Going on a jolly

Posted on April 29, 2010


New Monkey feature: I know that some of you prefer the short, punchy posts to these wordier ones. For the benefit of that demographic, I’m going to offer a summary of longer posts in the form of a haiku. Here’s today’s:

Monkey wants some fun
And maybe to learn a bit
At taxpayers’ expense

We can't stop here. This is eyebrow country!

It took an F3‭ ‬conference for me to realise that I had a problem with my eyebrows.‭ ‬We were on our way back from Tortworth Hall in‭ ‬2005,‭ ‬me and a since-retired colleague.‭ ‬He was driving because I was feeling very poorly indeed,‭ ‬a result of drinking heavily in good company the night before.‭ ‬I had my head stuck part-way out of the window‭ (‘‬driving doggy-style‭’‬,‭ ‬I call it‭) ‬and noticed something moving in the side mirror.‭ ‬Closer inspection showed it to be my eyebrows,‭ ‬which were flapping in the slipstream.‭ ‬I remember thinking,‭ ‬with the sunshine-after-the-rain clarity that some hangovers give,‭ ‬that if one’s eyebrows are long enough to flap in the wind then they’re probably out of control.‭ ‬For the rest of the trip home I had the mantra‭ ‘‬My eyebrows are become death,‭ ‬destroyer of worlds‭’ ‬ricocheting around my head.‭

It’s been a long time since I went to a forensics conference.‭ ‬Racking my brains,‭ ‬I think my last one was the Eyebrow F3.‭ ‬Our unit has a poor track record of attending forensics community events‭ ‬-‭ ‬for quite a few years we’d send two people to the F3‭ ‬and that was it.‭ ‬No E-crime,‭ ‬no ACPO,‭ ‬nothing else.‭ ‬These days we’re a bit more visible, but not by much.

Now I’ll accept that there are a lot of conferences out there,‭ ‬and a lot of them are crap.‭ ‬Often you only have to read the itinerary and speaker list to know instantly that it’s just a platform for those slick-suited hangers-on who get themselves on every board and panel, or for equally slick-suited salespeople.

Many of the conferences,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬are excellent.‭ ‬Speaking to colleagues coming back from the F3,‭ ‬Microsoft LE and others,‭ ‬there’s a lot of knowledge being thrown around and some fantastic networking to be done.‭ ‬This last point can’t be emphasised strongly enough‭ ‬-‭ ‬in a field where barely a month goes by in which you don’t come up against something you haven’t seen before,‭ ‬having a well-filled phonebook is absolutely vital.‭ ‬The forums and mailing lists are good,‭ ‬and can be a wonderful source of support,‭ ‬but being able to put faces to the names and spend a couple of full days in the company of forensics geeks is an essential part of cementing the relationships built up online.‭

It’s not just the social side either.‭ ‬Amidst all the socialising and heated debate in the bar,‭ ‬I was amazed to find that conferences have presentations and speakers as well‭ – ‬and some of them are very helpful.‭ ‬We all get our own areas of interest and specialism,‭ ‬and it’s good to know who’s doing what.

With all this conferencey goodness going on,‭ ‬I think it’s very short-sighted of management to be so stingy about sending more people, particularly if proper training courses are in short supply.‭ ‬Some places seem to almost empty out for the big events,‭ ‬and there’s a lot of wisdom in doing this:‭ ‬there’s the networking and learning sides that I’ve mentioned,‭ ‬but it’s also a relatively  inexpensive‬ team-building exercise‭ – ‬send the team away for a couple of nights,‭ ‬let them mingle and imbibe,‭ ‬and they’ll come back all the better for it.‭ ‬OK,‭ ‬the person who keeps putting digestives in the biscuit tin might end up garrotted in his bed,‭ ‬but that’s just natural selection. For the cost of a few hotel rooms for a couple of nights, it’s a very good deal – you send a unit away and they come back refreshed, re-enthused and full of new ideas. And if we learn a bit about our personal grooming standard, all the better. What’s not to like?

In my last post, I announced that I’d started a Monkey wishlist on Amazon. I was very surprised and rather touched to get a couple of items through my door this week and I’d like to thank the contributors. It’s great to be appreciated.