BarCampSydney happening tomorrow!

Oh my. It was six months ago that I put my name down to organise the first BarCamp in Sydney, in Australia. I wasn’t alone for long, within a couple months a mighty team came on board: Russ Weakley, Jason Yip, Mick Liubinskas and Rich Buggy. We’ve got Microsoft, Google, Linux etc sponsoring us and about 200 people from major corporations, startups and individuals coming. It is going to be big and exciting and fun. But what am I talking about when I say ‘BarCamp’?

What is a BarCamp?

Despite starting relatively recently in 2005, BarCamp has a long heritage. Open Space Technology, for instance, started a couple of decades ago. The method involves workshopping rather than presentations, with the aim for a particular outcome.

Open Space Technology is one way to enable all kinds of people, in any kind of organization, to create inspired meetings and events. Over the last 20+ years, it has also become clear that opening space, as an intentional leadership practice, can create inspired organizations, where ordinary people work together to create extraordinary results with regularity. (quote)

Harrison Owen, one of the core drivers of Open Space Technology, describes it as follows:

“At the very least, Open Space is a fast, cheap, and simple way to better, more productive meetings. At a deeper level, it enables people to experience a very different quality of organization in which self-managed work groups are the norm, leadership a constantly shared phenomenon, diversity becomes a resource to be used instead of a problem to be overcome, and personal empowerment a shared experience. It is also fun. In a word, the conditions are set for fundamental organizational change, indeed that change may already have occurred. By the end, groups face an interesting choice. They can do it again, they can do it better, or they can go back to their prior mode of behavior.

Open Space is appropriate in situations where a major issue must be resolved, characterized by high levels of complexity, high levels of diversity (in terms of the people involved), the presence of potential or actual conflict, and with a decision time of yesterday.

Open Space runs on two fundamentals: passion and responsibility. Passion engages the people in the room. Responsibility ensures things get done. A focusing theme or question provides the framework for the event. The art of the question lies in saying just enough to evoke attention, while leaving sufficient open space for the imagination to run wild.”

We don’t have a theme or outcome in mind for BarCampSydney 0.1, so anything goes.

Tim O’Reilly developed the Open Space Technology approach and applied it directly to the theme of technology. He created FOOCamp and held the first one in October 2003. His description of FOOCamp was:

We’ve invited about 400 people who’re doing interesting work in fields such as wireless, web services, open source programming, GPS, and all manner of emerging technologies to share their work-in-progess, show off the latest tech toys and hardware hacks, and tackle challenging problems together. We’ll have some planned activities, but much of the agenda will be determined by you. We’ll provide space, electricity, a wireless network, and a wiki. You bring your ideas, enthusiasms, and projects. We all get to know each other better, and hopefully come up with some cool ideas about how to change the world.

For BarCampSydney we’re adopting most of what O’Reilly outlines here, except for two factors. 1) We’re making topics open to those beyond software in particular to include creative uses in entertainment, art, marketing, podcasts and so on. Other camps that have explored this as a theme include: ArtCamp, MarCamp and BlogCamp. Rather than see BarCamp as a technology-only event, we’re using the term to encompass all the possible conversations that could be had about digital media. 2) The other approach we won’t be employing is the invite only model. Indeed, this is why BarCamp was invented.

The spirit that you can see in the Open Space Technology and FOOCamp approaches holds true in BarCamp too. Some quotes from the BarCamp wiki, The Rules of BarCamp:

When you come, be prepared to share with barcampers.
When you leave, be prepared to share it with the world.

Looking forward to experiencing this event with you all…wherever it leads…

Here are some of the topics I’m keen to chat about/learn from others:

Who knows what is going to happen? I don’t, but I know it is going to be darn interesting and exciting. See you there, or keep on eye on our blog, the place where we’ll post updates and links to our podcasts etc.


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