Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Science Blogging Conference 2008: Coffee, food & great conversations

This past weekend I attended the second Science Blogging Conference in North Carolina. I wasn't sure what to expect and I didn't really know anybody personally who was attending the conference. The conference had no registration fee, and that tipped my decision towards attending the conference (though it also increased my apprehension...hmm...free conference: How bad is it going to be or what are they trying to sell me by not asking for money??).

It turns out the conference was really fantastic and I had a phenomenal time there. It was very well organized, all of the sessions were interesting, and the organizers took care of the participants by providing them with good food and coffee (yes - no coffee shortage!). Plus it had an interesting mix of people - scientists, teachers, educators, journalists - that really enriched the experience. On top of it, we each got a bag full of goodies that included a t-shirt, two books (they were already on my Amazon wishlist), a coffee mug, about 15 magazines (Nature, Seed, Scientific American, American Scientist, Discover, National Geographic, etc) and other small things. It was not a conference, it was a heist!

Here is the full program of the conference and even if you were not there, you can join online discussion and also see videos of some sessions here. I really liked he unconference format of the first three sessions and it generated good interaction between the attendees. The unconferenced sessions I attended included a discussion over science blogging ethics led by Janet Stemwedel (some fascinating issues were raised, and one way or the other we will have to find some solutions to them soon), teaching science using electronic tools led by David Warlick, and how to build interactivity in a blog led by Dave Munger (you can also download his very useful presentation and other links here). By the way, Dave would look at this paragraph and say: too many links - it looks terrible. Sorry, Dave - won't do it again.

The last two sessions were in un-unconference format and the traditional approach perhaps sapped some of the energy. The Framing panel was directed more towards Sciencedebate 2008, but somehow both the talks and the Q&A lacked some oomph! However, Jennifer Oulette of Cocktail Party Physics revitalized the evening by talking about the outlook of science blogging - which looks terrific!

Thanks to Bora and Anton (and other organizers) for a fantastic conference.












The plight of the organizer: Bora - before the conference (left) and after seeing everything is going fine (right) [with Jennifer Oulette]