Let’s Not Overanalyze Reason Rally Attendance

This isn’t something I want to write a blog post about while I’m this tired, but shutting up isn’t something I do well when tired either.

Let’s lay off the deep analysis of why Reason Rally wasn’t bigger. I know it’s a grand sport and an opportunity to air all our pet theories about the movement, but there just isn’t enough information there to work with. In a lot of ways, it’s a secular miracle the rally happened at all.

Sarah Morehead left an incredible mess when she was removed from the organizations she was running. We now know both Apastacon and Recovering from Religion spent time unable to access even their bank accounts. We know that she wasn’t sharing the documentation she needed to with the rest of the people in her orgs. We know she said she’d done work she hadn’t. We know she stirred up conflict to cover for it. We know she committed at least one organization to a huge expense without having any way to pay for it.

She did the same things at Reason Rally from what I understand. I’ve heard from a few volunteers about challenges they had that matched this pattern. I’ve expressed sympathy to some people working on the rally based on assuming the same patterns held there and seen relief on their faces that someone understands the parts of this they can’t talk about.

By and large, the Reason Rally was organized in about six months. That’s not enough time for a normal event of this size, but the rally was built on a pre-existing foundation of chaos, expense, and suboptimal decisions rather than getting a clean start.

Does that mean every decision from that point was perfect? Well, no. No one runs an event without coming away with a list of things to improve next time.

What it does mean is that there were a lot of decisions made that weren’t choices but necessity. Deadlines were necessarily missed. Money wasn’t spent because it didn’t exist or was already committed elsewhere. Movement stakeholders weren’t brought in or asked to help because there was literally no time in the right people’s schedules to figure out who was willing and reach out, and those stakeholders didn’t reach in on their own.

I’m one of those people, honestly. There are things I should have done with regard to the Reason Rally that I didn’t, especially given how important I think it is. But me going to AHACon last weekend and the rally this weekend is my year slowing down. So I showed up at the conference yesterday morning and asked them to put me to work, and that was very close to the extent of my involvement. Nor am I the only person with opinions on how things went who was in a position to do more and didn’t.

I will say this about Lyz Liddell’s running of the Reason Rally, though. Anyone who wants to run an event with a volunteer staff should talk to her. (Not all staff were volunteers, but I don’t think anyone got paid even minimum wage on the time they put in.) You know, after she’s caught up on sleep. Reason Rally volunteers worked their asses off, but they were very well cared for. When they had too much to do, it was more a matter of ambition to make the most of a once-in-four-years event than not having enough people for the basics. Even in the middle of all the condensed planning, Lyz took care of people who were having a rough go of it. And she put great people to work.

So I’m not going to play analyst on the turnout, and it’s not because I want to focus on the positive. There’s such a huge noise in this signal that I just don’t think there’s much to be gained. I’ll just say that if you weren’t there, you missed out, both on the planned events and on all the people who did show up.

Thank you to everyone who got us there.

Let’s Not Overanalyze Reason Rally Attendance