Scattered reflections on ScienceOnline 2010

Now that is how you do a conference. Massive thanks to Bora and Anton for organising ScienceOnline 2010, one of the most enjoyable science shindigs I’ve had the pleasure of attending. I’ll stick up more on the conference later, after I’m done recovering from the horrendous American plague that I may or may not have contracted from SciCurious. For the moment, some random musings:

  • I love the feeling of meeting people who you know relatively well for the first time. That face-to-face interaction is invaluable for building relationships that started online, and people’s online personas largely correlated with their meatspace personalities.
  • One of the upshots of meeting people in the flesh is that I can now read their online words in their actual accents.
  • Despite the frequently cited demise of science journalism, almost every session on this topic was totally packed – empirical support for my Cambrian explosion metaphor.
  • Science writers look out for each other. We’ve all had big breaks because of the goodwill of friends and colleagues, and we’re keen on repay the favour by helping out promising newbies. To some extent, this has always happened but new tech like Twitter makes it easier to do.  
  • If Americans like you, they will tell you about it. At great length. Seriously, the self-deprecating British part of my cortex nearly imploded.
  • I spoke to many people whose breadth of experience just floored me – people who blog, write books, do science, practice journalism, teach, make films, and so on. The Internet makes it easier to don multiple hats and doing so successfully is the way of the future.
  • The atmosphere at the conference was electric. There really isn’t anything like getting 250 passionate, excited, down-to-earth people in the same place. These really are charmed times to be interested in science.
  • Even if you explicitly say that journalists vs. bloggers is old and tired, some people just can’t f**king help themselves 

Anyway, you may be able to tell that I had a great time. Meeting people I only knew from avatars or thumbnails was the best part, and in no particular order, it was a pleasure to meet Abel  Pharmboy, Carl Zimmer, Rebecca Skloot, SciCurious, Janet Stemwedel, Sheril Kirshenbaum, David Dobbs, John Timmer, Jennifer Ouellette, Tom Levenson, Ivan Oransky, Nancy Shute, Dr Isis, Bora and Catherine Zivkoivic, PalMD, Arikia Millikan, Erin Johnson, T Delene Beeland, Brian and Tracey Switek, Ben Landis, Dave and Greta Munger, Chris Rowan, Anne Jefferson, Tamara Krinsky, Miriam Goldstein, Kevin Zelnio, Craig McClain, Eric Michael Johnson, Allie Wilkinson, Christie Wilcox, Zuska, DrDrA, Vanessa Woods, Natalie Villalobos, Darlene Cavalier, Chris Mooney, Clifton Wiens, John Logsdon, Allyson Bennett, James Hrynyshyn, Sandy Porter, Mary Spiro, Glendon Mellow, Fabiana Kubke, Joanne Manaster, Fenella Saunders, Jonathan Eisen, Kelly Chi. Stephanie Zvan, Nate Silver, Eric Roston, Kiki Sanford, Elia Ben-Ari and Michael Specter.