in 2009 was the first SkeptiCamp outside of North America.
  355. TIP promote your event using popular social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  356. TIP as the lead of the event, do you find yourself micromanaging? You're doing it wrong. Focus on delegation and coordination.
  357. TIP no organizer is indispensable. Events have succeeded even with the departure of key organizers (for personal reasons, etc.)
  358. TIP what topics are acceptable for your talk? Any of the hundreds (thousands?) relating to science and skepticism.
  359. TIP these events are not fund raisers for your organization. People 'pay' through their participation where the goal is sharing knowledge.
  360. INSIGHT while outreach has never been our central goal, you might ask what you can do to make your event more welcoming to curious outsiders
  361. TIP if leading a group discussion, you don't have to be an expert in your topic, but can draw upon the expertise found among participants.
  362. INSIGHT steps to great events: first, tear down barriers to organizing by amateurs. Second, build upon experience. Third, grow and improve.
  363. INSIGHT unlike our trad events that feature a curated agenda, open events feature an agenda driven by the interests of their participants.
  364. TIP "Collaboration Tips and Tricks" by Collaboration King (2010)
  365. TIP Speaker Wranglers: extroverts often give talks given the opportunity. Demand more. Seek out first-time speakers & the underrepresented.
  366. TIP using a wiki for your Event Page offers convenient updates, but you must nevertheless monitor for spam and malicious edits.
  367. INSIGHT why does the burden of quality control fall upon the attendees? To maintain openness and to reduce the organizing effort.
  368. TIP asking all participants to briefly introduce themselves at start of day will be seen as an imposition. Do consider name tags, however.
  369. TIP be sure to arrive on time if scheduling and room assignments are selected by the speakers themselves on the morning of your event.
  370. TIP speakers might consider giving their talk a second time at a local school, church, nursing home, fraternal or community organization.
  371. INSIGHT with the right tool (Barcamp, e.g.) the burden of organizing substantive events comes within reach of informal groups of skeptics.
  372. INSIGHT traditional lecture-oriented conferences (CSICon, eg) can be of great value, but serve largely as passive experiences for attendees.
  373. TIP if you plan to physically separate speakers and attendees (via a "Green Room", etc.) perhaps it's not an open event that you're after?
  374. TIP find a venue where the room(s) allow interaction and discussion during talks (
  375. INSIGHT where some conference models optimize towards complexity or scalability, Barcamp focuses on lowering barriers to participation.
  376. INSIGHT open events can provide an entry point for new skeptics, to learn the methodology and understand how we ask questions.
  377. TIP experiment with the conference model, but be sure to ask whether you're promoting the basic ideas underlying open, participatory events.
  378. TIP multiple rooms not only allow for more talks, but also provide participants more choices (in addition to conversations in the hall.)
  379. INSIGHT featuring lectures (SitP, etc.) can attract new members to your group, but at risk of perpetuating passive engagement among members.
  380. TIP contact local bloggers and podcasters (even those outside of skepticism) to encourage them to offer talks at your event.
  381. TIP to reduce planning hassle, employ a free (or low-cost) conferencing tool (Google Hangouts, Skype, e.g.) to host your planning meetings.
  382. TIP to lower the barriers for first-time speakers, consider having a second, smaller room to host their talks.
  383. TIP the measure of success of your open event is not head count. Rather it's measured in the level of participation. Grow next year.
  384. TIP potential speakers shouldn't hesitate to push the limits of topics considered a good fit, though no abusive or disruptive content.
  385. INSIGHT open skeptic events are organized in spite of disinterest on the part of leadership of local groups. Own your community's future.
  386. TIP if sponsorship isn't feasible or desired, find a venue near restaurants so that you can send attendees out for lunch.
  387. TIP because video streaming/recording change the dynamics of an event by erecting barriers to speak, consider having a 2nd camera-free room.
  388. TIP the ideal way to participate at a SkeptiCamp open event is to give a talk on a topic that drives your passion for science and skepticism
  389. TIP to encourage sign-up at the wiki for registration and talks, have plenty of extra "add your name here" lines at the end of each list.
  390. INSIGHT we call SkeptiCamp a conference 'model' but it could just as well be thought of as a tool for leveraging the Long Tail of skepticism
  391. TIP too many questions during your talk to get your main points in? Next time, consider moving those points to the start of your talk.
  392. TIP resist the ownership of organizing roles. Through rotation (or ideally by giving a talk instead) you build resiliency.
  393. TIP promotion is a shared responsibility for organizers & participants. Remember the first rule of SkeptiCamp is to talk about SkeptiCamp!
  394. INSIGHT through SkeptiCamp we seek to expand the opportunities of our Long Tail to contribute in substantive ways.
  395. TIP if you've recently played a role as organizer, consider asking organizers of coming first-time events if they have any questions.
  396. INSIGHT why open events? To grow as a skeptic through learning to organize events, exercising your critical thinking skills and giving talks
  397. TIP scheduling talks can be tricky and political. Study Barcamps for successful practices, such as where speakers choose their own slots.
  398. TIP be sure to add your event to notification services, such as Upcoming, Eventful, Facebook, etc.
  399. TIP to reduce the risk of early departures, let attendees set their own pace and level of involvement and participation.
  400. TIP if you aren't asking questions, you aren't participating. You may think the speakers are the event, but in actuality YOU are the event.
  401. TIP consider giving a talk at your next open event. If none, why not organize one?
  402. INSIGHT by distributing knowledge within communities of skeptics we enrich those communities and promote ownership in their development.
  403. TIP to contribute to this tip feed, contact to gain access to protected page at
  404. TIP a secondary room can accommodate first-time speakers who would not otherwise speak because they find the main room intimidating.
  405. INSIGHT build on the experience of the hundreds of Barcamp events (and dozens of SkeptiCamp events) by studying how they were organized.
  406. INSIGHT curating talks raises barriers to organizing events. Open events instead encourage interaction to deter and mitigate the bad.
  407. TIP to promote free discussion during lunch, consider avoiding tables and instead treat it as a big coffee break.
  408. TIP if your Event Page can only be updated by a select few organizers, you risk fewer updates and stagnation. Consider a wiki next time.
  409. TIP because these are interactive events, be sure to warn speakers that extended video clips or reading text will generally not be allowed.
  410. INSIGHT traditional events rely on experienced organizers. SkeptiCamps are organized by amateurs who must necessarily rely on collaboration.
  411. INSIGHT the first SkeptiCamp originated as an experiment by a young meetup group in Denver in 2007.
  412. TIP the first rule of SkeptiCamp is to talk about SkeptiCamp.
  413. INSIGHT the "Barcamp Rules" provide a glimpse into Barcamp culture (e.g., "If it's your first time at Barcamp, you have to speak")
  414. TIP provide multiple ways to get in touch with organizers, including a dedicated email account. Consider Twitter, Facebook, etc. too.
  415. TIP allow for breaks with sufficient time for participants to step outside to stretch their legs, smoke, converse, use restroom, etc.
  416. TIP angry that certain people will be participating at an upcoming open event? Why not attend to counter their nonsense?
  417. TIP if you only have one room the "Law of Two Feet" dictates you step into the hall.
  418. QUESTION how can open events increase the diversity and reach of skepticism?
  419. INSIGHT you may have led the organization of your last open event, but that does not confer ownership or entitle you to lead future events.
  420. TIP most attendees will participate at a SkeptiCamp event by asking questions of speakers. Encourage them to give a talk at the next event.
  421. TIP shirts can be sponsor-supported or opt-in (where interested parties can pre-pay using Paypal (or similar) to fund a low-cost printing.)
  422. INSIGHT read about the early development of SkeptiCamp at Grassroots Skeptics. (in three parts)
  423. TIP in promoting your event, be sure to ask around for potential sponsors. Ask for donations 'in kind' where possible to reduce accounting.
  424. INSIGHT what is the value of your local community of skeptics? What are you doing to develop your members and discover their talent?
  425. TIP in the weeks leading up to the event, offer sessions for speakers to practice their talks (ATL introduced such "SkepBOOTcamps" in 2010.)
  426. TIP no organizer or participant is indispensable when it comes to the success of your event. Move on if someone drops out.
  427. TIP thinking about organizing an open event? Stand on the shoulders of the thousands who came before you by reading about their experiences
  428. TIP because scheduling can be political and tricky, study the scheduling practices of Barcamps for tested and proven approaches.
  429. INSIGHT Barcamp is only one of several alternative 'unconference' models that might be worth exploring for skepticism.
  430. TIP for our best events, organizers held regularly-scheduled meetings in weeks/months leading up to event. Via Skype or in person.
  431. TIP Speaker Wranglers: stay on top of those who have committed to speak. Ensure that they will be prepared on the day of the event.
  432. INSIGHT our traditional lecture events feature speakers and attendees. In contrast, we have 'participants' at our interactive open events.
  433. TIP authors: rather than pitch your book (or worse yet to read from it) share with us your passion for the ideas within & why you wrote it
  434. TIP any given topic for a talk can be approached from at least one angle: summary, investigation, book review, personal experience, etc.
  435. INSIGHT by tearing down the barriers to organizing open events, these events can cross language and geographical barriers.
  436. INSIGHT we strongly discourage fund raising at SkeptiCamp events because it distracts from the central goal of knowledge distribution.
  437. TIP asking questions to derail bad talks allows good talks to be derailed as well. Organizers can eject disruptive participants if needed.
  438. TIP nailed your talk? Consider offering an expanded version at a local library, school, nursing home or luncheon group.
  439. TIP Barcamps are known to be fast-paced and intense, offering new ideas and interactivity. We should demand no less for our open events.
  440. TIP be transparent and public in your organizing efforts so that others can benefit from your experience.
  441. TIP don't expect that our open and interactive events will translate as well to video as our lecture-oriented traditional events.
  442. INSIGHT open events can benefit your local group by providing 'glue' to bind together your other disparate efforts.
  443. TIP "Ten Steps to Organizing a Barcamp" remains chock full of good tips & available in six languages
  444. TIP nervous about speaking? Your talk didn't go as well as you hoped? Don't be discouraged. Plan to fix those problems at the next event.
  445. TIP to prepare yourself for the event, review the speaker roster and get up to speed on the topics (via related Wikipedia articles, etc.)
  446. TIP do not abuse SkeptiCamp. These events are not fund raisers for your organization. Attendance should be free, or at nominal cost.
  447. INSIGHT what happens when you combine the intensity of Barcamp with the tools of skepticism? This is the experiment of SkeptiCamp.
  448. INSIGHT "Be the Candle in the Dark" was an early SkeptiCamp catchphrase adapted from Carl Sagan's "Science as a Candle in the Dark"
  449. INSIGHT while we encourage participation, no one is entitled to participate in an open event, particularly if safety is jeopardized.
  450. TIP a venue with free wireless (and good 3G reception) will allow use of social media, live blogging and fact-checking of suspicious claims.
  451. INSIGHT "Let Attendees Be Participants" by Scott Gould
  452. INSIGHT open events opt for a lightweight structure to place them within reach of informal groups of skeptics anywhere around the world.
  453. INSIGHT you recruit for diversity in speakers (incl first-timers) to grow members, spread ownership, gain new ideas and keep things fresh.
  454. QUESTION how do local groups change with the availability of new tools (open events, etc.) to develop their membership?
  455. INSIGHT Barcamps are known for introducing new ideas and voices that might be unknown to curators of traditional tech events.
  456. TIP are you an actor? Consider the challenge of a talk that demands much of an audience whose critical thinking skills have grown soft.
  457. INSIGHT if you must diverge from the open model (such as to curate talks) then please don't call your event a SkeptiCamp.
  458. TIP avoid basements for venues—at least those without free wifi connectivity.
  459. TIP Speaker Wranglers: contact scientists who work in local publicly-funded institutions—they may be keen to reach out to taxpayers.
  460. TIP experimentation by organizers is encouraged, but please keep your event open and share your experience via the wiki.
  461. TIP don't curate speakers by deciding who can and cannot speak. Instead, recruit broadly from within your community and without.
  462. INSIGHT by design, SkeptiCamp has no agenda beyond asking for open, interactive events where talks stick to topics of science & skepticism.
  463. TIP for Event Pages, wikis aren't perfect. However they offer an openness and transparency unmatched by non-editable websites.
  464. INSIGHT open events discourage the curation of talks to reduce barriers to organizing, to better reflect our community & to avoid favoritism
  465. INSIGHT open events can benefit you by providing a rich range of opportunities to grow as a skeptic in ways that can fit your busy life.
  466. TIP different approaches exist for scheduling talks for open events. With some, speakers choose their slots. In others, organizers decide.
  467. TIP to those giving talks, keep in mind that these events are about interaction. Please try to stick around for the whole day.
  468. TIP speakers at an open event shouldn't expect a captive audience. These events are ruled by the "Law of Two Feet"
  469. TIP infrequent updates to an Event Page (or site) suggests a lack of transparency in organizing (or worse yet, a dead event.)
  470. TIP first-time events should be simple and focus on participation. Skip the food, sponsors and t-shirts. You can grow next year.
  471. INSIGHT to see open events as "low rent" copies of our traditional events is to miss their value in development, participation and reach.
  472. TIP if you plan to give away door prizes, consider assigning participants numbers at registration.
  473. TIP an unexpected gap in the schedule? Why not fill the gap yourself by leading a discussion on a topic of your choice?
  474. INSIGHT local groups with missions (fighting local woo, e.g.) may be valuable, but effectiveness is limited without development of members.
  475. TIP consider bringing a backup projector to your event, as you might experience a bulb burnout, overheating, or other technical problem.
  476. TIP if you're streaming audio/video, ask people who are AT THE EVENT to pause the stream to reduce bandwidth usage.
  477. INSIGHT to promote open events relatively free of politics, established groups might think of themselves as sponsors rather than organizers.
  478. TIP as open events are participant-focused, be sure to promote your participants (including blogs, Twitter, etc.) on your event page.
  479. TIP as an amateur organizing your first event, start simply and stick with the basics. Allow yourself time to gain the xp to do more later.
  480. INSIGHT the largest recorded BarCamp happened in January 2010 with over 2,700 attendees in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)
  481. TIP organizers should show mercy for the participants. Organize to keep the event moving and the annoyances to a minimum.
  482. TIP a secondary room can include more discussion and interaction than might be practical in the main room (which may be a lecture hall.)
  483. TIP infrequent updates to your Event Page (or site) risks lower turnout, where potential participants may consider your event to be dead.
  484. TIP in promoting your event, set expectations by explaining how these events differ from our traditional lecture-oriented events.
  485. TIP does the speaker stink? Ask some questions already! Epic bad? Turn the session into a group discussion.
  486. INSIGHT open events might not fix the problems of your community (or group) but they can offer a disruptive tool to move things forward.
  487. INSIGHT our traditional curated speaker-driven events have value, but shouldn't be confused with our participant-focused open events.
  488. TIP "Don’t over-complicate things. Don’t let other people over-complicate things."
  489. TIP SkeptiCamp is a community property. Help document your event by writing, taking photos, blogging and spreading the word.
  490. TIP if you're asking attendees to pay for shirts, you'll probably want to exclude sponsor logos.
  491. TIP keep the speaker's line of sight free of distractions. Shut doors. But don't dim lights so much it discourages interaction.
  492. TIP not having Speaker Wranglers to encourage first-time and outsider speakers risks having your extroverted members dominate your roster.
  493. TIP the attendees are the quality control. Don't rely on the organizers to filter-out those who go off-topic or spew nonsense.
  494. TIP the Lead Organizer should avoid taking on tasks herself and instead focus on coordinating the efforts of others.
  495. INSIGHT one of the largest recurring Barcamps features hundreds of attendees and dozens of concurrent sessions
  496. TIP funding your venue, t-shirts & food can be accomplished through fundraisers, nominal registration fees but (preferably) sponsors.
  497. INSIGHT the first band to play at a SkeptiCamp was "Tense Kids" at Skepchicamp in 2010.
  498. INSIGHT interactive and informal events provide opportunities to explore and discuss ideas that are not fully developed.
  499. TIP organizers can collaborate not only among themselves, but can share their experience with those in other cities through the wiki, etc.
  500. TIP on the day of your event, consider having the MC or an organizer offer a short talk describing how to get the most out of open events.
  501. TIP so you think the speaker's idea is dreadful? Instead of privately bitching, why not speak up to start a discussion to improve it?
  502. INSIGHT regional events provide substantive experiences for those who cannot afford the time or expense of traveling to national events.
  503. INSIGHT participants at open events offer talks to share what they know and to learn from others though questions and discussion.
  504. TIP please send corrections or ideas for this tip feed to
  505. TIP after the event, speakers should contact podcasters to see if they're interested in interviewing you about the topic of your talk.
  506. TIP announcing a 'Call for Organizers' and scheduling a kickoff meeting is your very first step towards a successful event.
  507. INSIGHT ad hoc approaches to event planning don't accumulate practices from which others can benefit. Learn from and share via the wiki.
  508. TIP organizing these events in a visible & transparent way so others will be comfortable stepping into a organizer role at a future event.
  509. INSIGHT if you insist on curating the talks for your event, perhaps it's not an open event you're after?
  510. TIP if you plan to lead a group discussion, promote it beforehand so that interested participants can better prepare for the topic.
  511. TIP whether as an email or a tweet, attendees can provide feedback to organizers. Better yet, become an organizer at the next event.
  512. INSIGHT through SkeptiCamp we seek to have events in places and among people where otherwise there would be few to none.
  513. INSIGHT at our traditional events, attendees spend most of their time passively listening. At open events we focus on active discussion.
  514. TIP first events should be small, simple and done on the cheap without sponsors. Focus on participation and collaboration. Grow next year.
  515. TIP 25 Signs Your Event Sucks (slideshare)
  516. TIP organizers collaborate not only among themselves locally, but with others around the world through the wiki.
  517. TIP so others can benefit from their experience, organizers should discuss what went right (& wrong) and contribute a summary to the wiki.
  518. TIP organizers can consult with their local Barcamp organizers for tips on venues, sponsors, etc.
  519. INSIGHT in 2008, BC Skeptics hosted the first SkeptiCamp outside of the United States.
  520. TIP multiple room cons: need more coordination; limited venues; still should have big room to hold everyone at start of day
  521. TIP multiple room pros: allow for more speakers in a day; give attendees choices; and smaller rooms for bashful first-time speakers
  522. TIP epic bad speakers may prompt the Master of Ceremonies (MC) to step in and moderate a discussion on the speaker's topic.
  523. INSIGHT It's early yet, but we expect that open events will complement the traditional curated lecture-style events.
  524. INSIGHT "opening my arms to embrace the whole room I said 'This is your panel'" - Dave Winer
  525. TIP if you don't blog, consider giving a talk at your open event. If you do blog on skeptical topics, consider yourself obligated to do so.
  526. TIP attending an open event is often free or at nominal cost. You 'pay' through your participation, by giving a talk or helping to organize.
  527. TIP to reduce A/V hassle ask presenters to bring their slides in a PDF on a thumbdrive.
  528. INSIGHT why do open events encourage first-time speakers? They inject enthusiasm & foster a culture of openness rather than calcification.
  529. TIP sponsors can provide venue, t-shirts, food, etc. to enrich an event. But they are not critical to simple, first-time events.
  530. TIP speakers might consider publish their slides with a Creative Commons license at SlideShare to allow others to build upon them.
  531. TIP organizing a SkeptiCamp should never be a solitary effort even for the smallest of events. Collaboration is key.
  532. TIP your list of attendees is a primary attraction for your open event. Feature them on your Event Page along with their blogs, sites, etc.
  533. TIP while we encourage everyone to offer a talk, organizers will say 'no' to those that are off-theme, redundant, abusive or disruptive.
  534. INSIGHT SkeptiCamp was first launched by members of the Denver Skeptics Meetup, an informal group only several months old.
  535. TIP for larger events, consider using a service (Meetup, Amiando, EventBrite, etc.) to manage your registrations, fees, donations, etc.
  536. TIP depending on your venue and event size, you may need event insurance. (A good question for your local Barcamp organizers.)
  537. TIP to benefit future organizers contribute to the "What Went Wrong" page on the wiki
  538. TIP ask local science institutes, labs and university departments for speakers. Many are publicly funded and seek outreach opportunities.
  539. INSIGHT "What is an Unconference?" (2006) by Dave Winer
  540. TIP Encourage speakers to move their main points to the start of their talks in case they run out of time due to questions and discussion.
  541. INSIGHT these events are open to all, including those hostile to skepticism. However, we won't tolerate abusive or disruptive behavior.
  542. TIP if not on a good transit route, set up carpooling to/from the event.
  543. TIP Speaker Wranglers can draw from a wide range of experience—from the newbie skeptic to the battle-scarred veteran.
  544. INSIGHT SkeptiCamp differs from most of our traditional lecture-oriented events in that speakers must take questions DURING their talks.
  545. TIP to benefit future organizers, please contribute to the "What Went Right" page on the wiki
  546. INSIGHT these events are about you, providing rich opportunities to learn from others and to share your knowledge.
  547. INSIGHT Barcamp has solved most of the problems involved in organizing grassroots conferences. Pay it heed. Build upon it. Improve upon it.
  548. INSIGHT we say that these events are 'open' in that anyone can speak on a topic of their choice (within the theme of science and skepticism)
  549. INSIGHT traditional events provide an opportunity to hear our 'A-listers' speak. Open events allow us to learn from those in our Long Tail.
  550. TIP to reduce insider/outsider awkwardness, provide name tags at registration table & encourage everyone to wear one. Include @twitter name.
  551. TIP see a list of earlier SkeptiCamp events at our Event Archive page on the wiki
  552. INSIGHT we seek to develop relationships with sponsors as a long-term goal, allowing events to scale in size & integrate in our communities.
  553. TIP talks that impart hard-won experience are as valuable as those that offer new ideas and enthusiasm.
  554. TIP anxious about speaking? Ask organizers to favor a venue with a smaller side room where you can offer your talk in an intimate setting.
  555. INSIGHT open, collaborative events aren't held as a service to the community. Open events ARE the community and a reflection of US.
  556. TIP solicit the participation of a skilled photographer to document your event. Tag photos with a designated event tag (#vanskepticamp, eg)
  557. INSIGHT with over 1000 Barcamps in 350 cities around the world since 2005, we're building on a highly successful open conference model.
  558. TIP do not abuse SkeptiCamp. Adhere to the core values of openness, participation & collaboration, or please call your event something else.
  559. INSIGHT open events are not intended to serve as a "Farm League" for our traditional events, though we have seen some cross-fertilization.
  560. INSIGHT 90% of SkeptiCamp is drawn from Barcamp. We tweak the model to better meet the needs of the skeptical community.
  561. TIP need an idea for a talk? Consider covering a local legend, oddity or personality.
  562. INSIGHT where professionals organize our traditional events, amateurs organize our open events and must compensate through collaboration.
  563. TIP when promoting your event, emphasize the various ways one can contribute to the effort.
  564. TIP to increase buy-in among organizers, defer core decisions concerning date, venue, etc. until your kickoff meeting. Collaboration is key.
  565. INSIGHT quality control at traditional events falls upon their curators. At open events that burden falls upon attendees asking questions.
  566. TIP sitting in the back row and not asking questions is a sure path to boredom at any event. Interaction is central feature of SkeptiCamp.
  567. TIP speakers must take questions during their talks even if it means they risk running out of time. Move key points to start of your talk!
  568. TIP so you didn't like the speakers or topics at your open event? Next time, consider helping to recruit speakers & offering a talk yourself
  569. TIP please help promote this tip feed by retweeting the posts you've found most valuable.
  570. TIP for abusive, disruptive or otherwise troublesome speakers, the MC shouldn't hesitate to issue warnings or cut their talks short.
  571. INSIGHT starting that first event, even if small and imperfect, is a first step toward bigger things.
  572. TIP build upon social media networks (Twitter, etc.) to promote your event. Emphasize that your event and its promotion is a shared effort.
  573. INSIGHT SkeptiCamp is borne from Barcamp - a way of organizing open events that distribute knowledge within a community.
  574. TIP if not serving food at the event, be sure that people know beforehand. Provide printed directions to nearby restaurants.
  575. TIP at your event be careful of assumptions you make about your fellow skeptics. They may not share your views on politics or religion.
  576. INSIGHT to ensure the long term success of an open event conference model, its organizers must share their experiences (thru the wiki, etc.)
  577. TIP if providing a meal or snacks at your event, check with your venue to see if you need to go through specific caterers.
  578. INSIGHT the bargain of SkeptiCamp is that through your participation you gain substantive events where often you would have few or none.
  579. TIP organizers set the length of talks and should be crystal clear on policy from early-on so that speakers can prepare.
  580. INSIGHT Barcamp is a conference model accessible to small and informal groups anywhere around the world. We adapt it to skepticism.
  581. INSIGHT first SkeptiCamp event occurred on the same weekend James Randi, PZ Myers & Eugenie Scott attended "SciFoo" unconference in Calif.
  582. TIP if you're going to charge for t-shirts, consider skipping the sponsor logos on the back. Few will want to pay to advertise.
  583. INSIGHT these events are self-organized, meaning if you have certain expectations of the event, you must get involved to ensure they're met.
  584. INSIGHT "I wanted to try something different, a conference where there were no speakers, no panels, no audience." - Dave Winer
  585. TIP at the start of your event, consider giving a short explanation of what skepticism is and what it is not, to help those new to the idea.
  586. INSIGHT to get the most from open events requires that we learn from the experiences of other organizers and participants.
  587. INSIGHT why do open events encourage first-time speakers? To provide opportunities to grow and share ideas in a relaxed, open environment.
  588. TIP we appreciate your help in handing out t-shirts, but consider doing a talk next time. Seriously. Do a fracking talk.
  589. INSIGHT don't just criticize the arguments of others. Stick your neck out to make your own and solicit feedback from others.
  590. INSIGHT by design, open and interactive events shift the burden of quality control from the organizers to the attendees (thru asking q's)
  591. TIP first events can be modest in size. Colorado's first event had 30+ attendees & Vancouver's merely 15. Subsequent events have grown.
  592. TIP choose a venue with free WiFi and encourage attendees to live tweet/blog your event.
  593. INSIGHT while events can be fun and informative, the friendships, ideas & collaborations that emerge from them can have far reaching impact.
  594. INSIGHT an open event model is a poor fit for organizers who seek to micromanage and dictate speakers, content and scheduling.
  595. TIP nailed your talk at SkeptiCamp? Consider making yourself available via the Skeptical Speakers Bureau
  596. INSIGHT at open events we promote audience members to "participants" - for whom we must set expectations to engage in the discussion.
  597. TIP ask attendees to post all pictures/video with your designated event tag (#vanskepticamp, e.g.)
  598. TIP introductory talks should be negotiated to early in the day (or to their own room) to provide context for those new to skepticism.
  599. INSIGHT open events that focus on collaboration and participation can provide a yardstick of activity for skepticism in your region.
  600. TIP if recording (via audio/video) ensure individual speakers are comfortable with their session being recorded.
  601. TIP when selecting a venue, ensure it will have enough chairs and tables. You'll probably need extra tables. Visit it beforehand!
  602. TIP SkeptiCamps are open in that topics are chosen not by the organizers (or a curator) but rather by their presenters.
  603. TIP because these events are free - or at nominal cost - we encourage everyone to contribute in some way, ideally by giving a talk.
  604. INSIGHT asking that everyone participate in a substantive way promotes ownership which in turn fuels participation.
  605. TIP why should you speak at SkeptiCamp? Because you know stuff that others can benefit from. SkeptiCamp is about distributing knowledge.
  606. TIP if multiple rooms, the larger one should ideally be large enough to hold all participants at start/end of day.
  607. INSIGHT Seth Godin on "The new standard for meetings and conferences" "Interact or stay home!"
  608. TIP Speaker Wranglers: when reaching out beyond the skeptical community for speakers, be sure to explain what you mean by skepticism!
  609. TIP your event sucks because the SAME people are organizing it from year to year. Rotate roles and be transparent in your organizing.
  610. TIP those sitting quietly in the back row are missing a golden opportunity to exercise their critical thinking skills. Ask questions!
  611. INSIGHT while ad hoc approaches to event planning can produce results, they are rarely repeatable. An event model gains us sustainability.
  612. TIP why should your group host an open event? It's an opportunity for your members to stake a claim in your group's future.
  613. INSIGHT Speaker Wranglers are the evangelists of SkeptiCamp, promising potential speakers recognition & fun in exchange for offering a talk.
  614. TIP contact local magic clubs about your event, asking for a presentation on misdirection, cold reading, spoon bending, etc.
  615. INSIGHT lecture-oriented events encourage passive consumption. Open and interactive events encourage creative production.
  616. INSIGHT through SkeptiCamp we seek to promote the distribution of knowledge within communities of skeptics.
  617. INSIGHT while open events can endure without sponsors, learning to cultivate local sponsorship is our path towards larger venues & turnouts.
  618. TIP if you have too many speakers, apologize to those who cannot speak and resolve to have more rooms or days at the next event.
  619. INSIGHT through SkeptiCamp we seek to provide substantive opportunities to exercise one's critical thinking skills.
  620. INSIGHT when promoting your event to a new audience, be sure to mention that it's not a kid's camp. That can be a point of confusion.
  621. TIP if you don't plan on providing food, be sure to warn attendees ahead of time so they can plan their meals accordingly.
  622. INSIGHT Barcamps are known for being fast-paced, substantive and fun. We should aim for nothing short of that for our open events.
  623. INSIGHT our traditional events feature the (often) over-exposed "head" of skepticism. Open events unearth our neglected "Long Tail."
  624. TIP your event sucks because the audience sits quietly not asking questions of speakers. Set expectations for interactive events.
  625. TIP scale your open event by studying larger Barcamps and consulting with their organizers.
  626. TIP a prominent list of participants can actually drive attendance. Allow each to specify their involvement, presentation topic, blog, etc.
  627. TIP is a speaker injecting partisan politics where you think it's unwarranted? Don't bitch about it silently. Raise your hand to ask why.
  628. INSIGHT a speaker roster that lacks diversity is not the fault of the underrepresented. It is a problem we all own and must take seriously.

Which tip is posted?[]

The tip of the day selected is determined by a simple calculation.

The tip_number to post for the day is calculated simply:

tip_number = ( ( base_offset + days_since_epoch ) mod tip_count ) + 1

For example, if the date is April 7th, 2010, it is 14,706 days since the epoch. If base_offset of 41 with a tip count of 56, then

tip_number = ( ( 41 + 14706 ) mod 56 ) + 1 = 20

where tip number 20 (of 56) will be the tip of the day.

Or more commonly, you'll modify the list and wish to calculate a specific base offset to resume from where you left off...

base_offset = tip_count + tip_number - ( days_since_epoch mod tip_count ) - 1


base_offset = 56 + 20 - ( 14706 mod 56 ) - 1 = 76 - 34 - 1 = 41

There are websites that can provided the number of days since the epoch. Here's a perl command to do so

perl -e 'printf qq{%d\n},time/86400'


(please keep these lines intact, though you can change the base offset as you add new tips to the list)