Jun 182007

Thoughts On The BeCamp UnConference

If "all the good stuff at a conference happens in the hallway", an self organizing un-conference is way to have nothing but "hallway".

I attended such a conference this last weekend, and it was great.

BeCamp was Charlottesville's local instance of BarCamp, a self-organizing tech fest.

Following geek naming convention, BarCamp is the open version of O'Rielly's Foo Camp, which is invite-only.

What was so interesting about the event is that it self-organized: attendees planned it Friday night on-the-fly (missed that part myself, sadly), using a big white-board and full-page post-its to lay out sessions.

The schedule continued to evolve on Saturday, as anyone could add or move a session by adjusting that board.

Some sessions were led by leaders, others were more discussions; the quality of sessions was quite high.

About 50 or 60 really nice smart tech folks attended. Great location (Fry Springs Beach Club) and delicious food and beer.

Totally free -- no fees for conference, t-shirt, wifi, beer, or kebabs -- all covered by generous sponsors. So kudos and thanks to all BeCamp sponsors:

(We're looking forward to sponsoring the next camp, sometime this fall.)

I met a bunch of really nice local tech folks and enjoyed a day of geek talks: scaling Ruby, Firebug, advanced CSS, tools for distributed teams, intro Scrum, and the history and future of the tech community in C'ville.

The self-organization really worked and was cool to watch happening.

Would this self-organizing meeting format work for other fields, beside technology?

Would this work for, say, an online marketing conference?

Or would the retailer/vendor divide get in the way of sharing?

Not sure, but after thoroughly enjoying my first un-conference, I'm a new fan of the format.

I'll suggest self-organizing days to the good folks at search and marketing shows like Shop.org, NEMOA, SES, and IR.

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