An Extreme Introvert’s Post Science Online 2013 Conference Wrap-up

Scioctopus, Ollie, & blue marble meet at Science Online 2013

Now that I am firmly ensconced back in my home life, it feels like ScienceOnline 2013 was just a dream. Good thing I have all the Scio13 swag as proof I went! For those who have never heard of it, ScienceOnline is a non-profit organization with a 3 day annual conference for those who communicate science online through social media and blogs (as well as through many other means). Bloggers, students, journalists, scientists, teachers, and librarians are among the folk that attend. It is not about UFO’s and the supernatural, as one stranger asked a Scio13 attendee!

As a newbie no more, I wanted to write this post to encourage all future Scio introverts to give the conference a try. I met dozens of people, and I found a few that I know I could be good friends with if our paths meet again (twitter at least!). It was Bora’s post Scio12 post that mentioned introverts that convinced me to try for a spot. I got in during the first round, which I took as a sign that I was supposed to go! Plus, I am a bona fide cephalopod lover since I’ve taken care of quite a few, which I took as another sign that I was supposed to pack up and go.

I also wanted to write this post to explain about the different shades of being an extrovert or introvert. There are extreme extroverts, the kind that after work need to go to a bar to keep socializing. Then there are middle-of-the-road extroverts that are by all accounts very talkative, but need to unwind with quiet after a day at work. Then there are the middle-of the road introverts, the ones that can appear extroverted in group situations, but it is really taxing on them and they need to unwind after that.

I am an extreme introvert, which means (at least to me) in groups of greater than 3, I clam up. It’s like my brain shuts down, and internally I begin to chastise myself for not thinking of things to say. It’s something I have battled my whole life, but that I have begun to accept about myself. The good news is that it makes me a great listener, as I am always listening, and not thinking about what to interject next. I am fine in small group situations, and I can actually be chatty in one-on-one conversations.

At Scio conferences one will always encounter group situations, especially at all communal meals, which happens over all 3 main days. That is great on the budget, but it leaves extreme introverts like me internally panicking. At longer meals, like this year’s Thursday night at Cypress Manor, it is harder to find an excuse to leave a table or conversation when there isn’t a session about to start, and there is no quiet room (except the bathroom!) around. But hopefully by then one will have met a kindred spirit who is more of a middle-of-the-road introvert (who knows that you are not mute!) and have them do the talking for the both of you in group situations.

I surprisingly only spent a few minutes in the quiet room. I was on my way to another session and I popped my head in. It was nice not having to introduce myself, but somehow the room wasn’t inviting to me. The tables were almost full when I went in, and it felt very dark. Maybe a few couches or chairs around the room would have made it more inviting, but I instead ended up going to sessions early when I was done socializing. Also, I think since the seats at the tables were so close together, I felt more of a personal space issue rather than a social one. I preferred to find a chair in a corner somewhere outside the quiet room. Overall, it was nice knowing that most people at the conference have an understanding of introverts that the general public does not. Plus it’s acceptable to whip out your mobile device and tweet at anytime!

I found a good ice breaker, as I was the one giving out blue marbles. I estimate that I gave out about 3 dozen. I wasn’t brave enough to walk up to random persons to give them out (like at the Figshare Café), but I reserved giving them out to people I had one-on-one conversations with, or at the breakfast or lunch tables.

I wanted to explain a little more about the blue marbles project in case anyone was wondering. It was started a few years ago by sea turtle biologist and outside-the-box thinker Dr. Wallace J. Nichols. There are now more than 1 million blue marbles circulating the globe. For me as an ocean lover, I just want people to remember that we live on that blue marble, and that it is mainly made up of the oceans. It was invaluable to me as an ice-breaker, as every person I gave one to was truly grateful. That’s the other reason for the blue marble project, which is to spread gratitude. Whether or not you give your blue marble away, at least I truly felt gratitude for giving it! Visit for more details, and to buy your own.

I wanted to meet Bora to thank him for his Scio posts, and give him a blue marble, but it took until the last day for me to approach the big three. I gave one to Karyn and Anton, and if you (Bora or anyone else reading this) would like one for free, email me with your name and address (ollieoctopus at sbcglobal dot net) or DM @protectoceans

Besides meeting most of the people I identified as ocean people from the “look who’s coming” list, I was also very honored to meet Dr. Bondar. Such is Scio13, as I consider her one of Scio’s stars (she does describe herself as a “Biostarlet”), and I was hesitant to introduce myself as a result . I treat her posts with the reverence I do Oprah’s! When we did meet, I was able to give her a blue marble to film, and we had a fun conversation about our kids.

I had also wanted to talk to Dr. Al Dove about whale sharks, which is one of my favorite animals of the sea (tied with octopuses of course!). We ended up talking not only about whale sharks, but about our kids too. He recommended a BBC show for kids called “In the Garden.” Another example of interesting “things” learned outside the sessions! In other words, even your “idols” at Scio are truly approachable, and there will be various topics you can talk about together.

Scioctopus, Ollie, & Karyn at Science Online 2013

I was also honored to meet Karyn and thank her for all her hard work. I was surprised to learn she was an introvert too, as she seems so at home on stage! In any case, bravo to Karyn for her first wildly successful conference as Executive Director. Everything went smoothly for me, from registration online months ago, until I boarded my flight back home.
Thank you too for making my favorite aquarium animal Scio’s mascot (@Scioctopus)! I have taken care of a few octopuses in captivity, and they really are the most intelligent invertebrate (along with their cephalopod pals). I even taught one (then named Waldo, as in “Where’s Waldo?”) to unscrew a jar to get the live food inside! Waldo is now renamed Ollie, and is forever immortalized as my avatar.

Ollie and Deep Sea News squid Archie meet at Science Online 2013

I had the brilliant idea to take pictures of my own stuffed octopus, Ollie, at all the familiar Scio13 spots, but the idea came during the closing converge. Oh well, at least Ollie got to meet Scioctopus, Deep Sea News Squid Archie, Karyn, and got to use the microphone (and you thought cephalopods couldn’t talk…)

Last newbie tip: Yes, you really can walk up to anyone and they will be friendly. But if you’re an introvert, don’t feel bad if you don’t do that. You will be forced (in a good way) outside your comfort zone, and you will make friends. If I can do it, you can too! As a bonus you may also learn a lot in the sessions too! For me, the workshops (Analyzing Social Media Effectiveness and Maps for Journalists & Scientists) before the main conference were worth the red-eye flight to get there.

Sadly, I probably won’t attend Scio14, not because I don’t want to, but it will take me a couple of years to recover from this year’s experience. Just kidding, but I will be digesting all the material that I learned for several weeks to come. For next year, I am looking to convince my husband (who sadly doesn’t read this blog) to take the family to Cancun again to snorkel with the whale sharks. Seeing whale sharks again is probably the only thing better than a Science Online conference! I could change my mind, but I hope a newbie will take my place at Scio14. I do plan to come to future conferences though. Also let me know if blue marbles or a similar ice breaker makes its appearance at future Science Online conferences!

Ollie the Octopus has his say at Science Online 2013

Post note: This post only tangentially has to do with the ocean (except #ScioOcean coming up in October 2013!), and future posts will go back to ocean only posts.