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Bigfoot a No-Show Again? Hmph.


This has been a very difficult post to write.

On June 10th I posted a solicitation for donations to help us raise $2800 to send four students to The Amazing Meeting 8. I stated that this was a test, and in many ways it was.

You see, I have been skeptical about the skepticism movement’s ability to inch forward at a faster rate than we slide backward. Frankly, I have many concerns about the current community that I hope to address at my blog in the near future. Mostly, I worry that the work is neglected as it is overshadowed by the community itself. Given the benchmark of more than $1500 in 8 hours I discussed in my original post, this was a test of how enthusiastic people are about moving the cause forward.

So, did you pass? Well, I guess that depends on how you look at it. I have mixed feelings myself.

First Things First

Thank you. Thank you to everyone who retweeted, shared, or blogged about this effort. I cannot tell you how much those gestures mean to me and these students. I am fully aware that many people are barely able, if at all, to afford the trip themselves and the support you gave by sharing links and in every other way was extremely valuable.

To those who were able to donate, I will thank you so often that you will be sick of hearing about it.

The Results

In two weeks, we raised $670, not including a donation from me. That will send a Woo Fighter to TAM8.

Bigfoot will not be at the meeting, but a Woo Fighter will. The donations will cover the conference registration and hotel room with a little bit left over for meals. What it does not cover will be added to my donation, which covers website hosting and some significant materials to help the members raise funds on their own for next year (super-secret stuff, mostly, but I have already hinted at a few things if you are paying attention).

Most of these donations were made in the first week and I declared the first goal met. Christos was very, very excited and all of the plans were made.

Then, this morning, Christos received some sad news which prompted him to arrange travel Greece to be with his family for a while. He was grateful to the donors and concerned that the efforts would be wasted, but I assured him that even this close to TAM there were Woo Fighters who would be both excited and able to take his place. I am extremely happy to announce that Dylan Keenberg will be attending and, to show his gratitude, has committed to blog as much about his experiences as possible.

Please introduce yourself if you see him. He really does look a lot like Penn Jillette when he dresses in a suit and ties his hair back.

The Test

Well, $670 is nothing to sneeze at and it is sending a very worthy student to a conference at which he will gain valuable knowledge and experience that I am certain will be put to good use. He will meet many great people, make some friends, and be inspired.

As promised, I will help, inspire, and nag him to submit a proposal to present next year.

The mixed feelings I have are related to those left behind, but they have more to do with the distribution of the donations. What I had hoped for was that the hordes of people who read blogs, participate in discussions, attend meetings like TAM, and identify with the movement, but do not tend to be active in outreach, would donate a few dollars each – small donations in large numbers that I believe make up the bulk of what is collected when money is thrown together quickly for a specific purpose. If the masses had responded this way, I would be thrilled with the nickels and dimes and the votes of confidence that came with them. That is not at all what happened.

I think that for that kind of fund raising, the plea needs to be shared, retweeted, or reposted by someone with an insanely large readership, such as PZ Myers or Phil Plait. Nothing like that happened. It seems that Woo Fighters is not yet on their radar or perhaps they donot find it a worthy cause to promote. Whatever the reason, we did not see the volume of hits that would be needed for anything remotely like Jen McCreight’s effort.

But…

$670 came from 11 people.

It should be clear that most of them were quite large.

I did not get permission to name names (I neglected to ask), but I will name two people who have publicly acknowledged their donations in blog posts about the drive. In addition to a very generous donation, Kylie Sturgess devoted two entire posts to this effort, mentioned it repeatedly, and is probably responsible for the surprising proportion of donations from Australia. Heidi Anderson, of She Thought also devoted a post to it and made a sizeable donation. These are two of the most selfless people I know, although neither would characterize themselves as such. I am very proud to call these women friends.

The plea was passed on by The Godless Monster, and I, of course, blogged to my small readership. It was retweeted by many and shared through email and other means.

I am disappointed in the community in general because these wonderful nods – the donations and the promotions – came almost exclusively from people like Kylie and Heidi, who have already devoted all of their spare time – and much of their not-so-spare time – to the cause. They work hard, not to promote themselves, but to promote the cause, the work. They are engaged in real outreach, real education in critical thinking. They do their part already.

And yet, it is exactly these people, the ones who do the work, who know best what the movement needs. It is the opinions of these people which matter most to me. So their approval is priceless. It tells me that we (the movement) are indeed on the right track, whether the hordes understand what that track is or not.

I hope that each of these 11 people will tune into the blog during and after TAM8 for Dylan’s updates and be pleased with what they have done. I am.


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9 Responses to “Bigfoot a No-Show Again? Hmph.”

  • Thanks to everyone who donated! Although I am very excited to be representing Woo Fighters at TAM, I wanted to acknowledge the bittersweet circumstances and say that my thoughts go out to Christos and his family. I promise to be an active, professional representative at the event and will keep everyone knowledgeable through daily blog posting about my experiences. I am also a notorious note-taker, so I will probably be getting summaries of each workshop together and posting those as well. I realize that I am attending because of unfortunate circumstances and because of this I will be more involved than if I was going on my own regularly.

    • Dylan of particular interest to me is how a) inspring you find TAM and b)if you think it provides audience members with the tools, ideas needed to promote skepticism. Looking forward to your reports :)

      • Greetings Sean! I will be keeping your interests in mind during the event and will discuss them in my daily posting. Thank you for the support and interest!

  • Friendly Skeptic [Anonymous]:

    So basically your post is lamenting that people are not gushing with support to send your students to TAM. Applauding those that did support your cause, financially or otherwise is worthwhile, however your post reads like “the nice people really put the rest of you in perspective.”

    • Hmm… Seems you made some assumptions about what my Tweet today meant, and that’s my fault. Although I was referring to those who donated and offered support promoting the group after I posted this, the “people at the other end of the spectrum” were not those who did not donate. In fact, they have nothing to do with Woo Fighters or skepticism. I do have other things going on in my life. Sorry for the confusion.

      Given that you seem to have read this post with that in mind, I hope you understand that although I am not bitter over specific people who fail to support the group, but rather a culture in which the social nature of the community is more important than the work we do.

    • Well I think Barb indicates that it might be communication as much as apathy or dour financial situations that resulted in a falling short of the hoped for target. That being said I think it is worth lamenting.

      It’s curious to see who gets support and who doesn’t, and why this might be so. Jenny McCreight has a phenomenal online presence – woo fighters is a new initiative.

      Anyway its something for the woo fighters to think about for the next TAM

      • Sean, it is actually who gets support and who doesn’t which concerns me. It’s disappointing that we were unable to raise the funds for more, but to be honest, it was not the funds I lament.

        Although it is true that Jen started blogging shortly after I did, time has little to do with popularity, imo. But that is a conversation for another day, and one I have promised myself to save for after TAM.

        I consider this effort at least a partial success. It revealed to me that there are people (like you) who care a great deal about the work we do and who believe that this group can do it. That’s a big deal.

        If the masses would rather see mud wrestling than a prize fight, they are welcome to it. If that is what TAM becomes, I will leave it to them. I don’t think that it will, though. I think that most of us are in this to make a difference in the world, don’t you?

  • Ideas posted to you shortly :)

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