Our Favorite WELL Places

David Gans, Musician

The Media conference, which I co-founded 20 years ago, is a meeting place for articulate, wise, and knowledgeable people from a great variety of professions and philosophies. In deadlit, we talk about the music, art and community of the Grateful Dead; and in the Oakland conference, we discuss neighborhood and civic matters, compare notes on restaurants, recommend auto mechanics, and more. So much collective wisdom in an easy-to-use plain-text wetware wonderland.

Cynthia Dyer-Bennet, kitchen maven

I adore the Wildlife conference, with its threads about everything from octopus intelligence to building bat boxes; it’s a real WELL treasure. Elder.pri, a virtual respite zone for those of us caring for frail elders, has been an invaluable resource to me since 1995. And, as co-host of the Cooking conference, I’ve gained easily as much knowledge from my more expert compatriots as I’ve offered those seeking advice.

Joe Flower, healthcare futurist

I love the Writers conference, home to a wonderfully supportive community of all types of real working writers being real people together. Byline is full of inside info the working writer needs — contracts and contacts, editors and agents. Current gives me thoughtful insights — and some fiercely argued points of view — on what’s happening in the world.

Lisa Harris, Opinionated American Voter

As a (sort of) stay at home Mom, the Parenting conference is the place I need – good advice, daily reality checks, and hilarious stories from the parenting trenches. I love all things words and language, so I can’t be in The WELL without a visit to Words. And the Couples conference is a great place to vent and get good advice.

Maria Rosales, assistant professor

I teach political science, so of course I enjoy the Politics conference, where I learn something nearly every day. Before I hit Politics, I usually read Media, where people discuss all the important stories (and many trivial but compelling stories) in the news. For a complete change of pace, I’ll read the Life conference, a place where people tell their own personal stories, usually with honesty and compassion and insight.

Chris Barker, clinical trial statistician

I’ve gotten wonderful advice over the years about my sons in the Parenting conference, everything from finding a car seat to a preschool, and recently, on applications for college. I visit the Jazz conference regularly, where there are discussions on everything from Louis Armstrong to Carla Bley and Sun Ra. Before every vacation, I get travel advice in the Travel conference.

Farai Chideya, author, radio host

I love the Party conference because who doesn’t love a good party. And let me tell you, if you go to the annual Oysterfest, you will be licking your fingers with delight. The Writers conference is endlessly rewarding and amazing and humbling. And Classifieds is always a great place to pick up or gift the exact RIGHT THING…and give it away again if it doesn’t suit you.

Alan Turner, landscape architect

The first conference I visit is News, which is mainly about what’s going on around The WELL, but also has pointers to interesting news of the world. Then I move on to Media, which covers the public pulse so well I don’t have to watch TV: the conference members there do it for me. For fun I like the Words  conference. There’s always a game or punfest going on, or some idiosyncratic discussion about punctuation.

Wagner James Au, metaverse consultant

I’m a host of the Hawaii conference, and since I grew up on the islands before moving to California, it’s my home away from home; my co-host and I try to make the place a casual, welcoming place for kamaainas and visitors alike. I also host Screenwriters, for folks who write for TV and film, or just enjoy dishing about Hollywood, and I’m a regular in the Games conference, a great place to geek out on the latest PC and console titles.

Edward Rustin, financial developer

Being a bit of a foodie I gravitate toward the Cooking conference, where I reckon I’ve learnt more about cooking (and becoming very hungry in the process!) than from all the cookbooks I own. I’ve also got a big soft spot for etiquette.ind; they say manners make a man, and if I knew half as much as they do in there, I’d be the politest guy around! Then there’s Design, which has gone a long way towards helping me appreciate some of the beautiful objects in our lives, and how they’ve come to be.

Scott Underwood, communicator, coach

Long before I became its cohost, the Music conference was my first destination, followed later by Newmusic, its slightly younger neighbor. They’re both filled with people who listen to, play, and discuss music with a scary amount of knowledge and passion. And since I moved here six months ago, the San Francisco conference has been my main source of information about the fabulous city.

Tara L. Andrews, historian, programmer

My favorite WELL conferences are not necessarily the most-visited ones, but around here you can find a conference for all sorts of specialized interests. I am a frequent visitor to the Bike conference (when I’m not out on my bicycle.) The triumphs and travails of my Ph.D. course often drive me to gradschool.ind, one of The WELL’s Independent conferences. When I’m looking for something else to think about, I read up on the idiosyncrasies of my adopted country, Britain.

Paul Bissex, Web Developer, Teacher

The Web conference was a favorite long before I became its host — it’s a fount of knowledge for all levels. For hardcore technical apprenticeship as a programmer I head to the Software conference, always impressive for its members’ smarts and its near-absence of religious wars. Finally, I’ve been a motorcyclist for ten years and I’ve been a loyal member of the small and friendly Ride conference all the while. It’s my virtual motorcycle gang.

Anna Cox, nurse practitioner

I co-host the Women on The WELL conference; it’s open to any woman on The WELL and we talk about anything and everything! The Generation X conference often acts as my news source about the world, as well as about individual friends and what they’re getting paid to do today (you’d be surprised). Cars is the place I go to hear funny stories about stupid drivers, great vanity plates, and indulge my enjoyment of all things four-wheeled that go vroom!

Charles Haynes, software guy

I love cooking and eating, so my top two favorite conferences are easily Cooking and chow.ind. Cooking to talk about cooking food, and chow.ind to talk about eating it. After that it gets harder, since there are so many great conferences to choose from, topics ranging from sex and sexuality to photography or jazz music. I’d have to say though that I love San Francisco in all its many facets so the San Francisco conference is my other home on The WELL.

Pamela McCorduck, author

I jump-start my writing day by going to The WELL. I’m a New Yorker, so it’s fun to muse over local stuff in the New York conference. I also live part-time in the Rocky Mountains, and the Rockies conference is a friendly place to discuss topics like global climate change without yelling at each other. And then there’s Yoga. Something to do, not talk about? Nobody on The WELL is at a loss for words on any topic.

Iván Cavero Belaunde, software engineer

Ever since I joined The WELL, the Mac conference — which I host — has felt like a second home, where there’s always someone ready to discuss Cupertino’s latest gizmo. The Media conference, with its contingent of incredibly knowledgeable people and on-the-nose, witty commentary, was what attracted me here in the first place. And Obsess, where no topic about any particular pet obsession is unwelcome, is incredibly entertaining and addictive.

Jessica Mann Gutteridge, lawyer

One of the best things about The WELL is that it’s not just online, but real and lasting friendships happen offline too. I love the New York conference for that, plus talk about real life, like finding an apartment or what’s new in city politics. Popcult brings a hilarious, profane, and surprisingly insightful point of view to popular culture. My inner critic gets a daily workout in the Television conference, where members parse the latest episodes with the attention to detail of a Shakespeare seminar.

Stephanie Vardavas, attorney

I have always loved the Weird conference because “weird” only begins to describe it. I love the Plumage conference because my friends and I never get tired of talking about clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, and grooming, and because on Oscar night we cast all discretion aside and call it like we see it. And the Media conference is as rich and huge and fast-moving as media culture itself.

James Barcelona, technologist

In the Singles conference you get candid dating advice that works. Questions like “How do you approach a stranger?” or “How do I kiss someone on a first date?” really intrigue me, and I’ve found the advice there to be really helpful. The San Francisco conference is great for getting to know local San Franciscans, and learning about apartments and tickets to great shows. I’m the host of the Philosophy conference. If I wasn’t, it still would be my favorite conference.

Ed Ward, writer, broadcaster

Living overseas, my information needs are different: without access to U.S. media, I find it’s essential to read the Media conference to stay aware of what keeps Americans buzzing. Naturally, I also check in to the Europe.ind conference daily, and Cooking has been a source of great tips and has certainly expanded my, um, horizons.

Mary Mackey, novelist and poet

I’ve been going to The WELL almost every day since 1992. I check out News for thoughtful, intelligent discussion about what’s going on in the world; Health for advice on everything from pneumonia to hangnails; and Jokes, which often makes me laugh so hard I spit tea on the screen.

Christian Crumlish, Pattern Detective

The Pop Culture conference is a guilty pleasure where I can catch up on catty celebrity gossip, plastic surgery disasters, and rehab diaries. I started the Blog conference with my co-host to serve the many bloggers on The WELL. The conference is lively and has grown rapidly. I’ll also mention Inkwell, the conference where we interview authors and other notables in public. There’s always something good going on in there.

Doug Masson, attorney

I am a political junkie, and the heat-to-light ratio in the Politics conference is very favorable — there’s a lot of substantial discussion without a lot of name-calling. The Sports conference features the day-to-day discussion of all kinds of sporting events, but the best things about the conference are the annual football and March Madness pools. Finally, the Legal conference is where I go to share war stories and get advice and dark humor from the grizzled old war horses.

Fleur Helsingor, webmaster

I live in Oakland, California, and enjoy spending time with my friends on The WELL, both in the Oakland conference and in real life. In the Arts conference, I can talk with other artists working in a variety of media in a worldwide community. Whenever I want to visit another time and place entirely, I like to go find out what’s new and exciting in the Science Fiction conference.

Patrick Madden, writer

The WELL is an intriguing melange of characters and conversations, and an all-eclipsing addition to my internet ‘hood. The burgeoning GenY conference is my baby of late, and I’m interested to see how it grows and develops. The Poetry conference is lovely for fans of the stuff, like myself, and I enjoy the Words conference for banter (witty or otherwise) and general tomfoolery.

Brady Lea, playwright/teacher

My home on The WELL is the convivial chow.ind. It’s the best place online to talk about food — eating it, cooking it, going out for it, and heck, even making dioramas from it. You’ll also find me in the San Francisco conference, which I co-host. There we discuss all aspects of city life from arts to sports to politics to — okay, eating again. I’m also a fan of Plumage, where a fashion reality check is always available from friendly cohorts.

Angie Coiro, radio show host

I love the Media conference. Perspectives on journalism from insiders and interested observers – can’t beat it! Thrift helps me de-emphasize my inner Consumerist Beast. And over in the Ebay conference, I share (and get!) selling and buying tips, for when the Beast has to come out!

How about you?

Members of The WELL are invited to join in with comments on your three favorite conferences. Please post your own favorites into this conversation in Metawell, the ongoing forum about The WELL (the business and the community) itself.