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Expectations and realities of BarCamps

May 9, 2008

Yesterday Tim, William and I had a conference call about the upcoming BCBBC. During the conversation we talked about the Seattle Bar Camp Bank and how we viewed it. It was interesting to hear that we all wanted to repeat Seattle’s success by having something similar.

But are BarCampBanks always similar? The format and the way the event is held is unique and it contributes a lot to its success. No one owns the agenda. You vote with your feet. Sessions can continue until everyone says its over. Discussion, dialogue and conversation are great ways to communicate, debates aren’t. Relationships have already been created through Internet means (blogs and Twitter). Meeting people face to face after you have know them online is a phenonemal experience. Venues can add to the flavour of the event. It is a time of incubating ideas. It is the Olympics of conferences. No talking heads telling you what you already now. Inexpensive. Unbelievable value. The points are numerous and everyone who attends can give numerous examples as to why they will attend again.

But each one that I have attended is unique. And I keep trying to nail down what makes it so. There is a climate of networking and relationships that form at these meetings based on the individuals present. The BarCampBanks are made up of such a wide range of characters that they can’t be the same just by the fact of who attends. Maybe it is because we don’t really have such a strong expectation of what will come from the event. We already know that will happen. The expectation is the excitement of the discussions, the passion shown by everyone, the energy in just being in a room with such remarkable people. We thought we came seeking a holy grail but found that each of us had the capacity to create something unique in our relationships and our being together for this short time. The time you have is limited and you want to make the most of it.

BarCamps cannot really be explained. You could add numerous paragraphs to the above and still just touch on what they are. You have to be there and experience a BarCamp to understand fully what it is. With everyone being different you realize it really is the people that are important here. The focus is us. And that is so different from those expensive, boring, talking head, self-appointed expert sessions we have all fallen asleep at.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2008 4:34 pm

    Man, I could not agree more. Would love to comment more, but: 1) there’s nothing left to say, and 2) I have to go prepare my presentation for one of those expensive, boring, talking head conferences coming up this week.

  2. May 9, 2008 4:47 pm

    Well put Gene.

    @rshevlin – I look forward to seeing your talking head next week!

  3. May 9, 2008 5:09 pm

    Hear, hear!

    Gene, I love it when you get metaphysical like this. So I’m going to respond in kind.

    As a veteran now of three barcampbanks on three successive weekends, on two coasts, I can report that each of the three camps were very different beasts. You are absolutely correct that it’s all about the people. That’s what makes these great. And because the people are different every time, the experience will be different every time. If you go into it expecting to, or trying to, recreate a previous ‘camp’ experience, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment.

    BarCampBank SF was flavored by its collegiate setting, UC Berkeley, and by the Silicon Valley across the bay. Technology startups were front and center. BarCampBank NewEngland was held at America’s Credit Union Museum, so blending new technology with one hundred year old principles were the order of the day. BarCampMoneyNYC (which is officially a member of the BCB family despite its slightly different name), was all about entrepreneurship, angel and venture capital funding, with tech mixed in. Having a camp on the 40th story of a mid-town Manhattan skyscraper gave us a 30,000 foot view without having to be on a plane.

    Three different camps, three different geographies, three different groups, three different flavours. The geography shapes the people, shapes the event.

    By the way, the “Camp” flame is being fanned by gushing essays such as this. We’re excited to have BCBDallas, BCBCharleston, and BCB BC coming up, and now even BarCampBankMadison is being discussed. Thanks to Frederic Baud, Jean-Christophe Capelli, Jesse Robbins, and everyone else who is fostering the movement in the financial world. This is cool stuff growing stronger and stronger.

  4. May 13, 2008 10:39 pm

    wow! I’ll be there for my first time — i can’t wait! And I’m happy to help out on sussing out good locations (I better go back and check the wiki).

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