I’ve been following two events recently, Unsheffield and TweetCamp. They’re both BarCamp style events with high levels of self organisation, and I’m really pleased that people are taking the time to run events like this. Unfortunately, they have both taken the line that they are moving away from or different to Barcamp because Barcamps are aimed solely at the tech community. And this frustrates me.
I’m fed up of people perpetuating the myth that BarCamps are just for techies. Seriously fed up. Yes, there are a bunch of technical folk who attend these events, and yes they may be the majority, but that majority is not large. Out of all of the many BarCamps I have ever been to I have rarely been to a “technical” talk, and only myself given one that was in any way technical (that was demonstrating my dissertation project and was seriously cool).
By segregating “geeks, hackers and core techies” from regular people you are only diving apart the community of people who desire to “share and learn in an open environment.” And yes, we are one community, with members from all sorts of backgrounds. Our community is defined by our desire to share and learn, and not by the types of activities we do (hack, paint, fish, etc.). Anyone, from any walk of life, any background, and profession and or any experience level should be comfortable being a member of this community.
Did anyone honestly find BarCampLondon6 too technical? In fact, there were some people who complained that it was not geeky enough, lacking a dedicated hackspace or way for hackers to get together, but I do not see BarCamp as a hackspace. BarCamp has been and should always be about sharing knowledge, whatever that knowledge is. BarCampLondon6 had sessions on Reflexology, Sourdough Bread Making, Tai Chi, Making your own drop spindle(spinning wool with a potato), and other BarCamps have had similarly diverse sessions.
I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be other events, there should and needs to be. Nor am I suggesting that TweetCamp shouldn’t happen, though I am of the opinion it would be better off with less structure. To fully engender the experience of Twitter in the real world I think it is necessary to duplicate the experience as closely as possible. Since Twitter is a fully unstructured environment, perhaps it would be beneficial to have a TweetCamp in a bar or a park or a coffee shop without the (self) organisation of BarCamp style sessions.
I applaud the efforts of the organisers of Unsheffield to see the potential to engage more people. Reaching out to different communities by re branding and widening your event is a great thing. But peddling false rhetoric about the technical basis of barcamp is unjust. If you want to separate yourself from BarCamp then you should, but denigrating it to increase the potential of your own event is just petty. Similarly, justifying TweetCamp by saying that BarCamp is not for “regular” people undermines all of the work many of us put into uniting this community of open minded knowledge seekers.
BarCamps are not exclusivley for “geeks“, and similarly *Camps and Unconferences are not just for “regular” people. They all exist for anyone and everyone who has a desire to learn and and a passion for sharing.