Conferences are Workplaces for Many: that does not mean they are not fun

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The Workplace (photo: deVos)

To me, a conference or convention has always been a workplace. And, to some extent the Internet is too. I’ve sat on enough committees, had enough diversity training, and been involved with enough academic (mostly) disputes (hey, I was part of the Most Dysfunctional Department in the Universe for a few years!) that I tend to see human interactions gone bad in the light of mediation, HR rules and potential intervention, policy, and so on. This is why I am not real sanguine on the idea of working out how young men can go to conferences and a) not act like idiots and at the same time b) get laid anyway.

A buzzed aldrin (Photo: Skepchick)

On the other and, some “Conventions” seem to be big giant parties, and I don’t pretend to know much about them. We have a local “CON” here in Minneapolis that I have attended as a “Visiting Pro” (in my case, Scientist) at the request of the Skepchicks for a few years running, and that is a bit of a party. But that was still work for me, not in the negative sense but in the professional sense. Also, since the CON is nearly an hour drive from my house and it is always on a holiday weekend, I don’t partake int he Buzzed Aldrins. Well, maybe one.

The point is, even at party like venues, there are people who are not really just partying, or at least, not all the same way. While you’re getting drunk at some bar, the bartender and the serving staff are not at a party. They are at work. and the other people who are busy partying as you party are not necessarily partying as you party. As it were.

An elevator thingie. (Photo: &y)

When the whole Elevatorgate thing happened almost one year ago, I became first aware of it sitting where I am right now, and a friend of mine was sitting across the room on my couch gulping down black coffee. We were both reading blog posts and emails that were flying around pertaining to Rebecca and Stef and Elevator Guy and all that. And I turned to my friend and said “The Internet needs an HR department. And fast!”

A few weeks ago I finally got around to writing a blog post that specifically used that phraseology in the title: “Does the Internet need an HR Department?

In the last couple of weeks, Stephanie Zvan has spearheaded and organized an effort to ensure that conferences in the Skeptics world either get out and dust off, or if necessary (and it often is) create, a set of guidelines pertaining to harassment at conferences. That effort is making real progress.

The Skeptics Movement, kicking and screaming, being dragged into the late 20th century. (Photo: Forest Runner)

And now, Jason Thibeault, the Lousy Canuck (which I can never say out loud because where I grew up “Canuck” was the C-word) has a post linking many of these things together, concepts and actions and throwing in some data-like observations, urging that we figure out how to move this conversation forward.

I don’t have a lot to add at this point. I just want to point out, and point you to, efforts to get the job done of professionalizing our movement and dragging it kicking and screaming or otherwise into the late 20th century.

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
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