Signal and Noise


The whole SciShow office is so freaking stoked about this it’s adorable. To be clear, I also have not been this excited about a movie (that wasn’t based on my brother’s book) since Deathly Hallows.

Wow. I hope they don’t screw this up. Alan Turing ftw. Also I hope the cover the terrible things the UK did to him as thanks for winning them the damn war.


Forty-five years ago today, two human beings first set foot on the moon. On July 20, 1969, the lunar module of Apollo 11 touched down in the Sea of Tranquility, and forever changed how we view our place in the universe. When I think about the fact that four and a half decades ago, at the very moment I am writing this, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were walking on the freakin’ moon, I am humbled and inspired.

I’ve combined some of my favorite photos from Apollo 11 with some of the actual words spoken by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.

If you’d like to relive the historic mission moment by moment, word by word, and photo by photo, head over to SpaceLog

How I Started a Con with No Experience »




I didn’t.

I worked with a talented team of people who had experience running cons

People keep asking me how I did it in my Tumblr asks, and here’s the truth: I had a built-in audience of my own, friendships with a couple dozen successful YouTubers, and a relationship with Melissa Anelli and Stephanie Dornhelm who had created and successfully run LeakyCon from scratch. 

So if you want to know how someone could possibly start a con from scratch, ask those women, because they’re the only people I know who’ve done it and I want to be very clear that I did /not/ do it. They are the reason VidCon exists, and I had no idea what I was doing but they did and VidCon is forever in their debt (actually literally, since they are entitled to a permanent share of all VidCon proceeds.)

I’m not saying starting VidCon wasn’t hard, or that I didn’t literally bet my house on its success…I’m just saying I didn’t know how to do it so I paid people who did to help us (though they gave me a ridiculously inexpensive rate). They are the literal best and I feel shame when people assume I did it by myself.


OK, so, I get to respond to this properly now:

Hank Green, you are the reason that VidCon exists. We are extremely flattered that you would put that on us, and maybe we helped identify a venue and negotiate for reasonable contract details and order pallets of balls for the ball pits and barter with A/V companies and manage volunteers and liaise with special guests and that sort of thing BUT the creative vision was yours. While it is true you can’t hire just anyone to see your vision into reality (they should and I would even go so far as to say must be people who believe in that vision), you can’t do anything without the vision. And that was all Hank.

I don’t mean to imply that we only did the minutia: I sincerely hope we helped broaden and define and refine and actualize that vision in its infant stages. The driving force for every member of our team, in every decision and order and conversation, was faith to that vision. Every first con has its share of mistakes, and we did as well; but when you have excitement about and commitment to the vision, that tends to rise out of the madness.

And if you want to know how it all went down, I now have a great excuse to tell this story! How We Started a VidCon With Just One Year of Experience:

About twoish months after LeakyCon 2009, two things of note happened on the same day:

I missed a Skype chat from John Green
I missed a phone call from Hank Green

It was fall of 2009: the brothers Green were busy folk then but nowhere near the empire-leading media giants they are now. Still, it was far enough along in their worldbuild that I knew these things had to be related, and neither was an accident, and they either had something really cool to tell me or ask me, so I fumbled to answer.

“So, you know LeakyCon?” Hank asked me as though it was something at which we had greeted each other in passing, as opposed to something at which we had danced together so hard we had collapsed on the floor in a heap. 

“Yes,” I said, cautiously.

“Can you do that for us?”

He had a tiny laugh in his voice when he said it and then quickly explained his concept, which is what became VidCon. We hadn’t done much with these guys yet - we were barely past the Accio Deathly Hallows craze - but were easily excited to work with them further, easily able to see what worthy partners they would be. When Hank asked, though, I had two warring thoughts: a) he is a genius and this was an idea that is begging to be made into reality and b) I am still tired from LeakyCon 2009. So here’s what I said.

“No. But I know who can.”

I meant by that not myself but a triumverate: Steph Dornhelm,  MJ Harper, and me as a group. (Since late 2010 MJ has since been focusing on personal matters and no longer participates, but we still care a lot about her as a friend and former associate.) And, of course, legion of stalwart Leaky graduates alongside us. 

We were purposefully taking a break in 2010 from LeakyCon to shore up for 2011, and so when I called Steph and MJ and relayed the proposal to them (which would erase this gap year) it was met with that same sort of “oh, why not, what’s having a life, anyway?” sort of reaction that means “this is going to make our lives completely nuts but holy heck do we want to be part of building this thing so let’s just make it happen.”

We had a ton of help. We grabbed some of our favorite LeakyCon staffers and pulled them by the hair right into the thick of things. Not that any of them needed much convincing; they were all on board in an instant. In fact, one of them (Laura Chernikoff) is now the head of VidCon’s special guests, wrangling some ONE THOUSAND GUESTS LOL EVERY TIME I HEAR THAT I LAUGH SO HARD, IT’S LIKE MADNESS ONLY FUNNIER.

It was only the second event we’d ever run. But we learned for sure what we already suspected after Leaky 2009: when you have people at the helm (like Hank and John) who are actually devoted to their attendees and who put their needs first, who are adults with good intentions backed up by common sense, credibility, maturity, and belief in the value of what they are doing, you have the best chance of pulling that first event off. And people will get on board with that real fast.

People can sense capability and positivity. You will quickly find yourself surrounded by other capable and generous people, be that volunteers with spectacular talents and abilities (who will easily make themselves known to you) or special guests who can’t wait to get involved and help in whatever way they can.

That means for most first events, the inevitable flubs are completely understandable and forgiven in light of the greater goodwill of the event. Audio mixups get forgotten; happy special guests spend hours and hours signing autographs or playing pranks on each other that go viral on YouTube. It means sponsors throw themselves into bag stuffing (a repeated phenomenon, we’ve found) and when you forget to order an amp for a band, the front man does the opposite of freak out: he drives to a store and lays out $300 for one without complaint. (That was Dave Days, btw. I sometimes have trouble remembering the names of famous YouTubers, but those who were incredible to us that year will stick with me forever.)

So with that said, and realizing that this post doesn’t come out of a vaccuum, I made a little how-to, and it’s linked here. How We Started a Conference with No Experience.

I hope it is useful and informative, though what I really think will happen if you read it is you will be forever sworn off ever trying to start a conference.

May the cons be ever in your favor!

Oh God…remember the time Dave Days had to buy an amp for us? Thannnks Daaaave.

Also, never forget that VidCon 2010 began with the Gregory Brothers singing into dead microphones.

Thanks to Melissa for putting this little history together!

This is not the kind of con i thought he meant. Hank Green: Confidence Trickster.