Last year was my first to attend Science Online. Yes, I was a Noob! This year, as a seasoned veteran, I can provide some advice for those of you entering this wonderful group for the first time.
- When it comes to electonic gizmos, more is more. This conference generates more bandwidth than anything else I attend. Find yourself in a session that's not what you expected? Pull up the live-feed of the others and change rooms. Some adventurous souls will try to live-blog sessions, while many of us settle for twitter-notes. Virtually everyone will be juggling laptops, tablets, and smart phones. That's who we are, for the most part. Don't have a smart phone? This is the place to get an overview (AKA knock-down, drag-out debate) on the relative merits of Android vs. iPhone platforms, especially if you get the right two people together in the bar. You have been warned.
- You will feel welcomed. The group tends to be quite friendly, and your first task will be to hug Bora, the Godfather of Science Online (if you have had your flu shot, of course). I remember people running up to me, exclaiming how good it was to meet in real life! Since many bloggers use pseudonyms, I had NO IDEA who some of these folks were, at first. For some, I still don't know a real-life name, even though I feel like we have a great bond!
- Try not to stare open-mouthed at your heroes. Meeting some of these writers can produce feelings of awe (yes, some of us are science groupies), but they are just as friendly and welcoming as the rest of the crowd (see #2). Want your books autographed? Bring them along!
- Ocean bloggers are at least as welcoming as the rest of the crowd; however, they seem to have an alcohol tolerance well above the rest of us (and I have NEVER felt like a light-weight at any other meeting). Does this have something to do with time at sea? I don't know. Just be careful. You have been warned (and neuroscientists, don't get snitty; my experience is that the ocean crew can outdo you).
- Be prepared to bring extra stuff home. Even with the new swag policy, I suspect we may need to check a bag and tote home an extra bag of new acquisitions. I still have my Sigma Life Science Magic 8 Ball on my desk. Yup, it made the cut for the move. Sometimes it provides the clearest, most logical solution to a daily conundrum.
- Be prepared for an amazing experience. Science Online was like visiting the Mother Ship; nowhere else have I encountered this many people who, like me, love science, the written word, and online communication.
If you're a Science Online Veteran, feel free to leave your tips in the comments below. If you're a 2012 noob with a question, ask in the comments and you will get answers. I promise!