A few ideas

To get warmed up for BlueLightCamp 2014, I wanted to share a few ideas about what you can expect and how to get the most out of it, especially aimed at potential attendees who might be wondering… what the hell are all these words like unconference and hackathon? What use can a weekend of this stuff possibly be for me? And especially on a weekend!

I’ve been going to unconferences – and the odd hack event – for several years now and I’m excited that this will be my second time helping to facilitate BlueLightCamp Unconference. Here’s why you should be excited too:

1. It’s your work, but without the hierachies and walls

#ukBlc14 UnconferenceBlueLightCamp’s special feature is that it brings together a whole bunch of people whose common thread – in most cases – is the emergency services. But in this environment, without uniforms or badges you won’t be able to tell whether someone is a commissioner, an intern or someone who in your normal day-to-day work you might call a ‘stakeholder’. The real point of unconferences is it doesn’t matter and you’ll find a refreshing openness in the discussions as a result. The development of the agenda at the beginning of the day and the wide choice of resulting sessions means that you can pursue your own interests and the topics exercising you most today, rather than the things some organisers thought might be of interest six months ago.

2. Anyone can pitch – even you, especially you!

Unconferences are, and can only be, what those present make of them. It’s worth having a think ahead of time whether you have topics that you want to talk about or really knotty problems you want to unpick. After the initial introductions everyone will be asked if they want to pitch a session. Listen out to see if anyone mentions your interests and if they don’t, get up and pitch your own idea.

3. You can ask stupid questions

Unconferences are the best kind of CPD (Continuous Professional Development) I’ve experienced, because you design it yourself. It’s as valid to pitch a session that asks for people who know about a particular issue to answer your burning questions as it is to present your own area of expertise. If you want to know, there’s a fair chance others will too. You get to meet real people inside big brand social media name – last year many of us had a fascinating time grilling the very patient Philip Almasari of Hootsuite about clever features and pricing structures. You’ll come away with new relationships and in effect a new learning community of people that you can carry on asking stupid questions to afterwards.

4. You’ll see cool stuff in action

Whether it’s new languages or amazing technology, Unconferences are a chance to see things from other people’s field of work that are normally just vague words. Bouncing around the BlueLightCamp ideas forum is a discussion about drones which I definitely hope turns into a session, if only so I can address my own fears of these metal flying spiders. Unconferences are a chance to see new things and imagine with other people what might be done with them. One of last year’s buzzes was about augmented reality and we saw an application where this was used to ‘see’ pipework underground without having to dig holes. Within emergency services but across government services too, these discussions have helped accelerate the use and understanding of cheap new services, open source technology and open data.

5. Anyone can go

Unconferences are open to anybody interested in the topic and it’s the mix of attendees that makes them really interesting. Sessions at last year’s BlueLightCamp last year looked at how communities and services can work together in emergency situations. Talk tends to be as much about building trust as building websites and you’ll find that whatever your area of expertise you will have something useful to share. You can register here.

Not long to go now – I look forward to seeing lots of new and old faces there!


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5 reasons to look forward to #ukblc14
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