First reflections on BlueLightCamp 2014

Had a great day at BlueLightCamp. Met some old friends, made some new friends, put some faces to Twitter handles. Got inspired. Thought about old things in new ways and thought about new things. Great job by Sasha, Clare, Christine, Mark, Simon and loads of others. The OS building is great. Here are some random bullets of my take aways.

Drones are here. They are cheap and accessible. They will get cheaper and more frequent. They clearly have significant public service benefits, there are legitimate concerns about their potential uses by the state (and companies) and there are real opportunities for their malicious uses. These are not hypothetical issues for some scientific future they are live, presenting issues. In a world where we are not reliably factoring social networking into our emergency plans are we, in fact, ready for the drones that are with us.

Robots next. We didn’t get into this but robotics is making rapid and interesting strides accelerated by an open source community and additive manufacturing. Drones and robots and 3d printers. I want that job.

We are making progress. Two years ago VOST felt like a solution in search of a problem. This time it seemed to be an answer to some real questions people were asking.

What is it legitimate for the state to do using open source intelligence? @wobable’s session was really thought provoking. Here’s how I see it. We haven’t agreed as a society what we want the state to do with the information we make public. What we regard as a legitimate use of our public conversations probably varies depends on who we are, what the circumstances are and which bit of the state is looking. A police force scanning Twitter for keywords during a public order policing operation probably feels more legitimate than a local authority drilling through Facebook to see who might have been dropping litter in a park. I’m making a set of assumptions here. On the other hand if the state stays out of these rich public environments then citizens might have a right to regard them as failing in their civic duty to engage with the people where the people are. The author of a Demos report into this a couple of years again says a reasonable expectation of privacy is a good way to start. It feels to me that a statement of policy with regards to open source intelligence would be a close second. Maybe we could crowd source something?

Terence Eden is a very clever and engaging man. I am not doing enough to disrupt my organisation. I am not encouraging and enabling innovation. We are not doing enough paper prototyping. We need a 3d printer. And a drone. And a robot. My team is pretty rapid though. 6 weeks to build new things. Pshaw!

I want to do more with Public-I.

We have so far to go with open data. And with data generally. And with helping the leaders of our organisations understand digital, and data, and networked society.

Your Chief Constable does not need to understand Twitter. I truly believe this. I’m not saying she shouldn’t understand Twitter. I’d be happy if she did. But Twitter is not a strategic issue. Twitter is a symptom of a strategic issue. The relationship between citizens and the state is changing. Power is becoming differently distributed as is legitimacy. Many of the assumptions upon which our democratic society is based are shifting. These are the things your Chief Constable (chief exec, Leader, CFO etc) should be concerned with. Not Twitter. They have you for Twitter.

Picture a Silver meeting. Serious folk are gathered around screens and maps. On a wall quiet and professional folk are updating the COmmonly Recognised Information Pictues (or whiteboard you might call it). Information is being shared rapidly and effectively between agencies. Joint decisions are reached and tasks are passed out to organisations. There is an atmosphere of urgency, seriousness and focus. Got that? Now imagine that you take out one of the walls and a bunch of your citizens are standing there. They want to join in. They want to see the CRIP. They want to give you data. They want to collaborate. This is a growing expectation. People do not want to get in, stay in and tune in. They want to join in. Not all of them and not always or to the same extend. But they do want to join in. We have the technology to make this happen. So what’s stopping us?

It’s a long way to Southampton but it is really important to get out of the day job and look at things from a different perspective with different people. Really important.