What is BarCamp?

the scheduleOne of the most inspiring things I did last year was attend BarCamp Portland, and it’s here again this weekend.

BarCamp is essentially a conference without an agenda. A bunch of smart people get together for the weekend, spend a while Friday sticking post-it notes on a blank wall, and build their own schedule. Have a skill to share? Teach a class! Have a tough question to hash out? Host a discussion!

BarCamp is clearly born of the tech community. It has a wiki for session planning. Participants are encouraged to share their Twitter and blog addresses. Sponsors are a virtual “who’s who” of Portland tech startups.

But it would be a mistake to think the conference is “about” technology, or that you have to be a tech geek to get something good out of it. One of the first things I noticed last night was the number of women in attendance: as a rough guess, I’d say women jumped from about 10% to 30% of of the group since last year. Events on the schedule include “stitch and bitch,” “bikes and geeks,” and a session for DJs.

For me, the most promising aspect of BarCamp is the opportunity to explore new methods of collaboration. No group is more dedicated to removing the barriers to effective collaboration than computer geeks; an environment that invites them to consider and practice this stuff with a wider audience brings all kinds of good things.

On Sunday morning (10:00), I’ll be hosting a discussion that’s closely related to this blog: What’s the matter with democracy? How can the Internet-enabled world participate in developing a solution?

If you’re intrigued by BarCamp but can’t make it, WikiWednesday is a similar event that takes place once a month; also, this event this coming Tuesday looks promising.


5 Responses to “What is BarCamp?”

  1. Hey Pete, you should talk with Mark Frischmuth (@democracylab on Twitter, was here today) because he’s doing a similar thing.

  2. Hey I’m glad you posted and/or HAVE a picture of the post-it idea gathering/structuring activity – I had a brainstorm today about using this “pre-assessment” tool for teacher professional development and conferences – instead of teachers shlepping to workshops and talks that share info. we ALREADY KNOW, this approach would radically embolden everyone at the conference to come prepared to flexibilyb teach and share ideas and tools TOGETHER instead of the tired model of “I’m the expert bestowing knowledge and handouts unto YOU” model which makes for a passive learning experience that is sometimes useful but often useless because many teachers know what these presentations will consist of…

    Your assignment as writer or helper to me – pen a letter A) my administration and B) to the Oregon Council of Teachers of English suggesting this model and outlining how to do it and its effectiveness/dynamism.

    – Barcamp widow
    p.s.(did some gardening today – watched Caroline “plant” a sink in her backyard! – very DaDa)

  3. Pete – so happy you decided to use that photo of Reid!

    Cat K – I took that photo and a ton more that you can see at:


    The board layout and design was done by Audrey Eschright and Dawn Foster. I think the real key was a big wall, and lots of painter’s tape :)


  4. Hi Pete, we met at the advocacy conference in Eugene. BarCamp seems like something I could really get into, and I am sorry that I missed it by only a couple of weeks. I will be looking forward to the next one.

  5. […] under advocacy, collaboration | Tags: wikiway |   A while back, I wrote on my own blog about BarCamp and RecentChangesCamp, and all the excellent ideas that emerged from these conferences. Well, […]

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