BarCamp is an international network of user-generated unconferences. They are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants. The first BarCamps focused on early-stage web applications, and were related to open source technologies, social protocols, and open data formats. The format has also been used for a variety of other topics, including public transit, health care, and political organizing.
BarCamps have been held in over 350 cities around the world, in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Australasia and Asia. To mark the first anniversary of BarCamp, BarCampEarthwas held in multiple locations world wide on August 25–27, 2006. The second anniversary of BarCamp, BarCampBlock,was held in Palo Alto at the original location, but also over a three block radius on August 18–19, 2007, and was attended by over 800 people. The largest recorded BarCamp happened in February 2011 with over 4700 confirmed registered attendees in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma).
BarCamps are organized and evangelized largely through the web; anyone can initiate a BarCamp using the BarCamp wiki. The procedural framework consists of sessions proposed and scheduled each day by attendees, mostly on-site, typically using whiteboards or paper taped to the wall. This approach has been dubbed The Open Gridapproach.
Although the format is loosely structured, there are rulesat BarCamp. All attendees are encouraged to present or facilitate a session. Everyone is also asked to share information and experiences of the event via public web channels, including blogs, photo sharing, social bookmarking, twitter, wikis etc. This encouragement to share is a deliberate change from the “off-the-record by default” and “no recordings” rules at many invite-only participant driven conferences. It also turns a physical, face-to-face event into a ‘hybrid event’ which enables remote online engagement with Barcamp participants.
The London Barcamp website states that ‘At BarCamp, a group of enthusiastic people gather to share their knowledge about technology and anything else they are interested in. They do this by attending presentations given by other attendees – and giving presentations themselves, of course. A BarCamp presentation can be as formal or informal as you like. You can go to any session you like, and if you don’t find a session interesting, you can leave and go to another. Everyone is encouraged to give a session or participate in whatever way they can. When sessions aren’t running, there’s usually other fun stuff happening: food and drink, games, conversation, silliness, and people hacking on projects. Don’t be afraid, there’s lots of good stuff going on at BarCamp.’