2010-02-14: A BarCamp is a conference with some key differences. What excited me about the idea, realised at BarCamp Bradford, is that it's a user generated conference. It's the delegates who present. It's a sharing of ideas.
The key moment around which a BarCamp pivots is when the empty framework for the day is posted on the wall, a call to action is given, and the delegates, armed with marker pens, volunteer their presentations into empty slots. Ten minutes later, you have a completely planned conference.
Typically that free sense of giving and sharing is complemented by free coffee and pizza (cake, too, at Bradford) and the whole event is free. Also, in moving between tracks (BarCamp Bradford had four) and from presentation to presentation there's plenty of opportunity for networking and meeting great people. This is aided by the fact that these are more or less amateur presentations which sometimes finish early (in one case for me at Bradford, so early that as I sat down the presenter said "so, any questions?")
Because a BarCamp is created by the people attending, they are free to give presentations on whatever they like. So you can have a public transport BarCamp and you'll have a taxi driver, the local councillor responsible, someone from the Green Party talking about emissions, and someone from a traffic planning organisation saying how they could fix it given the chance. In other words, it's a real mix of people with enough gumption to get up and talk about it. Cool, engaged people, in other words. Where else would they mix?
But also it comes from the open source community, the sort of people who brought you Firefox, Linux, Blender, Audacity and pretty much all of the Internet by sharing ideas and working together freely. A BarCamp open-sources its organisation, providing the bare bones of a structure and trusting the delegates to make the conference their own. Good people, people who would share their food and look out for you, like BarCamps.
As part of Digital Scarborough, there's (this link has now been amended, see discussion below) BarCamp Scarborough except .. it isn't. It's 'loosely based' on the principles of BarCamp. Well .. which principles? It's free to attend, but that's about it.
There's only one track, so there are fewer mixing opportunities. But crucially, it's no more a user generated conference than any other conference. Eight presentation slots which you have to apply for ahead of time, which implies someone will decide who gets to present. That's the opposite of a BarCamp.
At Bradford Barcamp for most delegates it was their first ever BarCamp. What I'm upset about with the Scarborough BarCamp is that it's not a BarCamp, but whoever has organised it has used the word. Perhaps they thought it was cool. Maybe they don't really get what the point of a BarCamp is. There are plenty of people around who for whom open source hasn't clicked yet. Possibly they didn't think it mattered that much .. whatever it takes to make the event a success. I don't know, I'm just guessing, that's what it feels like, reading the material on the website. Perhaps whoever's behind it has laudable motives that I haven't discerned, if I hear anything I'll let you know.
But I think it takes from the idea, the brand, of BarCamp, without giving. Scarborough BarCamp isn't a BarCamp. So delegates might come away with the idea that a BarCamp is just a mini conference. It's not. Well, Scarborough's is. A BarCamp is a people-led help-each-other mindshare, and that's a beautiful thing. This isn't that.
I'm not saying I'm going to boycott it or anything. I am just very upset that the Scarborough BarCamp organisers seem to have taken the good bit (the name, the buzz and the kudos) without respecting what it stands for that gives it the buzz in the first place. It pollutes the water for those who follow. It has upset me. But, hey, worse things happen in Withernsea.
Update: there's been discussion on Twitter as a result of this:
thejawline: @JohnAllsoppIM talk to Richard Askew, he'll explain more about Digital Scarborough 2010 Barcamp http://richardaskew.co.uk/ :)
thejawline: @JohnAllsoppIM his twitter is @richaskew 2:51 PM Feb 14th from web in reply to JohnAllsoppIM
richaskew: @JohnAllsoppIM @sfrost2004 it is loosely based on the principles of a BarCamp (i've never been to one) with a little more planning 5:07 PM Feb 14th from web
richaskew: @JohnAllsoppIM @sfrost2004 There is no budget - at all. anyone can present, on any topic, its free, its going in the right direction 5:13 PM Feb 14th from web
richaskew: @JohnAllsoppIM If we get enough interest then it can run as a normal BarCamp. Numbers are crucial and Scarborough isn't a large city 6:18 PM Feb 14th from web
richaskew: @JohnAllsoppIM @sfrost2004 I take your concerns on board and I will put it to the other organisers. 6:23 PM Feb 14th from web
nipclaw: @JohnAllsoppIM @rah_rah @Charonqc @nooption @LightbulbDesign @Little_Lawyer Many thanks for your good wishes.
electric_angel: @richaskew @sfrost2004 for what it's worth, i think @JohnAllsoppIM is right. a 'bar camp' needs to be a bar camp
electric_angel: richaskew @sfrost2004 @JohnAllsoppIM don't want to be critical though - i'm excited at all the stuff happening and glad to help promote it
richaskew: @electric_angel @richaskew @sfrost2004 @JohnAllsoppIM Agreed and it will be if people show - no registratnts from Scarborough yet
sfrost2004: @JohnAllsoppIM I wanted a true BarCamp originally, but some on the DS10 cttee thought no-one would come. Hence prebooked guests compromise about 9 hours ago from Echofon
richaskew: @sfrost2004 @JohnAllsoppIM changed wording on the site. It can't be relaxed anymore people need to register like at Bradford
sfrost2004: @JohnAllsoppIM I'd love to comment on your last blog post (but can't on your blog)...you seem to make a lot of unfounded assumptions
sfrost2004: @richaskew @JohnAllsoppIM @electric_angel Just to correct a few misunderstandings: #BarCampScarb is totally free #digiscarb
sfrost2004: @JohnAllsoppIM #BarCampScarb is open source. All presentations should be made available afterwards, as per #BarCamp philosophy #digiscarb
richaskew where are you making these changes, I see none here 9:40 AM Feb 16th from web in reply to richaskew
richaskew OK, I see the changes and appreciate the dialogue. about 24 hours ago from web in reply to richaskew
and, slightly out of synch, here's what I got back yesterday:
@JohnAllsoppIM Due to funds (none) we have room for 35 people, some refreshments. We need sponsors to do what you want, not enough time. 8:52 AM Feb 16th from web
richaskew: @JohnAllsoppIM text has been changed re allocation. Twitter isn't the medium for this discussion. It would have been simpler to email us. 8:53 AM Feb 16th from web
richaskew: @JohnAllsoppIM allocation enabled us to ensure we have a full program. People to stand up and be counted or loose out to leeds etc yet again 8:56 AM Feb 16th from web
richaskew: @JohnAllsoppIM so now it is a BarCamp apart from we can't provide free food - I reckon that is close enough for the first run. agreed? 9:01 AM Feb 16th from web
richaskew: @JohnAllsoppIM Well they are there - no mention of allocation now - Refresh Cache? It is how it is now. Either get behind it or don't 10:06 AM Feb 16th from web
So where are we now? I have to say that last Bushian ("you're either with us or against us") comment doesn't sit well, but looking at the amended text I expected it not to address my main concern which is: who decides who is presenting .. it has to be the delegates themselves.
Well now it doesn't mention selection, they just want an idea of numbers so maybe it is close enough. I need to let this settle, but I'm a lot happier with the way it's presented now. I'm making a presentation next week so if that works I'll make a decision.