The Not-So-Great Barcamp Schism

You’ve probably caught wind of it already. A snide remark here, a subtle eye-roll there. What started as vague muttering in the ether of the twitters has grown to a dull roar of complaints: Barcamp Nashville is not legit. Whether or not these complaints represent a growing sentiment or a vocal minority remains to be seen. Never one to ignore the elephant in the room, I thought I’d talk about it a bit. I’m somewhat uniquely positioned to comment on this all, perhaps, because I can commiserate with both sides here. Centresource is a long-time sponsor of Barcamp and has been involved from the beginning. I even spoke at the first one in 2007 about something-or-other. I’m also a huge nerd, friends with many of the detractors, and one of the most cynical dudes around. So hear me out.

So what’s at the center of this debate? A cadre of Nashville’s more technically proficient programmer/engineer types feel that Nashville’s Barcamp is overwhelmed by “non-technical” people: entrepreneurs, business-owners, and self-proclaimed social media experts that have organized the event such that it’s hardly in keeping with the original spirit of Barcamp. In a nutshell: too many business cards, not enough neckbeards. More specifically, as Rick Bradley put it:

< @rickbradley> @cwage my (and others’) annual complaints would be silenced by (a) changing the name or (b) following the rules: http://t.co/TGRaeDm

Similarly, @BCN_Critic (an account created on twitter specifically to voice complaints about Barcamp Nashville) objects to the rigid scheduling coupled with the random session selection, among other things.

To be honest, I can understand this sentiment. When you read about the history and make-up of the original barcamps, Nashville’s event bears little to no resemblance. But Nashville has never resembled other cities. Nashville is not Palo Alto, nor Portland. In all likelihood if we “followed the rules” to maintain the true barcamp spirit, Nashville wouldn’t have a barcamp at all, because it would have never happened: the demand (and resources) weren’t there. We didn’t have the pool of nerderiffic talent in Nashville to pull it off — certainly not in 2007, and arguably not now. Nashville does have “open, participatory workshop-events” suitable for the level we’re at: it’s called JJ’s Market on Thursday afternoons.

To their credit, Barcamp Nashville has never pretended it was anything more than what it is: a uniquely Nashville event. The description on the website says it plainly enough, describing BCN as “new-media focused”. It’s very heavy on the social media aspect, yes, but there’s plenty of technical meat. Last year I saw a very good session covering the basics of Arduino. Your average ruby hacker might think banging out WordPress sites is beneath them, but it’s not non-technical. The worst offense you can justifiably level at Barcamp Nashville is that they’ve co-opted the name. Oh well. That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Nothing is stopping the neckbeards (I can say that because I have one) from creating their own event truer to the original spirit of barcamps. I hardly think anyone involved with BCN would mind — on the contrary, I think they’d encourage it. The people involved with Barcamp might be “marketroids” or self-proclaimed social media mavens, but they understand the immense value of Nashville’s nerdier contingent. Frankly, I think it’s time for the Barcamp-haters to realize the converse is also true: marketing, social media and entrepreneurship might not be your bag, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. We need them. For every Steve Wozniak, there’s a Steve Jobs. These are the people that will keep interest piqued, businesses running, and investment capital flowing into the city while we nerds are too busy riding out 72-hour mountain-dew fueled hackfests. The ferocity of the criticism and eye-rolling directed at Barcamp and many other Nashville technology-related institutions (NTC, JSF, etc.) is undeserved, and it’s not cool. It’s easy to complain every year — what’s harder is to contribute or create a viable alternative. Don’t like Barcamp Nashville? Last time I checked, the organizational meetings are open to the public.

Don’t hate. Participate.

Thoughts?

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  • http://twitter.com/jbartlett05 Jake Bartlett

    Well said.  I’ve attended for a couple years and look forward to attending this year.  I disagree with the people who say it’s an event for Social Media people.  I attended great sessions last year on Project Management, User Experience, and more.  

    While it may not offer much to hard core coders and developers, there certainly is a wealth of great information there well above my tech-savvy head. 

  • http://twitter.com/jbartlett05 Jake Bartlett

    Well said.  I’ve attended for a couple years and look forward to attending this year.  I disagree with the people who say it’s an event for Social Media people.  I attended great sessions last year on Project Management, User Experience, and more.  

    While it may not offer much to hard core coders and developers, there certainly is a wealth of great information there well above my tech-savvy head. 

  • http://natene.ws Nate (NateNe.ws)

    Many things can exist at once. If there’s not enough room for a specific group or idea, a new thing can be created. If you want to create a new thing, remember it will have a better chance of thriving if it is created around one central thing it is, rather than a list of things it is not.

  • http://natene.ws Nate (NateNe.ws)

    Many things can exist at once. If there’s not enough room for a specific group or idea, a new thing can be created. If you want to create a new thing, remember it will have a better chance of thriving if it is created around one central thing it is, rather than a list of things it is not.

  • http://twitter.com/jaminguy Jamin Guy

    Couldn’t agree more dude! As both a developer and participant/speaker/mentor at Barcamps, Podcamps, JSF, and NashDL I’m in a similar position to you. In fact my employer, Griffin Technology, has also been a sponsor of Barcamp Nashville since the beginning. I’ve gone round and round with people on all sides of the issues and have come to basically the same conclusion as you. If people are organizing events in Nashville you can def either hate or participate and I choose the latter. Thanks for writing the post. My writing of over 140 chars is pretty much limited to code so I leave to people like you to write the blog posts :)

  • http://twitter.com/jaminguy Jamin Guy

    Couldn’t agree more dude! As both a developer and participant/speaker/mentor at Barcamps, Podcamps, JSF, and NashDL I’m in a similar position to you. In fact my employer, Griffin Technology, has also been a sponsor of Barcamp Nashville since the beginning. I’ve gone round and round with people on all sides of the issues and have come to basically the same conclusion as you. If people are organizing events in Nashville you can def either hate or participate and I choose the latter. Thanks for writing the post. My writing of over 140 chars is pretty much limited to code so I leave to people like you to write the blog posts :)

  • http://twitter.com/ThatScottGuy Scott Kozicki

    Here here! I’d like to echo this with a sharp tongue.

    This has been a dull complaint since after the first one. My hunch was that it was because certain “neckbeards” weren’t invited to speak or participate or even knew about it, so hence, it was lame. And lo, the lameness shall increase proportionately to the success of BarCampNash over the years.

    Last summer the complaint reached crescendo and when one particular neckbeard made his way back from Portland to bequeath his uber coolness on our beer drinking plebes, it was decided right then and there that an alternative event would be held. And it was good. And much beer was drank. And those marketroids would see what a REAL BarCamp is like mutha fuckahs! We’ll even steal the name BarCampNash! (I’m literally quoting here).

    But here’s the problem: nothing happened. BarCampNash 2010 actually had a good strip of technical content from some of the city’s well known devs. And more devs heard about it and voiced interest in participating in the alternative “real deal” event. But no one got off their ass and organized anything. Despite the fact that all that was needed to throw a “real” BarCamp was a date and a place and maybe a time. I’m not sure if the time was needed.

    Meanwhile, BarCampNash held highly organized and professionally managed planning sessions (seriously, one of the most productive and well run meetings I’ve ever attended in my entire career) done completely by non-paid volunteers. They heard the same complaints and interests and incorporated them into the planning. They reached out and tried to get neckbeards involved and engaged. Some bit. Some are too busy complaining about the lack of authenticity to a real BarCamp that they missed the fact that BacCampNash just pivoted and disrupted the need for an “authentic” BarCamp. So who is really drinking the koolaid now?

    I trust that BarCampNash 2011 will actually have a treasure trove of solid technical talks and demonstrations. I should know, since I personally talked to several people who are not only preparing talks, but the organizers who are spending a lot of their free time and energy evangelizing to the technical community. And I heard in graphic detail how the selection process  got engineered and refactored to make sure that well rounded and relevant content gets showcased. I wish that the “alternative” event evangelists would jump on this ride and use it to spread their gospel far and wide. But I suspect they won’t. And the criticisms will continue.

    And that’s why we can’t have a lot of nice geeky things in this town.

    • http://twitter.com/jaminguy Jamin Guy

      the haters will take offense at your use of the word “pivot” BTW cause we’re like in a bubble and stuff man and pivoting is for bubblers

    • http://twitter.com/rickbradley Rick Bradley

      “…the fact that Ba[r]CampNash just pivoted and disrupted the need for an “authentic” BarCamp.”

      Since “BarCamp” Nashville iteration one, when the U2-sized marketing youtubes were playing in the main venue and the “technical” track was relegated to the back side of the coffee shop designated as alternate venue, the complaint has been “this is not a BarCamp.”

      Every year the event grows larger and the complaint is still made (by me and others) that “this is not a BarCamp”, and every year the response is “Yes it is — how is it not a BarCamp?  Oh, well, sure, but we can’t hold an event this big and use the BarCamp rules.  But it’s still a “BarCamp” even though it isn’t really one, but we can’t really give up the name because the brand is too valuable.  So we heard your complaint, now shut up and join us in making this the biggest and most awesomest non-BarCamp BarCamp in the universe, or else you’re just a dick.”

      Now I *am* just a dick, but for far less sophisticated reasons than that.  

      That being said, I hear now that  ”BarCamp” has “pivoted” and “disrupted” the need for an “authentic” BarCamp.  I’m not neck deep in social media startup lingo, but I understand that statement to say “THIS YEAR we’re finally a REAL BarCamp, though in the past we weren’t, despite all protestations to the contrary!”

      “I told you so’s aside”, I think that’s awesome, and I’m happy that Nashville will finally have an authentic BarCamp — people will finally be able to experience an unconference, to get a really grass-roots, unorchestrated exchange of organic information that cuts across disciplines — where you get suprising and unexpected insights from people doing really crazy and amazing things.  The best thing is that it will be so much cheaper and easier to organize now that all the talk submission and scheduling stuff goes out the window.

      Kudos.

      Rick

      • http://twitter.com/ThatScottGuy Scott Kozicki

        ” that Nashville will finally have an authentic BarCamp — people will
        finally be able to experience an unconference, to get a really
        grass-roots, unorchestrated exchange of organic information that cuts
        across disciplines — where you get suprising[sic] and unexpected insights
        from people doing really crazy and amazing things.”

        That’s precisely what BarCampNash has always been. The fact that certain people don’t show up or participate in the planning and organization does not make it otherwise. Although it could assist it in being moreso.

        The irony of wanting it to be more “grass roots” by following “the rules of *Camp” is heavy. Smaller attendance != higher concentration of awesome. I would postulate that energy = awesome and energy is what this event has. In spades. Join the fun.

    • http://lauriekalmanson.blogspot.com/ laurie kalmanson

      i am really tempted to rickroll u in thanks and tribute, but i’ll just have another glass of wine instead. well said.

  • http://metamarketer.com/ Kate O’Neill, [meta]marketer

    Yeah, I think Cory Watson, Billy White, Lance Roggendorff, Jackson Gabbard, Luke Stokes, and your brother, just to name a few off the top of my head, would have reason to object to the idea that there’s no tech presented at BarCamp Nashville. Each of them has presented code-heavy technical sessions – well received, from my own observations in attending their sessions and what I’ve heard and read in post-event surveys. 

    Moreover, I really appreciate your point about the value in the marketing and business side. Having come to marketing from technology, I know I’m a bit of an outlier, but I still think it wouldn’t kill marketers to learn something about code (and I’m using “code” as synecdoche for systems-oriented knowledge), and it sure wouldn’t hurt coders to learn something about business. That’s how I’ve always envisioned my ideal version of this event: a sort of cross-pollination of knowledge that strengthens the whole community and poises us for continued growth and success as a whole. 

    Thanks for writing this.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatScottGuy Scott Kozicki

    Here here! I’d like to echo this with a sharp tongue.

    This has been a dull complaint since after the first one. My hunch was that it was because certain “neckbeards” weren’t invited to speak or participate or even knew about it, so hence, it was lame. And lo, the lameness shall increase proportionately to the success of BarCampNash over the years.

    Last summer the complaint reached crescendo and when one particular neckbeard made his way back from Portland to bequeath his uber coolness on our beer drinking plebes, it was decided right then and there that an alternative event would be held. And it was good. And much beer was drank. And those marketroids would see what a REAL BarCamp is like mutha fuckahs! We’ll even steal the name BarCampNash! (I’m literally quoting here).

    But here’s the problem: nothing happened. BarCampNash 2010 actually had a good strip of technical content from some of the city’s well known devs. And more devs heard about it and voiced interest in participating in the alternative “real deal” event. But no one got off their ass and organized anything. Despite the fact that all that was needed to throw a “real” BarCamp was a date and a place and maybe a time. I’m not sure if the time was needed.

    Meanwhile, BarCampNash held highly organized and professionally managed planning sessions (seriously, one of the most productive and well run meetings I’ve ever attended in my entire career) done completely by non-paid volunteers. They heard the same complaints and interests and incorporated them into the planning. They reached out and tried to get neckbeards involved and engaged. Some bit. Some are too busy complaining about the lack of authenticity to a real BarCamp that they missed the fact that BacCampNash just pivoted and disrupted the need for an “authentic” BarCamp. So who is really drinking the koolaid now?

    I trust that BarCampNash 2011 will actually have a treasure trove of solid technical talks and demonstrations. I should know, since I personally talked to several people who are not only preparing talks, but the organizers who are spending a lot of their free time and energy evangelizing to the technical community. And I heard in graphic detail how the selection process  got engineered and refactored to make sure that well rounded and relevant content gets showcased. I wish that the “alternative” event evangelists would jump on this ride and use it to spread their gospel far and wide. But I suspect they won’t. And the criticisms will continue.

    And that’s why we can’t have a lot of nice geeky things in this town.

    • http://twitter.com/jaminguy Jamin Guy

      the haters will take offense at your use of the word “pivot” BTW cause we’re like in a bubble and stuff man and pivoting is for bubblers

    • http://twitter.com/rickbradley Rick Bradley

      “…the fact that Ba[r]CampNash just pivoted and disrupted the need for an “authentic” BarCamp.”

      Since “BarCamp” Nashville iteration one, when the U2-sized marketing youtubes were playing in the main venue and the “technical” track was relegated to the back side of the coffee shop designated as alternate venue, the complaint has been “this is not a BarCamp.”

      Every year the event grows larger and the complaint is still made (by me and others) that “this is not a BarCamp”, and every year the response is “Yes it is — how is it not a BarCamp?  Oh, well, sure, but we can’t hold an event this big and use the BarCamp rules.  But it’s still a “BarCamp” even though it isn’t really one, but we can’t really give up the name because the brand is too valuable.  So we heard your complaint, now shut up and join us in making this the biggest and most awesomest non-BarCamp BarCamp in the universe, or else you’re just a dick.”

      Now I *am* just a dick, but for far less sophisticated reasons than that.  

      That being said, I hear now that  ”BarCamp” has “pivoted” and “disrupted” the need for an “authentic” BarCamp.  I’m not neck deep in social media startup lingo, but I understand that statement to say “THIS YEAR we’re finally a REAL BarCamp, though in the past we weren’t, despite all protestations to the contrary!”

      “I told you so’s aside”, I think that’s awesome, and I’m happy that Nashville will finally have an authentic BarCamp — people will finally be able to experience an unconference, to get a really grass-roots, unorchestrated exchange of organic information that cuts across disciplines — where you get suprising and unexpected insights from people doing really crazy and amazing things.  The best thing is that it will be so much cheaper and easier to organize now that all the talk submission and scheduling stuff goes out the window.

      Kudos.

      Rick

    • Anonymous

      i am really tempted to rickroll u in thanks and tribute, but i’ll just have another glass of wine instead. well said.

  • http://metamarketer.com/ Kate O’Neill, [meta]marketer

    Yeah, I think Cory Watson, Billy White, Lance Roggendorff, Jackson Gabbard, Luke Stokes, and your brother, just to name a few off the top of my head, would have reason to object to the idea that there’s no tech presented at BarCamp Nashville. Each of them has presented code-heavy technical sessions – well received, from my own observations in attending their sessions and what I’ve heard and read in post-event surveys. 

    Moreover, I really appreciate your point about the value in the marketing and business side. Having come to marketing from technology, I know I’m a bit of an outlier, but I still think it wouldn’t kill marketers to learn something about code, and it sure wouldn’t hurt coders to learn something about business. That’s how I’ve always envisioned my ideal version of this event: a sort of cross-pollination of knowledge that strengthens the whole community and poises us for continued growth and success as a whole. 

    Thanks for writing this.

  • http://nicholsonrecords.com/paul Paul Nicholson

    Agreed. Considering what the *Camp events come from, it is rather ironic that people get bent out of shape by it not being what was intended.

    From my experience and observation, I also think Nashville’s event is too big to run like a traditional BarCamp (and have it be effective). It simply takes more organization than that. We have too few willing to lead/speak and too many who want to listen/learn. That’s not a bad thing, just lends itself to the format that we have here in Nashville. A different ratio of participant/leader would help the more ‘open’ style work, but that’s not what we have.On a related note: There’s a meetup this week for the prelim leading up to talking about ProductCamp. As a product/marketing manager, I’m very curious to see how this event shapes up. The differences and crossover between BarCamp, PodCamp, and eventually ProductCamp will be interesting.

    Then there’s the PhotoCamp idea that I and a few others have floated around. I’d still love to make that happen, but unfortunately am in no position to carry it on my own. You don’t happen to know any photographers who are well-respected and local geek community do you? ;-)

  • http://nicholsonrecords.com/paul Paul Nicholson

    Agreed. Considering what the *Camp events come from, it is rather ironic that people get bent out of shape by it not being what was intended.

    From my experience and observation, I also think Nashville’s event is too big to run like a traditional BarCamp (and have it be effective). It simply takes more organization than that. We have too few willing to lead/speak and too many who want to listen/learn. That’s not a bad thing, just lends itself to the format that we have here in Nashville. A different ratio of participant/leader would help the more ‘open’ style work, but that’s not what we have.On a related note: There’s a meetup this week for the prelim leading up to talking about ProductCamp. As a product/marketing manager, I’m very curious to see how this event shapes up. The differences and crossover between BarCamp, PodCamp, and eventually ProductCamp will be interesting.

    Then there’s the PhotoCamp idea that I and a few others have floated around. I’d still love to make that happen, but unfortunately am in no position to carry it on my own. You don’t happen to know any photographers who are well-respected and local geek community do you? ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/calvinfroedge Calvin Froedge

    I’ll just say that “random session selection” really sends the wrong message – a message that the content at Barcamp is not about merit but rather EITHER the flip of a coin OR the backroom cajoling of certain parties (and I’m not making any accusations).

    The last time I spoke at a conference I had to get my content approved first.

    • http://metamarketer.com/ Kate O’Neill, [meta]marketer

      The last time I spoke at a conference I had to get my content approved first.

      Same here, but not the last time I spoke at an un-conference.

    • cwage

      I can’t speak for the organizers because I’ve had little to do with the organization of the event, but I suspect what you’re seeing here is the attempt to reconcile the scale of Barcamp with the purported aim of barcamps in general: that is, the “unconference” aspect.

      • http://chuckbryant.net Chuck Bryant

        Yes, traditional BarCamp is first-come, first-served until you run out of space/time, i.e., until the grid is full. BCN 2007-2010 followed this model until it all imploded under heavy demand for 2010. The PodCamp 2011 crew elected to try a random draw to level the playing field for access to the limited number of speaking slots. It’s way more fair to speakers than first-come and way more true to BarCamp/unconference principles than voting. Still, it’s not perfect and the crew continues to debate alternatives for future events. 

        • http://nicholsonrecords.com/paul Paul Nicholson

          Personally I’m not sure how voting on sessions is untrue to the ‘spirit of barcamp’ (though I’m not sure from all of this if we’re still trying to be true to that or not…)

          Seems like voting in advance is just a well organized way of doing what would naturally happen in a smaller setting where people say “hey, I’m gonna go talk about this, anyone want to listen?” and if no one comes, then they don’t talk.

          Having said that, by definition ‘first come first serve’ can’t really collapse under its own weight. There may be those left saying “darn, I thought of a great sessions too late” but you put a cap on the number of speakers and sign ‘em up, then you cut it off. The random selection thing keeps potential speakers and participants in limbo and just seems unnecessary. You’re going to leave people out in the cold. Not sure how random (which allows for all these nepotism claims) is better than just filling up the grid.

          Eh. No easy answers here. I’m sure the event will still be great. And the more of them that happen the better. I don’t think we’d suffer for quarterly events if we could pull it off from an organizational standpoint (and certain economies of scale/repetion would kick in)…not that I’m volunteering to lead any such effort. :-)

          • http://www.nashvilletechfeed.com/ David Beronja

            Actually, it does collapse under it’s own weight. If you were one of the organizers at BCN10 you got slammed. Sessions filled in under 3 hours.

            I happened to be one of those who didn’t get in. I filled out my session, taking time to write up a good representation of my presentation. I went to a meeting came back an hour later to finish it up, when I hit send it said sessions were full. The previous year it took two plus weeks to fill the grid. So I was pissed. Then they reopened the sessions later after reworking the time of the grid. I missed the tweet and 8 min later it was full. I didn’t feel like that was fair.

            Hence I joined the Podcamp crew to help make the process better. After quite a bit of discussion we decided to try  holding the session creation open a week then shortly after have a random drawing. I think there was 80+ presentations submitted for 38 slots. We live steamed the drawing and my session actually didn’t get picked.

            From the people I talked to they including myself  felt it was more fair than first come first serve model. My feelings that there were more diverse presentations than previous Podcamps. It also turned out the be the biggest attended Podcamp yet. The speakers butler is a great addition in helping people who are presenting navigate the waters and improve their session.

            I think the two camps are getting better each year. I also like the idea that people are talking about new more specific camps like BarCamp 0b10 for developers in spring.

          • http://chuckbryant.net Chuck Bryant

            The problems with first-come were numerous, but mostly centered around when you found out that session creation was open and whether or not you had time RIGHT THEN to submit your session. Huge advantage to people monitoring Twitter when the announcement went out (like social media types) and huge disadvantage to people with scope down to concentrate on work (like coders). Similar problem if we announced in advance when session creation opens to first-come… what if I can’t do it then? Random draw achieves a much more fair result where everyone has an equal chance to be selected. 

            And the draw happens as an open event broadcast via live stream where we draw *every* submission. Hard to rig the results. 

        • http://lauriekalmanson.blogspot.com/ laurie kalmanson

          well said. also, my .02 is the “show up and see who else shows up” model is great for groups <50, and works in the Impromptu Rooms, but is one specific kind of interaction, and is pretty much the opposite of having talks that people spend time preparing.

          (a) come, groove, hang out; listen to whoever shows up and wants to speak; totally cool. the basement of the university of chicago library was like that 24/7 during finals week. it was amazing.

          (b) scheduled talks: much deeper investment of the speaker tells me there's going to be more focused content around clearly defined topics.

          i think nashville barcamp currently offers both

    • http://lauriekalmanson.blogspot.com/ laurie kalmanson

      yeah … that’s kind of the crux of the fish/fowl discussion … too big to be un; still more grass roots than not-un

  • http://twitter.com/calvinfroedge Calvin Froedge

    I’ll just say that “random session selection” really sends the wrong message – a message that the content at Barcamp is not about merit but rather EITHER the flip of a coin OR the backroom cajoling of certain parties (and I’m not making any accusations).

    The last time I spoke at a conference I had to get my content approved first.

    • http://metamarketer.com/ Kate O’Neill, [meta]marketer

      The last time I spoke at a conference I had to get my content approved first.

      Same here, but not the last time I spoke at an un-conference.

    • Anonymous

      I can’t speak for the organizers because I’ve had little to do with the organization of the event, but I suspect what you’re seeing here is the attempt to reconcile the scale of Barcamp with the purported aim of barcamps in general: that is, the “unconference” aspect.

      • http://chuckbryant.net Chuck Bryant

        Yes, traditional BarCamp is first-come, first-served until you run out of space/time, i.e., until the grid is full. BCN 2007-2010 followed this model until it all imploded under heavy demand for 2010. The PodCamp 2011 crew elected to try a random draw to level the playing field for access to the limited number of speaking slots. It’s way more fair to speakers than first-come and way more true to BarCamp/unconference principles than voting. Still, it’s not perfect and the crew continues to debate alternatives for future events. 

    • Anonymous

      yeah … that’s kind of the crux of the fish/fowl discussion … too big to be un; still more grass roots than not-un

  • Coble

    Wow. Four years on and this argument is still happening.

    Being one of the original shenanigans-callers, I still think it’s not a bad idea for the organisers to take some of the constructive criticism…constructively.

    I recall the response I got when raising this issue four years ago all to well. “Fine. You just do it next time.”

    Life circumstance prevented that. But I still DON’T think it would hurt for the orgs to try to take the complaints into consideration. After all, I know a LOT of “neckbeards” who stay away because “it’s just another underpants elves thing.”

    • cwage

      What does that even mean? Sorry, but “underpants elves thing” is not constructive criticism.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Mycropht Katherine Coble

        It’s not even my criticism, and I didn’t even understand it until I started watching South Park.  

        (Oh, and I got it wrong.  Underpants GNOMES.)  

        Essentially I gather there is some resentment among some codewriters for the folks in the Marketing side of things and they view those people as not entirely logical or whatever.   I’m not making the news.  Just repeating what I’ve heard from folks I go to church with, game with and know through other means.    

        As for constructive criticism I’ll pass along the same thought I passed along four years ago.  Either get rid of the VIP bus or don’t make such a big thing about it.   When you have tech people sweating inside a 90-degree venue and the Twitter feed is constantly spewing “We’ve got A/C and Wii on the VIP BUS!!!!  If you’re a VIP stop on by!” right on the big screen in front of the rapidly melting crowd it does NOT engender feelings of brotherly love.  

        As to the rest of the mechanics (not enough tech spots/rigid time constraints) I personally think those are secondary to a lot of folks.  The real nut of the matter seems to be that tech folks constantly feel shortchanged by marketers at the workplace and to go to what is billed as a tech conference and still feel shortchanged/outpaced/made to feel second-class by marketers is galling.   

        Just my view from the cheapest of seats. 

        • http://twitter.com/ThatScottGuy Scott Kozicki

          That AC was wicked cold on the VIP bus. I almost had to put on a sweater.

  • Coble

    Wow. Four years on and this argument is still happening.

    Being one of the original shenanigans-callers, I still think it’s not a bad idea for the organisers to take some of the constructive criticism…constructively.

    I recall the response I got when raising this issue four years ago all to well. “Fine. You just do it next time.”

    Life circumstance prevented that. But I still DON’T think it would hurt for the orgs to try to take the complaints into consideration. After all, I know a LOT of “neckbeards” who stay away because “it’s just another underpants elves thing.”

    • Anonymous

      What does that even mean? Sorry, but “underpants elves thing” is not constructive criticism.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Mycropht Katherine Coble

        It’s not even my criticism, and I didn’t even understand it until I started watching South Park.  

        (Oh, and I got it wrong.  Underpants GNOMES.)  

        Essentially I gather there is some resentment among some codewriters for the folks in the Marketing side of things and they view those people as not entirely logical or whatever.   I’m not making the news.  Just repeating what I’ve heard from folks I go to church with, game with and know through other means.    

        As for constructive criticism I’ll pass along the same thought I passed along four years ago.  Either get rid of the VIP bus or don’t make such a big thing about it.   When you have tech people sweating inside a 90-degree venue and the Twitter feed is constantly spewing “We’ve got A/C and Wii on the VIP BUS!!!!  If you’re a VIP stop on by!” right on the big screen in front of the rapidly melting crowd it does NOT engender feelings of brotherly love.  

        As to the rest of the mechanics (not enough tech spots/rigid time constraints) I personally think those are secondary to a lot of folks.  The real nut of the matter seems to be that tech folks constantly feel shortchanged by marketers at the workplace and to go to what is billed as a tech conference and still feel shortchanged/outpaced/made to feel second-class by marketers is galling.   

        Just my view from the cheapest of seats. 

        • http://twitter.com/ThatScottGuy Scott Kozicki

          That AC was wicked cold on the VIP bus. I almost had to put on a sweater.

  • http://www.sitemason.com Tim Moses

    The current Nashville BarCamp is successful and serves a purpose. It may not follow the BarCamp model, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. Last year, there were a number of good real tech talks. (Two of them were by me, but then I couldn’t make it, so Billy and Travis took over and probably did a better job).

    That said, I think there is still room for an alternate BarCamp. There seems to be enough interest as seen by the number of participants in the current BarCamp and a different format (true BarCamp-style) might appeal to different people. Three days of camping at BarCamp would be pretty cool. I don’t think it has to be one vs. the other, and I don’t see them as competing.

    At this point, the chief complaint, as pointed out by Rick Bradley, is the name. I don’t really have an opinion on that, but that doesn’t seem like the real problem. The real problem is getting someone to run the alternate.

    • http://www.sitemason.com Tim Moses

      How embarrassing! I’m replying to myself. I forgot to make a point.

      An alternate would free up the current BarCamp to pursue what makes the most sense for it without being held back by trying to adapt to every complaint. It’s doing well. I don’t think it should change to fit a true BarCamp format. I’m afraid it would be worse for the effort.

      Meanwhile, the alternate could play that role instead, providing more options and more techy-goodness for Nashvillians.

      • http://natene.ws Nate (NateNe.ws)

        Tim! I just like when you post comments on blogs, so I’m liking your comment. Also, good thoughts.

      • http://twitter.com/rickbradley Rick Bradley

        Good insights, Tim.  I like the cut of your jib.

        Rick

        • http://www.sitemason.com Tim Moses

          Thanks! I’ve been doing some jib workouts lately.

  • http://www.sitemason.com timmoses

    The current Nashville BarCamp is successful and serves a purpose. It may not follow the BarCamp model, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. Last year, there were a number of good real tech talks. (Two of them were by me, but then I couldn’t make it, so Billy and Travis took over and probably did a better job).

    That said, I think there is still room for an alternate BarCamp. There seems to be enough interest as seen by the number of participants in the current BarCamp and a different format (true BarCamp-style) might appeal to different people. Three days of camping at BarCamp would be pretty cool. I don’t think it has to be one vs. the other, and I don’t see them as competing.

    At this point, the chief complaint, as pointed out by Rick Bradley, is the name. I don’t really have an opinion on that, but that doesn’t seem like the real problem. The real problem is getting someone to run the alternate.

    • http://www.sitemason.com timmoses

      How embarrassing! I’m replying to myself. I forgot to make a point.

      An alternate would free up the current BarCamp to pursue what makes the most sense for it without being held back by trying to adapt to every complaint. It’s doing well. I don’t think it should change to fit a true BarCamp format. I’m afraid it would be worse for the effort.

      Meanwhile, the alternate could play that role instead, providing more options and more techy-goodness for Nashvillians.

      • http://natene.ws Nate (NateNe.ws)

        Tim! I just like when you post comments on blogs, so I’m liking your comment. Also, good thoughts.

      • http://twitter.com/rickbradley Rick Bradley

        Good insights, Tim.  I like the cut of your jib.

        Rick

        • http://www.sitemason.com timmoses

          Thanks! I’ve been doing some jib workouts lately.

  • http://chuckbryant.net Chuck Bryant

    Thanks for taking the time to pen these good thoughts. I’ve discovered through numerous discussions of “is it a BarCamp” that plenty of people start with that criticism and end up meaning different things. One common thread, though, is not so much that BCN isn’t a great event, but that it’s not the type of event that some people would like to see happen. At this point, BCN is a thing of it’s own and while there are lots of opportunities to make improvements and respond to community interests, turning it into a more strictly defined traditional BarCamp isn’t viable. Not when 650+ people are showing up to the current one.

    I think your suggestion that BCN organizers would encourage the creation of an additional event is spot on. Further, I think plenty of crew members would step up to help make it happen, myself included. But for that to happen, someone has to step up with the vision and plant the flag. BCN didn’t just drop from the sky. It was and continues to be the product of lots of people’s hard work — formed around an unwritten and evolving framework of what constitutes a Nashville-style unconference. There’s plenty of room for an unconference with a different set of core principles and plenty of resources to make it happen. But someone needs to take the lead by articulating a vision of what could be and offering to lead the effort.

  • http://chuckbryant.net Chuck Bryant

    Thanks for taking the time to pen these good thoughts. I’ve discovered through numerous discussions of “is it a BarCamp” that plenty of people start with that criticism and end up meaning different things. One common thread, though, is not so much that BCN isn’t a great event, but that it’s not the type of event that some people would like to see happen. At this point, BCN is a thing of it’s own and while there are lots of opportunities to make improvements and respond to community interests, turning it into a more strictly defined traditional BarCamp isn’t viable. Not when 650+ people are showing up to the current one.

    I think your suggestion that BCN organizers would encourage the creation of an additional event is spot on. Further, I think plenty of crew members would step up to help make it happen, myself included. But for that to happen, someone has to step up with the vision and plant the flag. BCN didn’t just drop from the sky. It was and continues to be the product of lots of people’s hard work — formed around an unwritten and evolving framework of what constitutes a Nashville-style unconference. There’s plenty of room for an unconference with a different set of core principles and plenty of resources to make it happen. But someone needs to take the lead by articulating a vision of what could be and offering to lead the effort.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnellis John Ellis

    Chris,

    Well said and thanks for speaking out.   I have always had a sense this is “vocal minority”, as you hinted.

    BarCamp Nashville was never intended to attract any specific group.  It just morphed into whatever it is. It was not targeted toward marketing people, at least not intentionally.   It was just a group of volunteers putting a strong effort in, as they manage full-time jobs. Mistakes were made along the way, but it’s clearly worked. No doubt BarCamp Nashville is successful.

    There seems to be a misconception that BarCamp is heavily social media focused.  Last year’s BarCamp Nashville had 4 sessions on social media, and several of those were more technical, than marketing.   Of course, we’ve noticed less “tech” sessions than we would have liked over the years.  

    As this year’s Chair of BarCamp Nashville, I can tell you exhaustive efforts have been under way to encourage more coding and development sessions for 2011.  Early results are showing that to be paying off. 

    BarCamp is, and always has been, whatever participates make it.  Every year it improves. New things are tried. Some work. Some do not work, but effort is always there. New faces on the crew bring new ideas.  

    I agree that BarCamp Nashville simply would not have become what it is now, if it would have started as a “traditional” BarCamp. We simply were not there. At least we were not at the time.  Maybe that format could work now. I would love the idea of an additional conference following that format. Not a replacement, an addition. I would not expect it to be as successful, but that’s okay.  It doesn’t have to be as successful.

    I would love to see the “vocal minority” take this project and run with it. I would definitely attend.  However, as @twitter-8270332:disqus   said, “I suspect they won’t. And the criticisms will continue.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnellis John Ellis

    Chris,

    Well said and thanks for speaking out.   I have always had a sense this is “vocal minority”, as you hinted.

    BarCamp Nashville was never intended to attract any specific group.  It just morphed into whatever it is. It was not targeted toward marketing people, at least not intentionally.   It was just a group of volunteers putting a strong effort in, as they manage full-time jobs. Mistakes were made along the way, but it’s clearly worked. No doubt BarCamp Nashville is successful.

    There seems to be a misconception that BarCamp is heavily social media focused.  Last year’s BarCamp Nashville had 4 sessions on social media, and several of those were more technical, than marketing.   Of course, we’ve noticed less “tech” sessions than we would have liked over the years.  

    As this year’s Chair of BarCamp Nashville, I can tell you exhaustive efforts have been under way to encourage more coding and development sessions for 2011.  Early results are showing that to be paying off. 

    BarCamp is, and always has been, whatever participates make it.  Every year it improves. New things are tried. Some work. Some do not work, but effort is always there. New faces on the crew bring new ideas.  

    I agree that BarCamp Nashville simply would not have become what it is now, if it would have started as a “traditional” BarCamp. We simply were not there. At least we were not at the time.  Maybe that format could work now. I would love the idea of an additional conference following that format. Not a replacement, an addition. I would not expect it to be as successful, but that’s okay.  It doesn’t have to be as successful.

    I would love to see the “vocal minority” take this project and run with it. I would definitely attend.  However, as @twitter-8270332:disqus   said, “I suspect they won’t. And the criticisms will continue.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34104586 Lance Conzett

    So, I don’t have a dog in this race. I wasn’t even aware of a Barcamp “controversy” until this blog post since I’m on the margin of these circles. That being said, I think the outright dismissal and vilification of Barcamp critics borders on the absurd. Not so much in this post, but with some members of the (kinda insular!) local tech inner circle who are seemingly unwilling to take this cat’s criticisms to heart.

    While I agree that there’s enough room in the world for two distinctly different groups — the neckbeards and the SEO ninjas (to use alliterative pejoratives) — the critic does have a point in that the random session picking is totally silly and probably counter-intuitive. It’s no better than the “first-come first-serve” model that they’re trying to get away from. Bad sessions shut down interest, especially in newbies.

    Let me give you an example. I went to Barcamp last year. It was my first time and since I had a few friends and coworkers that were volunteers, I figured that I should at least check it out. I don’t self-identify as a “tech guy,” but I am tech savvy. I dropped in on a session about blogging where the guy literally was telling people that the should write their blog posts as if their readers were children and advised that you comment spam other blogs with your posts. Seriously! It immediately made me question whether or not I was really making the best of my Saturday and Barcamp wound up losing out to buying a Misfits CD at The Great Escape (it was a good one though! Legacy of Brutality is a truly righteous compilation).

    Sure, there were probably other sessions that day that were useful/interesting/etc. (and I picked up some good tips from friends on Twitter as the day went on). But, there is definitely a danger when your sessions are taken up by low-quality sessions manned by people who want to promote their book, their blog, their product. It makes the whole thing look bad.

    But, then again, I wasn’t there to network. I was there on a curious educational whim and I think that puts me in the minority. In any case, a little curation goes a long way. I think the unwillingness to listen to criticism is short-sighted and the way that some people chose to react on both sides was, frankly, embarrassing.

    • http://twitter.com/ThatScottGuy Scott Kozicki

      So you’re saying that the traditional unconference style of allow anyone who writes their name on the schedule is more conducive to quality content than the only slightly less democratic method that BarCampNash practices of allowing the community to vote on what they want to hear (and also allowing a track of traditional unconference style show up and talk)?

      Brilliant.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34104586 Lance Conzett

        No? I rejected both of those ideas as not really being conducive toward weeding out the bad, self-serving sessions. My point as that at least a little bit of deliberate choice by the powers that be might make for a better conference. Whoever that may be doesn’t have to make all of the choices but, personally, I think a combination of curation and the democratic ideal that these sorts of things strive for would make for a more consistent event.

        • http://chuckbryant.net Chuck Bryant

          Just want to make a point about quality of sessions and having an open speaking grid. In keeping with the BarCamp ideal that anyone can speak, the goal for BarCamp Nashville so far has been to avoid having the planning crew constrain who gets to speak based on anything other than limited space and time. Initially that was with first-come, first-served (like a traditional BarCamp), but when interest in speaking completely overwhelmed the supply of pre-scheduled slots on the grid, the crew elected to try random draw for those spots instead. 

          Under both models, however, we do have a community-based method for weeding out sessions. After the pre-scheduled sessions are selected, we open them up for sign-ups in the remaining weeks prior to the event. This serves a number of purposes, not the least of which is the opportunity for the community of registered attendees to provide direct feedback about which sessions they’d like to see. (We also use the sign-ups to schedule more popular sessions in the larger rooms.) 

          Sessions that draw few sign-ups tend to get revised or canceled *by the speakers* and replaced with alternates. The result has been a grid of sessions with lots of interest as expressed by the people who are most likely to attend rather than a grid full of sessions curated by a small group’s ideas about what people want to see or a grid of sessions voted in by a social media campaign-driven popularity contest. 

          I don’t think anyone on any of the past crews has a problem with curated events, but that’s not what we’ve been trying to achieve with BCN. We’re trying our best to make the event as user-generated and community-driven as possible while still maintaining the widest possible opportunities for anyone/everyone to participate. Judging by the number of people who have been attending and the number of people interested in speaking, I’d say we’ve been doing a pretty decent job with the pre-scheduled sessions. 

          Still, there’s lots of room for improvement and that’s why each crew has considered, debated, and implemented plenty of changes over the years. This year the crew is trying random draw for the pre-scheduled grid in order to level the playing field. We’re also trying a new format for the day-of scheduled “impromptu” grid to make it a more viable companion to the pre-scheduled grid. There’s even a team looking for ways to enhance the viability and use of the discussions tables which have gone mostly unnoticed the past couple of years. 

          BarCamp Nashville has attracted a wide variety of tech-related sessions over the years. Someone attending might encounter sessions they don’t value, but those sessions will likely be well-attended by others who do. Hopefully, everyone finds at least a few sessions that satisfy their interests and perhaps stumble into a few that surprise them, learn some new things, and connect with others along the way. And isn’t that really the whole point?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34104586 Lance Conzett

    So, I don’t have a dog in this race. I wasn’t even aware of a Barcamp “controversy” until this blog post since I’m on the margin of these circles. That being said, I think the outright dismissal and vilification of Barcamp critics borders on the absurd. Not so much in this post, but with some members of the (kinda insular!) local tech inner circle who are seemingly unwilling to take this cat’s criticisms to heart.

    While I agree that there’s enough room in the world for two distinctly different groups — the neckbeards and the SEO ninjas (to use alliterative pejoratives) — the critic does have a point in that the random session picking is totally silly and probably counter-intuitive. It’s no better than the “first-come first-serve” model that they’re trying to get away from. Bad sessions shut down interest, especially in newbies.

    Let me give you an example. I went to Barcamp last year. It was my first time and since I had a few friends and coworkers that were volunteers, I figured that I should at least check it out. I don’t self-identify as a “tech guy,” but I am tech savvy. I dropped in on a session about blogging where the guy literally was telling people that the should write their blog posts as if their readers were children and advised that you comment spam other blogs with your posts. Seriously! It immediately made me question whether or not I was really making the best of my Saturday and Barcamp wound up losing out to buying a Misfits CD at The Great Escape (it was a good one though! Legacy of Brutality is a truly righteous compilation).

    Sure, there were probably other sessions that day that were useful/interesting/etc. (and I picked up some good tips from friends on Twitter as the day went on). But, there is definitely a danger when your sessions are taken up by low-quality sessions manned by people who want to promote their book, their blog, their product. It makes the whole thing look bad.

    But, then again, I wasn’t there to network. I was there on a curious educational whim and I think that puts me in the minority. In any case, a little curation goes a long way. I think the unwillingness to listen to criticism is short-sighted and the way that some people chose to react on both sides was, frankly, embarrassing.

  • http://twitter.com/amandafrench Amanda French

    Interesting. We actually run an unconference called THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) that’s based on the BarCamp model, and we too have become less technical as we’ve become more popular. And that’s less technical, not non-technical. The nice thing about the unconference format, I think, is that it can accommodate all skill levels — if the “neckbeards” want to go off in a room and code stuff, they certainly can, without being incommoded by the n00bs who want to know what the Tweeters is all about.

    For what it’s worth, THATCamp is run a bit more centrally than BarCamp is. We trademarked the THATCamp name and logo, and although everything else is Creative Commons licensed, we do ask people to register their THATCamp centrally. Which also lets us  make sure that people don’t start charging huge registration fees and so on.

  • http://twitter.com/amandafrench Amanda French

    Interesting. We actually run an unconference called THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) that’s based on the BarCamp model, and we too have become less technical as we’ve become more popular. And that’s less technical, not non-technical. The nice thing about the unconference format, I think, is that it can accommodate all skill levels — if the “neckbeards” want to go off in a room and code stuff, they certainly can, without being incommoded by the n00bs who want to know what the Tweeters is all about.

    For what it’s worth, THATCamp is run a bit more centrally than BarCamp is. We trademarked the THATCamp name and logo, and although everything else is Creative Commons licensed, we do ask people to register their THATCamp centrally. Which also lets us  make sure that people don’t start charging huge registration fees and so on.

  • Large Land Mammal

    Well done, sir.

  • http://www.davedelaney.me/ Dave Delaney

    Thanks for the post Chris. As they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. 

    I’m so proud of the incredible volunteers and leaders who have continued to make BarCamp kick ass. The positive feedback each year far out numbers the negative.  

    What we should be doing is stopping and recognizing the people who volunteer countless hours to organize BarCamp (and PodCamp) each year. 

    Haters need to stop hating and start creating or participating. There’s always room for another un-conference, but we’ve been saying that for five years now.

  • Large Land Mammal

    Well done, sir.

  • http://www.davemadethat.com Dave Delaney

    Thanks for the post Chris. As they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. 

    I’m so proud of the incredible volunteers and leaders who have continued to make BarCamp kick ass. The positive feedback each year far out numbers the negative.  

    What we should be doing is stopping and recognizing the people who volunteer countless hours to organize BarCamp (and PodCamp) each year. 

    Haters need to stop hating and start creating or participating. There’s always room for another un-conference, but we’ve been saying that for five years now.

  • Tara Aaron

    I count 44 sessions so far.  By my count, 20 of them are “tech,” although I’m guessing we could debate for hours which ones are “tech” and which ones aren’t.  I’m thinking we have more than 20 “neckbeards” in this town.  We’d love to see them sign up.  And oh, yeah, the planning meeting is at Anode on Main Street in East Nashville and starts in 8 minutes.

  • Tara Aaron

    I count 44 sessions so far.  By my count, 20 of them are “tech,” although I’m guessing we could debate for hours which ones are “tech” and which ones aren’t.  I’m thinking we have more than 20 “neckbeards” in this town.  We’d love to see them sign up.  And oh, yeah, the planning meeting is at Anode on Main Street in East Nashville and starts in 8 minutes.

  • pvanhoesen

    Thanks for bringing this up Chris, fortunately I have tech credentials and a neckbeard so I can at least comment ….   The spirit of the first BarCamp Nashville was to bring the Unconference format to Nashville and to tap into the special collaborative energy that is here.   That energy is readily available to people who want to bring collaborative and creative ideas to the table and take the responsibility to make them happen.  The people that started BarCamp were an amazing mixture of tech/marketing/social media savvy – they were not singularly focused on a particular topic (example:  Marcus Whitney hits all three of these worlds).  The first BarCamp was not a traditional technical BarCamp in any sense. It generally followed the BarCamp rules but it was not targeted solely at technical people. It had a wide spectrum of speakers (including me talking about the lack of Internet penetration in rural communities).I think the original organizers were all fairly amazed at the energy this event created.  I was!It was obvious that the BarCamp Nashville event format had far more potential than imagined and could serve a much wider audience and purpose.When the second BarCamp was started, one of the first things to get addressed was legal liability.  The first organizers were completely exposed legally and this had to be addressed.While it is nice to talk about having at-scale public event’s, it is another thing to pull it off … e.g. sign your name to a guaranteed venue lease BEFORE you have sponsor dollars;  financially commit to providing t-shirts, food, and all sorts of other nice things, etc.Someone has to be legally and financially responsible for all that. This becomes quickly apparent to anyone who tries to put together public events where you are not charging a fee or limiting attendance.To address all of the legal and financial pieces and parts for BarCamp and PodCamp, a legal entity was formed (over beer I might add)  that was designed to execute Unconferences:  Plugged In, Inc.  Plugged In, Inc. is a Tennessee corporation formed to provide the legal, financial and infrastructure pieces and parts for BarCamp, PodCamp and other un-conferences yet-to-be-discovered.  Plugged In’s current volunteer board consists of (in no particular order):a. Chuck Bryantb. Dave Delaneyc. Andrew Duthied. Ted Chapine. Scot Justicef. Julie Mooreg. Paul Van HoesenPlugged In, Inc. is the legal entity that contracts with venues, signs agreements with vendors, opens bank accounts for funds, takes fiscal responsibility for accounting for sponsorship dollars, ensures proper event insurance is in place, keeps the organizers legally insulated from liability, etc . The goal is to allow people with wonderful Unconference ideas to focus on defining and making their event happen, and not have to worry about all the backend stuff.  We continue to refine the Plugged In, Inc’s organization to better serve the community as it is still a work in progress but it has worked successfully as a covering organization since BarCamp #2 and PodCamp #1.  I can tell you from our personal experience, it is not easy to put such an organization together and keep it together.  Nashville has something very unique here.I’m with Chuck: If there truly is enough leadership momentum in town to hold a standalone event which is more focused on coding and highly technical topics, Plugged In can provide those who would like to be responsible for making that event happen with a roadmap and the organizational backend. Some of the things the organizers will need to consider are: 1. determining the first event size 2. number of classes based on how long you want to spend3. layout of classes – what kind of classroom works best?4. finding a venue that works for your format5. committing of initial funds either personally from organizers or from sponsors to guarantee the venue (unless we find a free venue which would be nice)7. how liability insurance for the event will be handled8. how classes and speakers will be chosen, etc.9. how residual funds or shortages will be covered, etc. 10. Communications and contracts to sponsors, volunteers, etc.11. Organization of volunteers, positions, responsibilities, etc.12. Execution day of - We have an amazing engine for Unconference events that is not simple to reproduce at scale.  If there is a core in the tech community that wants to pull a new event together, I suggest stepping up with an agenda, target date, leadership team, and lets figure out how to make it happen.  If you are successful, the whole community wins…Peace,Paul Van Hoesen

    • pvanhoesen

      Lost all my formatting…. messy read.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for bringing this up Chris, fortunately I have tech credentials and a neckbeard so I can at least comment ….   The spirit of the first BarCamp Nashville was to bring the Unconference format to Nashville and to tap into the special collaborative energy that is here.   That energy is readily available to people who want to bring collaborative and creative ideas to the table and take the responsibility to make them happen.  The people that started BarCamp were an amazing mixture of tech/marketing/social media savvy – they were not singularly focused on a particular topic (example:  Marcus Whitney hits all three of these worlds).  The first BarCamp was not a traditional technical BarCamp in any sense. It generally followed the BarCamp rules but it was not targeted solely at technical people. It had a wide spectrum of speakers (including me talking about the lack of Internet penetration in rural communities).I think the original organizers were all fairly amazed at the energy this event created.  I was!It was obvious that the BarCamp Nashville event format had far more potential than imagined and could serve a much wider audience and purpose.When the second BarCamp was started, one of the first things to get addressed was legal liability.  The first organizers were completely exposed legally and this had to be addressed.While it is nice to talk about having at-scale public event’s, it is another thing to pull it off … e.g. sign your name to a guaranteed venue lease BEFORE you have sponsor dollars;  financially commit to providing t-shirts, food, and all sorts of other nice things, etc.Someone has to be legally and financially responsible for all that. This becomes quickly apparent to anyone who tries to put together public events where you are not charging a fee or limiting attendance.To address all of the legal and financial pieces and parts for BarCamp and PodCamp, a legal entity was formed (over beer I might add)  that was designed to execute Unconferences:  Plugged In, Inc.  Plugged In, Inc. is a Tennessee corporation formed to provide the legal, financial and infrastructure pieces and parts for BarCamp, PodCamp and other un-conferences yet-to-be-discovered.  Plugged In’s current volunteer board consists of (in no particular order):a. Chuck Bryantb. Dave Delaneyc. Andrew Duthied. Ted Chapine. Scot Justicef. Julie Mooreg. Paul Van HoesenPlugged In, Inc. is the legal entity that contracts with venues, signs agreements with vendors, opens bank accounts for funds, takes fiscal responsibility for accounting for sponsorship dollars, ensures proper event insurance is in place, keeps the organizers legally insulated from liability, etc . The goal is to allow people with wonderful Unconference ideas to focus on defining and making their event happen, and not have to worry about all the backend stuff.  We continue to refine the Plugged In, Inc’s organization to better serve the community as it is still a work in progress but it has worked successfully as a covering organization since BarCamp #2 and PodCamp #1.  I can tell you from our personal experience, it is not easy to put such an organization together and keep it together.  Nashville has something very unique here.I’m with Chuck: If there truly is enough leadership momentum in town to hold a standalone event which is more focused on coding and highly technical topics, Plugged In can provide those who would like to be responsible for making that event happen with a roadmap and the organizational backend. Some of the things the organizers will need to consider are: 1. determining the first event size 2. number of classes based on how long you want to spend3. layout of classes – what kind of classroom works best?4. finding a venue that works for your format5. committing of initial funds either personally from organizers or from sponsors to guarantee the venue (unless we find a free venue which would be nice)7. how liability insurance for the event will be handled8. how classes and speakers will be chosen, etc.9. how residual funds or shortages will be covered, etc. 10. Communications and contracts to sponsors, volunteers, etc.11. Organization of volunteers, positions, responsibilities, etc.12. Execution day of - We have an amazing engine for Unconference events that is not simple to reproduce at scale.  If there is a core in the tech community that wants to pull a new event together, I suggest stepping up with an agenda, target date, leadership team, and lets figure out how to make it happen.  If you are successful, the whole community wins…Peace,Paul Van Hoesen

    • Anonymous

      Lost all my formatting…. messy read.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34104586 Lance Conzett

    No? I rejected both of those ideas as not really being conducive toward weeding out the bad, self-serving sessions. My point as that at least a little bit of deliberate choice by the powers that be might make for a better conference. Whoever that may be doesn’t have to make all of the choices but, personally, I think a combination of curation and the democratic ideal that these sorts of things strive for would make for a more consistent event.

    • http://chuckbryant.net Chuck Bryant

      Just want to make a point about quality of sessions and having an open speaking grid. In keeping with the BarCamp ideal that anyone can speak, the goal for BarCamp Nashville so far has been to avoid having the planning crew constrain who gets to speak based on anything other than limited space and time. Initially that was with first-come, first-served (like a traditional BarCamp), but when interest in speaking completely overwhelmed the supply of pre-scheduled slots on the grid, the crew elected to try random draw for those spots instead. 

      Under both models, however, we do have a community-based method for weeding out sessions. After the pre-scheduled sessions are selected, we open them up for sign-ups in the remaining weeks prior to the event. This serves a number of purposes, not the least of which is the opportunity for the community of registered attendees to provide direct feedback about which sessions they’d like to see. (We also use the sign-ups to schedule more popular sessions in the larger rooms.) 

      Sessions that draw few sign-ups tend to get revised or canceled *by the speakers* and replaced with alternates. The result has been a grid of sessions with lots of interest as expressed by the people who are most likely to attend rather than a grid full of sessions curated by a small group’s ideas about what people want to see or a grid of sessions voted in by a social media campaign-driven popularity contest. 

      I don’t think anyone on any of the past crews has a problem with curated events, but that’s not what we’ve been trying to achieve with BCN. We’re trying our best to make the event as user-generated and community-driven as possible while still maintaining the widest possible opportunities for anyone/everyone to participate. Judging by the number of people who have been attending and the number of people interested in speaking, I’d say we’ve been doing a pretty decent job with the pre-scheduled sessions. 

      Still, there’s lots of room for improvement and that’s why each crew has considered, debated, and implemented plenty of changes over the years. This year the crew is trying random draw for the pre-scheduled grid in order to level the playing field. We’re also trying a new format for the day-of scheduled “impromptu” grid to make it a more viable companion to the pre-scheduled grid. There’s even a team looking for ways to enhance the viability and use of the discussions tables which have gone mostly unnoticed the past couple of years. 

      BarCamp Nashville has attracted a wide variety of tech-related sessions over the years. Someone attending might encounter sessions they don’t value, but those sessions will likely be well-attended by others who do. Hopefully, everyone finds at least a few sessions that satisfy their interests and perhaps stumble into a few that surprise them, learn some new things, and connect with others along the way. And isn’t that really the whole point?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kelly-Stewart/614622472 Kelly Stewart

    Great work stirring the pot!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kelly-Stewart/614622472 Kelly Stewart

    Great work stirring the pot!

  • http://www.sitemason.com Tim Moses

    Nathan Hubbard (ex-Telalinker with BarCamp experience from other cities), and I are organizing BarCamp 0b10, a tech-focused, 2 day, traditional BarCamp to complement BCN. The current plan is to space it far enough from BCN (maybe Spring) to not force a choice between the two. If you like both, go to both, present at both. If not, pick your BarCamp of choice.

    I’ll post a link to more info later today.

  • http://www.sitemason.com Tim Moses

    Nathan Hubbard (ex-Telalinker with BarCamp experience from other cities), and I are organizing BarCamp 0b10, a tech-focused, 2 day, traditional BarCamp to complement BCN. The current plan is to space it far enough from BCN (maybe Spring) to not force a choice between the two. If you like both, go to both, present at both. If not, pick your BarCamp of choice.

    I’ll post a link to more info later today.

  • http://twitter.com/BradBlackman Brad Blackman

    I’ve noticed PodCamp Nashville has taken a more “marketing and creative” slant the past few years. Perhaps BarCamp should be the more tech-oriented *camp, and allow PodCamp to embrace the other side? That said, you have to have both sides for things to happen. Like Chris (Wage) said, “For every Steve Wozniak, there’s a Steve Jobs.”

  • http://www.sitemason.com Tim Moses

    … and here’s the link.

    http://lnl.st/0b10

  • http://www.sitemason.com Tim Moses

    … and here’s the link.

    http://lnl.st/0b10

  • http://chuckbryant.net Chuck Bryant

    The problems with first-come were numerous, but mostly centered around when you found out that session creation was open and whether or not you had time RIGHT THEN to submit your session. Huge advantage to people monitoring Twitter when the announcement went out (like social media types) and huge disadvantage to people with scope down to concentrate on work (like coders). Similar problem if we announced in advance when session creation opens to first-come… what if I can’t do it then? Random draw achieves a much more fair result where everyone has an equal chance to be selected. 

    And the draw happens as an open event broadcast via live stream where we draw *every* submission. Hard to rig the results. 

  • http://lauriekalmanson.blogspot.com/ laurie kalmanson

    what started as a flame war is turning into a nuanced discussion of resources/constraints and how to balance those in a community where there is a lot of talent and passion — great to see

    shameless plug: barcamp is an awesome event, and the tension over speaking spots underscores how much so many people have to say. digital nashville’s education series is picking up this fall after a quiet summer, and, as education chair, i welcome your proposals for (a) evening education series sessions (b) half day workshops, (c) full day workshops, (d) multi day workshops.

    proposals are reviewed by the education team.

    interested? email me at (myname)@gmail:disqus

  • Anonymous

    what started as a flame war is turning into a nuanced discussion of resources/constraints and how to balance those in a community where there is a lot of talent and passion — great to see

    shameless plug: barcamp is an awesome event, and the tension over speaking spots underscores how much so many people have to say. digital nashville’s education series is picking up this fall after a quiet summer, and, as education chair, i welcome your proposals for (a) evening education series sessions (b) half day workshops, (c) full day workshops, (d) multi day workshops.

    proposals are reviewed by the education team.

    interested? email me at (myname)@gmail:disqus