John Strand has a gift. He will be talking to someone and an outlandish idea will be floated in the course of conversation, and John will say, “Yes! Let’s do that!” From that point, the magic gathers and miracles happen. Yesterday’s 24-hour long marathon of “pre-show banter” is just one of many examples of this in action.
BHIS webcasts and other live-streamed events are famous for their “pre-show banter,” which typically starts a half hour before the main event. During that time, presenters, guests, and BHIS staff chat and visit and generally “hang out,” joking, telling stories, and sharing whatever comes to mind in the moment. This marathon event took the “third-space” idea and blew it up!
For those of you who missed it, beginning on Friday, October 15, 2021, at 11 am EDT, John Strand and a whole bunch of his friends spent 24 hours straight, talking, joking, telling stories, sharing life experiences, making music, and generally fooling around, all while live and streaming their shenanigans over YouTube. They didn’t do this just because they wanted to, all though I’m sure that probably was one of the factors involved. But no, the actual reason for this marathon of merriment and madness was to raise funds for a nonprofit organization called the Innocent Lives Foundation. ILF is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to finding the true identities of child predators using open-source intelligence, compiling conclusive reports, and handing the reports over to various types of law enforcement to help bring predators to justice. ILF also works to combat child sexual abuse material by educating parents and guardians on ways to talk to their children about their online activity.
The first ever PreShowBanterCon-A-Thon not only met its fundraising goal of $1,000 within the first hour or two of the event, but the total amount of funds raised exceeded $30,000. Chris Hadnagy, the founder of ILF, was present at the closing of the event, and was visibly moved, almost to tears by the generosity, not only of Strand and his friends, but of the people in the information security community who donated so generously. In his words, the money raised will go to help stop child predators, today and for years to come.
The master of ceremonies for this event, and for so many other events sponsored by BHIS, was none other than Mr. Jason Blanchard. Blanchard is formally known as the Content and Community Director at Black Hills Information Security (BHIS). He joined BHIS in 2019 and can be credited with expanding the community and outreach efforts several orders of magnitude beyond what they were prior to his arrival. Blanchard’s right-hand person, Deb Wigley, has been there every step of the way, helping to bring webcasts, video streams, and other community outreach efforts to anyone and everyone interested in BHIS and their activities within the cybersecurity community.
For the PreShowBanterCon-A-Thon, Jason not only served as master of ceremonies, ringmaster, and talk show host for the event, but he also stayed awake and online for the entire 24 hours of the event.
The list of people who participated in the event included, in no particular order:
Beau Bullock (Musical performance), Amanda Berlin, Joff Thyer, Ralph May, Chris Cochran, Ashley Pearson, Jacob Williams, David Kennedy, Josh Mason, Alethe Denis, Christopher Hadnagy, Gerald Auger, Robert M. Lee, Wade Wells, Blake Regan, Jack Rhysider, Ean Meyer, Phillip Wylie, Bryson Bort, Marcello Salvati, Olaf Hartong, Ronald Eddings, Jeff McJunkin, Penelope Rozhkova, Hal Pomeranz, Chris Sanders, Corey Ham, Craig Vincent, Mike Felch, David Fletcher, Rick Wisser, Jordan Drysdale, Troy Wojewoda, Ethan Robish, Ashley Shirley, Dale Hobbs, Tim Fowler, and many more!
Community participation was available through the YouTube chat feature, and through the BHIS Discord server. Bots on both platforms echoed community comments, as well, so none of the community commentary was lost if viewers only posted to one platform.
In a lot of ways, the PreShowBanterCon-A-Thon was reminiscent of the golden days of the annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon which raised money and public awareness about muscular dystrophy and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Intermixed with the jokes, stories, and sheer silliness, there were also calls to support ILF in their mission to help protect children and to raise public awareness, not only about ILF and their mission, but also about the very real hazards children and families face from predators who traffic and exploit children.
Based on the overwhelming success of this first event, there is virtually no doubt that there will be others, and that the sponsoring organizations will include other heavy hitters within the information security community. On a personal note, I can hardly wait.
As John likes to say, and said in his closing remarks, “Go forth and do good things.”
Thanks, John. I will do my best.