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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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