It was 3 years ago or so i had the itch to put together a Bsides Event in my home town, i’d worked in this industry for about 20 years now, i’d make a really good set of relationships from a large number of companies.
I wanted to give something back, that was an event in the middle of my city. I arranged a call with incredible Jack Daniel and he spoke to me for about an hour on his porch swatting away various insects in the summer heat. He carefully explained to me, someone with no event organizing experience how to bring together sponsors, attendees, speakers and everything else in between
Then, BSides Liverpool was born.
In late 2016, i arranged with my then team mates at Fujitsu how i would plan the event. We’d have various tracks on security including a rookie track. I’ve found i get an incredible amount of enjoyment out of mentoring, so i was excited at this prospect.
Now, it was originally planned for the Summer of 2017, then 2018. You get the picture. Late in 2018 i bit the bullet and registered a twitter account with the name of bsideslivrpool, as the original ‘bsidesliverpool’ was already taken.
This was a huge step for me, famously procrastinating over select details. I received a DM a few weeks later asking who was behind the account (It was Jenny Radcliffe!), having already reached out to a few people. i couldn’t think of anyone better than Jenny Radcliffe. I’d known Jen for a few years having been bewitched by her incredible social skills, someone who can put a complete stranger at ease and get anyone onside in moments is an amazing skill, it’s no wonder she is called the People Hacker. I had assembled an amazing team already.
Myself & Jen quickly realised that someone like ourselves with all the Scouse determination was likely not going to be able to orchestrate an event at this scale! However, we both knew someone who did! Step forward Mr Stuart Coulson. Stu, my friend, my mentor is someone who i’ve grown to respect every single day with a level of integrity unmatched in this industry, he was at the very first public talk i ever gave in Blackpool and gave me some incredible feedback.
We both agreed he would be a perfect fit on the team, befitting of a inaugural event from someone who did this sort of planning for a living. I was proud to welcome to Stuart on board as a co founder and organiser.
One final person to join the organising committee was the wizard Antisocial Engineer, who can do things with a keyboard that i wish i could!
The event gathered some incredible sponsors, we hit our goal very quickly! Thanks to the teams efforts we got the swag, the venue, the speakers, the attendees tickets and helper squad sorted.
The above two sentences don’t do justice to the large number of Skype calls, the telephone calls, the Slack messages, WhatsApp conversations we covered over 6 months of consistent badgering for sponsors, CFP and other stuff. I can’t do it justice here it’s just not possible.
The event arrived, June 29th which was comically the hottest day of the year, we put the event up in the Maritime Museum, made solely from bricks and mortar and what felt like zero air con. I had badgered/asked some incredible researchers to come and speak at the event, they delivered — Thank you all.
The event went without issue, or so i thought.
There was a tweet, there is always a Tweet.
A now deleted tweet pointed out the panel was made up of 4 white males, one being my friend Stuart Coulson. Another containing two long standing members of the security community who had been drafted in at literally days notice to fill in for a panel which was beset with tragedy. The final member was a relative rookie, talking about how his journey into information security has been (18 months iirc)
Our team put an untold number of hours into developing this conference, and when there is negative, or unconstructive feedback, i, personally take this extremely personal. I come from a very poor background, and i am disabled, and understand somewhat how difficult and painful this industry can be as a minority, to have someone pass judgment on a single photo which in the cold light of day was a all white male panel, shows us the event in a poor light. The ‘drama’ that gets passed around is the result of systemic problem Twitter has in everyone has an echo chamber and you usually end up arguing with everybody without a response to the original problem, this was a perfect example of that.
We received incredible support both in the Twitter thread and verbally, i would like to thank you ALL for your support for the event.
I took this personally, as i often to i felt responsible. As someone who thinks of themselves as someone with the ability to manage the expectations of many whilst balancing the nuanced realistic expectations. i saw Twitter in the most disgusting way i’d ever seen. I saw abuse directed at my teammates, i saw a racial slur used to describe the panel. I hated it all, i absolutely hated it — all because of a photograph.
I’ve spoken to the team, and i will no longer be an ‘organiser’ of BSides Liverpool, I will be around to support my friends 100% but the team needs someone who is mentally stronger than me, who isn’t as emotionally attached to things as i am.
There is nothing wrong with being passionate about something, but when that passion becomes pain, it’s time to take a look outside. This may all seem a bit dramatic and it probably is, i just felt the need to respond in my own way.
Thank you to Jen, Stu, Rich, Jack, Lee.