Friday, 16 January 2015

ICO’s 2015 conference – nearly time to meet your fellow data practitioners

The clock’s ticking down to the next ICO conference in Manchester on 2 March.

Applicants have just been told whether they are among the 750 who have automatically been allocated a place, or whether they will have to join the conference delegate waiting list. Don't panic if you didn't get in first time round. As is the case with other gigs, additional production seats are usually released just prior to the event.

But even if you haven’t got a ticket, there’s no need to feel that all is completely lost. Last year, even though they weren’t on the official entry list, couple of enterprising people travelled to Manchester anyway and, as they looked presentable (and had £50), they were admitted into the conference venue.

This time, how many delegates will pay their £50 conference fee and subsequently fail to turn up on the day, so denying someone else the opportunity of benefiting from the great occasion? Last year, there were a fair number of delegate badges that remained untouched on the registration desks. The names of those absentees were noted, however, so presumably they won’t be offered an automatic place this year.

The lineup looks promising. The usual slot from Commissioner Christopher Graham, together with a few mystery guests who are yet to be announced. “The Smiths” (aka DP’s David Smith and FOI’s Graham Smith) will be doing a turn again – but the audience really must listen more carefully to their jokes this year. The last time they appeared together they peppered their act with irreverent references to songs by “The Smiths”, but hardly anyone in the audience realised what was going on. Cummon guys, listen up and appreciate the jokes. Just in case they open with the same routine this year, I urge delegates to brush up on their Smiths discography

You may have heard rumours that the pair are unlovable, or that their jokes aren’t funny any more – but that’s a miserable lie. You won’t fall asleep while they’re performing. They’re really not that strange. They try not to paint a vulgar picture of the compliance world, as they see it.

Much as I would like to hear them, the ICO chorus are unlikely to be singing at the event this year. Nor will the newly-formed group the "Commission's Data Collective "– comprising the 3 EU Vice Presidents who share responsibility for data protection.  Reports that they’re currently finding it too hard to sing from the same hymn sheet are surely wide of the mark.

Anyway, now is the time for the confirmed delegates to log on to the conference site and sign up for two seminar sessions that take their fancy. There are six choices, and if they’re lucky, delegates get to attend their top two. No doubt there will be some frantic plea-bargaining like last year, as a few are heard to sob “Please, please, please, let me get what I want”.

The event, like last year, will be in 2 parts. The first will be at the Convention Centre, and will last from 9am – 5pm. The second part is generally more boisterous, and is traditionally held on the17.35 Virgin train, from Manchester Piccadilly back to London Euston. This is where some delegates really let their hair down.  With community singing, topped off by a chorus of  “Heaven knows, we’re miserable now” as the train passes Milton Keynes and slows down on its final approach into Euston station.

It’s a great day out. And, if they listen hard, the delegates will learn something new, too.