Braindump of Blue Light Camp

On Sunday I went to Blue Light Camp – the unconference for people working within the emergency services (Disclosure – I work for the Police at the moment).

I want to do a proper write-up of the whole event but, while I am thinking that through, there are some quicky things that I want to jot down. So this is very much a braindump of stuff I was thinking about during the day (and since).

      1. At the beginning of the day we were asked to introduce ourselves and explain what we wanted to get out of the event in three words. My three words were: “Meet my Twitter Heroes” (OK, on paper it is four words, but “meetmy” was one word). MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! I actually got to chat with @NickKeane, @beaker9, @bailey9799, @SashaTaylor, @SamOnTheWeb, @PigsOnTheWing and @SC2221. Plus I found a whole load of new Twitter heroes – @JohnPopham, @IslandGovCamp (Who wasn’t there, but took part nevertheless), @SarahKateNorman (who is confusingly called Kate in real life), @BridgetAhern and @FlyGirlTwo. Also Isaac, who told me he would join Twitter as a result of attending Blue Light Camp (but hasn’t yet as far as I can see!). Even just being in a room with @DanSlee, @LeSteph, @AmandaComms and many others was pretty cool!
      2. I have been to quite a few unconferences now, and I still haven’t worked out the best way to “record” them. I have tried live blogging into PowerPoint, I have tried using a LiveScribe Smartpen, I have tried sending lots of tweets (kinda works), I have tried good-old-fashioned pen and paper. Tweeting seemed to work, except I found it harder to take part “in the room”. Also, because I was using Tweetchat.com to tweet (so I didn’t forget the hashtag) I didn’t see all the replies I got during the day (apologies to anyone – esp @IslandGovCamp – who replied to me during the day).
      3. Taking a multi-way extension lead will make you lots of friends (but only once people’s batteries start to die!)
      4. My Motorola Atrix (with full size bluetooth keyboard) is an awesome piece of kit for tweeting quickly – although one of the keyboard buttons fell off in my rucksack on the way home (grrr).
      5. I realised that there are (at least) three different types of Twitter search I regularly need to do – and I need different tools to do each one:
        • Instant Hit – what is happening NOW? When an incident is in progress, what is the latest information (latest tweets). I tend to do this with Twitterfall, or Twitter’s own advanced search.
        • What happened there? After an incident, as part of the washup, it is useful to have a copy of all the tweets around a particular search term. I tend to do this with Tweetreach.com, which helpfully archives up to 15000 tweets on a given subject (though you have to pay for it).
        • Reputation Management/Identifying Emerging Trends I have a number of searches that are constantly running (the name of the Police Force I work for, for instance). These allow me to see over time how the reputation of the organisation ebbs and flows. The related idea (which lots of people are striving for but no-one seems to have completely cracked yet) is spotting “unexpected burstage” – that is knowing what a “normal” level of tweets for any given subject is, and then receiving an alert whenever the number of tweets for that search exceed normal tolerance. This is similar to spotting extremely local trends (assuming that your search includes placenames). CrowdControlHQ has a tool that looks as if it can do this, but I have not yet got my head around using it properly.
      6. Police and Crime Commissioners are going to change Police communications completely when they arrive in November. They are politicians, so they don’t deal in facts and figures, they deal in stories. As a communicator I am used to writing stories, but I am not used to thinking “How is the politician going to interpret this”. Police Twitter accounts are going to provide PCCs with more ammunition than the pretty (and weighty) reports delivered once a month by the force analysis unit.
        In particular, I work for a force which encourages neighbourhood officers to tweet their location, and what they are doing. This is visible policing in the 21st century (don’t worry, there are still plenty of officers who can’t be seen on twitter!). As a PCC, or member of the public, this information will build up to a deployment map. Will a PCC avoid the temptation to ask why a particular place is not being visited regularly by police officers? I think it unlikely (especially if that is a marginal area for votes for them). This leads me to the next point:
      7. Open, public and transparent data means very little without context. If the twitter account for a borough shows very little activity in one town, that is only a problem if that town is also suffering a crime wave.
      8. Bubblino – the arduino powered bubble machine, which sends a stream of bubbles whenever a keyword is tweeted, sounds AWESOME! Manchester Fire and Rescue service apparently have one, and it is a very clever way of rewarding people for taking part in discussions and consultations (especially if it is combined with a Twitter wall like Twitterfall or, even better, http://thinkwall.com/)
      9. My personal unconference rule of attending one session which I have no knowledge of (or prior interest in) and letting serendipity take over, worked well (as it usually does). I went to a great session by a design student who was working on a better bag for Paramedics. Did you know that the average paramedic bag weighs 60kg? Or that, while some PCTs have standardised their bags, so any paramedic can use any other paramedics bag, other PCTs allow the paramedics to organise them however they like and don’t even standardise the kit they carry?
      10. There are lots of very clever people thinking about how to use Social Media in a crisis, and as an early warning system for major incidents, but it will never be perfect. For a start we have no idea which platform will be repurposed next time something kicks off. During Hurricane Katrina, the most popular place for up-to-date news was Wikipedia. As the very clever @FlyGirlTwo said:

BBM being used to organise the London riots – who saw that one coming?!

I hope to blog some more coherent thoughts at some point soon, but as @MattHeeley said (paraphrased) “It is better to blog a rough draft, than to have a rough draft sat waiting to be published”.

3 comments to Braindump of Blue Light Camp

  • I am the @IslandGovCamp tweeter (I am aka @sweynh , where I mostly go on and on about The Archers, the arts, #localgov, unparty politics, shopping in Kirkwall shops, my lunch/breakfast/snack, etc, etc, etc)

    I have never been described as a hero in any context before, that I can remember, so thank you very much for your mention here! I hope I can avoid falling off the pedastle, or being strangled by the halo, as my true character becomes apparent! What was all that stuff from Farida Vis about the difficulties of establishing trustworthyness online? Moving swiftly on ……

    Your points 2 and 5 are great topics. Firstly, when a remotee I would never expect instant replies to my tweets. I have attempted to record enough events (using twitter or whatever) when attending in person to know that it is VERY hard to get the balance between full inperson participation, and interaction with the internet (whether for recording purposes, or to interact with remotees). This is directly related to the difficulties (even using tweetdeck or hootsuite or similar) to interface with twitter on a mobile device! (Maybe there should be some more apps for this, specifically designed with reportage of events in mind ……….)Searching huge bodies of unstructured text (which is what twitter is, in the end) has been an academic discipline for decades, and trying to do it in real time, and then interact with and add to it is a HUGELY challenging thing to attempt!

    I have often noticed the attractions of a power extension cable – the only thing more popular than a four-way is a six-way (or 2) #NotAEuphamism (I also now want an Atrix or similar, and a Bubblino).

    Your points 6-7 and 8-9 are absolutely fascinating observations, at least to this twit whose interactions with the police have been very few (which in some ways has to be a good thing, right? 🙂 ) and mainly positive. For me the whole of #blcamp was “a session I knew nothing about”, and I now feel positively engaged, as a citizen, in topics I had never heard of before.

  • […] In Braindump of Blue Light Camp Andrew Fielding gets to meet his Twitter heroes and: My personal unconference rule of attending one session which I have no knowledge of (or prior interest in) and letting serendipity take over, worked well (as it usually does). I went to a great session by a design student who was working on a better bag for Paramedics. Did you know that the average paramedic bag weighs 60kg? […]

  • […] In Braindump of Blue Light Camp Andrew Fielding gets to meet his Twitter heroes and: […]

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