Bluelightcamp – Several Firsts

Yesterday was the first Bluelightcamp

Yesterday was the first time I attended an “unconference

Yesterday was the first time I identified myself personally to people as @thecustodysgt

Yesterday was the first time I met many people I have only ever conversed with on twitter.

Yesterday was the first of hopefully many subsequent visits to this and similar events.

I’m not going to go over the ground as to why I’m anonymous. You can read about that amongst other things on this blog on the Police and Social Media. So the question really is why I would go to an event where I could be identified as who I actually am? I had the same doubts and when I looked at the bookings page I had to provide my name. So much for anonymity then if I wanted to attend. I was wrong though because I traded tweets with @paulcoxon81 who was happy to confirm that I could register to attend using my twitter name. So, not knowing whether I had the bottle to attend or not I reserved a ticket on the basis I had a ticket and could always wimp out.

The date drew closer and I wanted to attend. My wife was onside so all looked good. I still fostered some doubts though and in the last week, having tweeted that I would be there I had a few excuses lined up just in case my fears took root.

In the last day or so I traded messages with Clare McGregor. She was aware I was parking out of the city and taking the tram. She offered to collect me. It was very kind but I declined as I had some additional plans on my way in. Besides she could have been an axe wielding murderer for all I knew. Then again so could I!

Either way I was now committed. I’m glad to say it was a very positive decision. I arrived at the venue, got my ID badge, a free wifi connection and collected my free t-shirt and mug. I was then directed to a room upstairs where I grabbed a coffee and realised this was going to be a cold day. Cold on the basis I knew nobody and nobody knew me! I sat with a chap from St John Ambulance whose name I cannot remember (Sorry). It was his first unconference too so we talked about what to expect.. which neither of us were sure of! We were finally called through to the opening presentations and on my way I bumped into Clare McGregor. She’s a lovely lady, very dedicated to her role and a pleasure to meet. She is a bit of a shrinking violet though and not keen on making herself heard! [/sarcasm] She put me at my ease and it was nice to speak to a familiar person even if only ever via twitter previously.

The next shock horror was live audio and in some cases video streaming! Here I was being bold but still hidden behind my anonymity only to be published on the web where anyone could see me! I have to say though that I’m not naive enough to think that I will remain anonymous forever. Some people have made many guesses and been way off the mark. Others disconcertingly close. It will come out one day. I didn’t actively avoid the cameras but I don’t have a face for film so was lucky to escape mostly.

The sessions were then punted and a timetable for the day drawn up.

My first session was looking at the Art of Deception. This was a really interesting discussion and covered many areas. I was particularly keen to discuss the issues surrounding forces providing misinformation or being “economical” with the truth in order to play down large scale disorder or incidents. Both myself and Mike Alderson both sang from the same hymn sheet on this stating that the truth was the only way forward however uncomfortable it may be. I also touched briefly on my thoughts about anonymous police officers on twitter or those who claimed to be police officers but with malicious objectives. I discussed some of this in my blog last week Getting it Right

We then broke for lunch and I got the opportunity to discuss a whole number of issues and topics with @Nickkeane, Mike Alderson of @OpenEyeComms and @bailey9799 of Staffordshire Police. I was beginning to understand very quickly the term “networking”. Not something I generally have to do in custody. I then spent some time chatting with @rorygeo of The Policy Exchange. Yes I did give him a little jibe about his colleagues inability to answer a question but it was given, taken and responded to in good humour. He is an affable chap and a pleasure to chat with. I also met up with @loumatt33 who had been sent to find me by @mrclivec who couldn’t be there

I then went on to three further sessions and used my right to the “rule of two feet” in a couple. It is an odd practice and feels odd getting up half way through and walking out. However, I left the bambuser debate as I had nothing to offer and landed in @rorygeo ‘s session where I could so it does work.

The next session was the use of internal social media hosted by a chap called Lawrence from Kent Police Communications dept. This really had my attention and I was engaged on this topic for the full hour. It was a really interesting debate and lots of information sharing from other agencies.

I ended the day on the reading the riots session hosted by @flygirltwo. After the previous session I was keen to hear some of what the guys from @yammer had to say so I moved on half-way through and got a bit from both.

The day ended with some prize giving and closing speeches. I sat wishing my number to be drawn out and then realised it was being video streamed onto the internet and the winners were having their photo taken with the event organiser @sasha_taylor. Fearing global identification I then sat there hoping my number wasn’t drawn out!!

I left the event and walked to the tram station. I got on a tram that was crushed to the ceiling with people and we all swayed our way down the line. When it came to get off I couldn’t get off for the people in the way. When I finally got to the door I had to fight past people trying to get on. Why they can’t wait until folk are off first I’ll never know. I felt cramped and crowded in. It was good to get in the car and head off into the wide blue yonder for the green fields and tranquility of home.

Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I met some wonderful people and a few who follow me. I will be there next year which sounds like it’s going to be a bigger and better event already. I look forward to it.


This is a more light hearted and general overview of my day. I have some further more detailed thoughts about BluelightCamp and I will commit these to another blog in due course.


8 thoughts on “Bluelightcamp – Several Firsts”

  1. I’m delighted you did decide to attend, TCS. It was entertaining and inspiring to meet you and so many others. It is slightly disconcerting still not to know your name but thank you for your openness in being there at all.

    I particularly loved that our first act in the ‘Art of Deception’ session was to unplug the live-stream microphone after sharing a little ‘misinformation’. Although I do apologise to anyone who really was trying to listen in.

    Finally HUGE thanks again to the organisers and all the other attendees who gave up such a gloriously sunny Sunday to make the Camp work so well.


    More than happy to be described as a ‘potential axe wielding murderer’, indeed ‘shrinking violet’ will probably have surprised people more, I certainly enjoy working with both!

    1. Ok. I know it’s hard for you. Believe me, as a natural honest communicator I was under incredible internal pressure not to blurt all my secrets out. Even so I still managed to divulge one snippet.

      On that basis I feel maybe it’s about time I let the world know my first name. It’s….



  2. This is a fascinating post – thanks! I attended #BLCamp (from Orkney) via John Popham’s video link: the first time I have attended a full day event in that way, and only my second govcamp. I was struck by your introduction/3-words-for-the-day – you were a twitter name I had not at that point heard (I put quite a few faces to other VERY familiar twitter names, though!). I could never have justified attending this event by travelling all the way to Manchester, as I have very little to do with public safety or civil contingencies in my work life; but the facility to be able to participate from a distance meant that I feel I learned a lot – much of it directly transferable to what I am trying to get done.I was very, very impressed by the enthusiasm I saw from those in Manchester for pragmatically getting the most out of whatever technology or online resource might contribute to the work that you all do.

    I am very grateful for your reflections here, and wish you all the best.

  3. Glad that you enjoyed the conference and found it useful. It was really interesting to be able to explore the issue of anonymity with you and discuss some of the pressures that drive that decision.

    Look forward to seeing you at some of the other conferences that are around (check out to find out what’s coming up). Thanks for the name check btw! Always appreciated.

    Mike (@openeyecomms)

    1. Pleasure Mike. Thanks for making my day that bit more productive. I’ll check out the website but in the meantime if there is anything you think would be appropriate then fire it my way.


  4. Glad you had a good day – interesting to read about it .. Don’t think it’s my cup of tea but may try one in future. You’re a better man than me speaking to someone from PX!

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