I don’t know why I’m doing that. But I found that balloon earlier, which was in the goody bag fun pack thing from last year’s meeting, and thought it’d make a good picture. For some reason.
Anyway. I’m going along to TAM London again this year, and tickets are still available if you want to come too and see that hugely impressive list of speakers.
I don’t have much to add, except to chip in with my thoughts on the somewhat controversial subject of the price of the tickets. It’s up over £200 a head this time, which is a heckuva price tag, and not everyone’s thrilled about this.
I’m fine with it, though. For a start, they’re bringing in a lot of seriously impressive names to talk and mingle, as well as hiring out the Hilton Metropole Hotel for the whole event. Putting up 1,000 people for a weekend’s activities is going to require some funding.
Also, it’s a fundraiser. The reason this particular series of gatherings exists at all is to raise money for a charity organisation, namely the James Randi Educational Foundation. It would make sense to charge the highest possible price per ticket that they’ll be able to find a thousand people willing to pay. The idea that it “costs too much” becomes sort of meaningless, in that context. I might think that $140 million is orders of magnitude too much to pay for a Jackson Pollock painting, but it was allegedly worth it to some guy, so it really doesn’t matter what I think.
The other complaint that comes up from time to time is that setting the price so high excludes many ordinary people who can’t afford to splash out on such a high-budget luxury, and serves to make the skeptical community elitist and inaccessible to exactly the kind of everyday folk it should be trying to court.
And this might be a concern if the skeptical community didn’t thrive in so many other places. The most obvious example would be the Skeptics in the Pub meet-ups, which have dozens of locations all over the world now. My own local branch has two meetings coming up in June, each with a notable guest speaker, a chance to mingle with 250 fellow skeptics, and an entrance fee of £2. These are the occasions driven by activists and volunteers, to encourage involvement by anyone dipping their toe in on the fringes of the skeptical world, who don’t have the resources to commit to any more grand endeavours, or for whom it’s not yet worth it to go to such lengths.
TAM can exist in conjunction with these smaller, less pricey meetings. There’s no contradiction. It’s just a different flavour of occasion.
And of course there are numerous places online to join in with and become part of this community, without attending this one particular annual event. For examples, check out around 80% of my “Roll out the blogs!” list on the right.
One interested suggestion I’ve heard – annoyingly, I can’t remember where – is that all the big TAM speeches should be made available to watch for free online, in the spirit of TED. On giving not even a moment’s thought to the practicalities of this, I think it’d be a great idea. It would go a long way to making the event more accessible, and provide some excellent publicly available material with which to reach out to people not wholly on board with the skeptical movement at present. And I don’t for a moment imagine that any significant number of attendees would be put off from coming if they realised they’d be able to see most, or even all, of the talks online later, and save themselves the money. People still go to the cinema; they don’t just wait for the DVD.
(Speaking of which, as it happens I am still waiting for the DVD of last year’s TAM London, and I’m going to include a gripe about this here. They’ve had legitimate problems in getting it arranged – first with clearing some copyright issues, then with the production of the discs themselves – but the communication hasn’t been great, emails with status updates haven’t always gone out when they were promised, and it’s sometimes felt like we’ve paid our money and been left hanging. The organisation really could have been better on that one. Still, when I sent Sid a message on Facebook the other day, I got a direct personal reply with an update of the situation eleven minutes later, so they’ve not totally dropped the ball.)
As I was saying, I don’t know if a completely online, TED-like system would be at all practical, but I think it’d be wonderful if it could, and would strongly encourage anyone who knows anything to give some thought as to how it might be made to happen.
Whatever happens, this October should provide quite a show.