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Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 2 months ago

FooCamp BarCamp differences


Fixes for FooCamp do not necessarily make sense for BarCamp


Aaron Swartz wrote a piece on his blog titled Improving the Foo Camp Format where he proposed some ways to improve the session proposing/scheduling process at FooCamp. In the comments some folks have suggested applying his proposal(s) to BarCamp.


In short I think the proposal may be something interesting to experiment with at a future FooCamp, but very much not at a BarCamp.


I have found that the more chaotic BarCamp/FooCamp "everyone write session ideas on the grid" format has worked better than any other even semi-structured alternative which I have seen tried and experienced.


As someone who has participated in several BarCamps (and "open space" labeled events), I've seen and experienced several variants (such as last year's moderated, hands-raised voting style at BarCampStanford), and all other methods have been inferior and have IMHO marginalized some of the smaller, more minority, less known voices.


Aaron states in his blog post http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/foofix :


"Then Tim says go and there's a mad scramble to the boards with people pushing each other out of the way to write down their preferred session."


This has been my consistent experience at FOO as well, and certainly my first time there I found it very intimidating and somewhat off-putting.


But, over the next 24 hours, slots opened up, as some topics got combined, others moved etc., and I was able to relatively easily find slots for not one, but initally two and then three sessions, jointly held with others (one of which helped form some of the bases for several microformats).


However my anecdote of successful calendar grid slotting at FooCamp is not the point.


At *every* BarCamp where the organizers say "go" to the attendees to write up their sessions, there has *never* been a "mad scramble" in my experience. NEVER.


The vast majority of the crowds at BarCamps have been timid, shy, and approached the grid slots *cooperatively* rather than as individuals. Many would walk right up to the grid, stare at empty squares and wait as if they needed permission. Many would discuss as a small group of people mere feet from the grid, slowly encouraging each other before one of them wrote up a session proposal in a slot. VERY different from the super-individualistic, super-competitive behavior I've consistently experienced at FooCamp.


I don't have a good scientific reason for this consistent stark difference in crowd behaviors. Even when the numbers were similar (e.g. ~200 people at FooCamp2004, ~200 people at BarCampSanFrancisco in 2006).


I have a hypothesis however and there is one big difference between FooCamp and BarCamp attendees which might account for this.


From my observation, the vast majority of participants at FooCamp got invited because of their overwhelming individual achievements, because they are known in the web technology and open source communities, and tend very much to have strong egos, strong self-confidence, and frankly very often have had numerous speaking experiences at conferences (typically O'Reilly conferences), and thus both had very little fear, and very much a competitive attitude, which resulted in the "mad scramble".


On the contrary, my experience with the vast majority of participants at BarCamps are with people who have few (if any) publicly recognized individual achievements, are relatively unknown, and tend to be shy, unsure of themselves, have had *zero* speaking experiences at conferences not to mention have often even *attended* very few other conferences. BarCamp is often their *first* public speaking experience ever.


IMHO, these differences in psychodemographics more than account for the differences in overall crowd behaviors between the FooCamp and BarCamp calendar grid openings.


And thus, though I might agree with Aaron's observations of the aggregate behaviors at FooCamp, due to the fact that such observations are completely different from those at any BarCamp in my experience, I cannot agree with applying any part of Aaron's proposal to BarCamp.


Even portions of Aaron's proposal like giving people "30 seconds to pitch their session" - my goodness. Most of the folks at BarCamps are already too shy to even *quietly* *write* their session ideas on a grid much less stand-up *in front of a crowd* of perhaps 100+ people, and nervously *speak* their session idea. IMHO the "quiet writing" aspect actually acts as a much greater equalizer as far as giving a greater variety of people a voice than a "stand-up and pitch verbally" format.


If you have never attended a BarCamp, I strongly recommend you do so, and participate, especially in the calendar grid session proposal "process" (as much as there is one), and see the camp thru to the end before proposing changes in the way it has worked for numerous camps, not only countrywide, but worldwide, in different languages, cross-culturally, from Amsterdam to Shanghai.


If you've previously attended a FooCamp but not a BarCamp, I definitely *strongly* recommend you attend a BarCamp, and do your best to keep an open mind and not just expect it to be the same thing with a different name. Despite being inspired by FooCamp, and being a sort of "open source reverse engineered" version of FooCamp, IMHO BarCamp has very much turned out quite different than FooCamp, and has its own culture, traditions, and some might even say, identity at this point. I invite you to attend, participate, and write up your own contrast (if any) of experiencing BarCamp vs. FooCamp.


Tantek Çelik



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