If you don’t know what a barcamp (or unconference) is, don’t feel bad. The name certainly doesn’t provide any clues if you don’t know the history. Barcamps are like structured brainstorming sessions with crowd-sourced agendas and organic, bottom-up organization. It’s a great format for generating ideas, energy and momentum that can be used by any special interest group, professional or otherwise. I’ll explain.
Somebody decides to have a barcamp. Anyone interested in the subject of the barcamp can sign up. Some participants offer to talk to the group about a topic in which they have expertise. Others indicate what topics they’re interested in hearing about/discussing.
I went to an e-reputation barcamp a few weeks ago, because online identity is one of the topics I speak about. In this picture I took that day, you can see that people wrote proposed discussion topics — like Personal Branding — on a chalkboard in the available discussion slots for the day.
Everybody made a mark in the square of the topic they were going to attend during that hour. Repeat the process for every hour, with a few topics going on at a time. The chalkboard part was quite manic, a bit like being on the floor of the NYSE, but once it was over everybody dispersed in an orderly fashion into their groups and the real fun began.
If you go to the TDWCamp wiki page, and scroll down past the sponsor logos, you’ll see that the first section (in French) is for people who are offering to talk about certain subjects. For this web worker barcamp, topics include GTD, creating a web worker co-op, and the pros and cons of being your own boss. In the Fans column of that section, participants have indicated their interest in these topics.
Below this section, people who are planning to attend have signed up and indicated in the right column the topics in which they’re interested. The first participant has made his topic wishlist: GTD, project management, boosting productivity, inspiration and exchange. He’s also said he wants a big t-shirt.
Can you feel the love? If you can, and you’d like to look into this further, you’re in luck. Barcamp.org has put together a handy how-to page to get you started, with everything you need to know: from creating your barcamp wiki page to getting sponsors on board. After all, somebody’s got to pay for the t-shirts, munchies and location!
So if you have access to a coworking center or network of web workers, you might want to consider organizing a barcamp of your own. It’s fun, it’s stimulating and it’s a nice change from the usual happy hour-type get-together, which can sometimes end up being more about the Packers than work. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you know what I mean.
Please let us know if you’ve done a web worker barcamp or if you’re planning to. And if you’re in the Paris area, I hope to see you at TDWCamp!