The conference proper hasn't actually started yet (okay, many worthy souls are busily workshopping even as I lounge about in the hotel room typing this) but it's already been totally worth the trip. Why, you ask? Three reasons.
1. Robert Krulwich's keynote address last night. Interesting, useful, entertaining, inspiring, could have listened to another hour of it. First time I can recall ever wanting to give a keynoter a standing ovation.
2. Joseph Hewitt's "2010: The Year In Science Blogging" comeek in the swag bag (which itself will make another nice grocery bag). Josephe Hewitt is a genius.
3. Hanging out with Commenter Extraordinaire of Science Blogs Everywhere, Becca.
Item #3 has two sub-parts of wonderful to it. 3(a), last night at the Open Mike session, Becca instigated a performance of Ripple and inveigled me to sing along with her and Sandra Porter, with Kevin Zelnio backing us up on guitar. Sandra and Becca can actually sing, and Kevin can actually play the guitar. I screeched along as best I could.
3(b), you can always count on Becca's astute observations to generate a comment FTW. Last night at the intro to the keynote was no exception. Up on the screens in front of the room we were treated to a slide full of the names of supporters of this un-conference - sorted, as is so often done, into three categories. You know how it's done. Sometimes it's platinum, gold, and silver. My local arboretum has oak, ash, and willow. Whatever it is, you know the first category is Top Dawg, second category is Still Pretty Good, and third category is Well, Not Bad, Your Name Is Still Here, Someday When You Can Give More You Can Be A Top Dawg. The categories chosen for SciO11's supporters are as follows:
Top Dawg = Charles Darwin Level
Still Pretty Good = Albert Einstein Level
WNBYNISHSWYCGMYCBATD = Marie Curie Level
Oh yes they did.
Becca's comment: "That's an active disincentive to donate more money."
There's just something weird about associating Names of Famous Scientists with supporter levels in this manner. When supporter levels categories are given somewhat innocuous names - like platinum, gold, silver, or oak, ash, willow - everyone understands that there is a ranking involved in the categories. The ranking is there to distinguish and honor the supporters, and also to generate a little competition - oh, I see the Jones Company supported at the oak level, notes Smith Company. We have got to try and keep up with the Joneses in this important arena. Maybe next year we ought to be mighty oaks as well. Marketers can use it as a selling point: You know, the Jones have been mighty oaks for five years now. We'd like to see you getting your name out there with the same level of recognition and influence, Smith Company. Wouldn't you like to consider moving up from ash to mighty oak this year? So you need the ranking system, both to sell to the supporters, and to recognize the supporters. Everybody knows how the coded system works. When you slap some Famous Scientist names on top of this system that everyone understands, it cannot help but send an implicit message along with it - Top Dawg is the scientist this particular community worships values most, Still Pretty Good, is still pretty good, and WNBYNISHSWYCGMYCBATD is somebody we had to come up with as an afterthought, and we'd better make it a woman or the ladee science bloggers will complain, so let's pick Marie Curie because she's the most famousest woman scientist.
Blargh. Revise and resubmit for SciO12, please. Squid Level, Polar Bear Level, Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Level. Sea, Land, and Air levels. Book, Blog, and Twitter levels. Ha ha ha! my little joke. See how that ranking thing works?