What is a BarCamp?
BarCamp is a semi-informal meeting of like-minded technology people. It is the venue to share new technologies and ideas. Where formal conferences typically hire keynote speakers, barcamp meetings not only permit the attendees to speak, but encourage them to do so. In fact, if the people who attend do not speak, there probably will be no conference.
Tech news is really hot in this day and age, mostly because it is one industry where people are not confined to working for large corporations. For example, if you want to invent medicine, you need to be working for a major pharmaceutical company. But, it you want to develop applications, write code, or talk about your ideas, you can do so with others who probably share your vision. Honestly, your peers might even jump in and help you. That is exactly the thinking behind what is a BarCamp.
Generally speaking, the word associated with a BarCamp is "unconference" or "unevent", because things are done on-the-fly. But, some are better organized than others. It just depends on who started the ball rolling, and who wants to take control of the event. Likewise, some are bigger events with sponsors paying for breakfast, snacks or dinner, and maybe even donating the conference space. Door prizes might also be supplied by businesses who want the exposure to tech geeks.
The topics of discussion are fairly wide open. In addition to speaking, attendees can show demonstrations, provide free samples, and set up cooperative groups. Locations are held all around the world, again depending on who has the initiative to organize everything. Because the unconferences are self-supported, meaning that everyone pays his or her own way, there is usually no cost, or a nominal fee. For example, some organizers are charging ten dollars so that attendees get a badge, which they turn in for supper. Basically, the badge is a way of controlling who rightfully gets the perks at the BarCamp.
Interestingly, some of the bigger BarCamps that have been yearly events for six years now, have become informal job fairs. People actually attend in the hopes of finding work. Because companies now recognize that these events attract a plethora of bright-minded individuals, they send human resource employees to scope out the talent. Attendees are told to prepare in advance like having business cards, portfolios and resumes ready to distribute. In the same vein, networking is key at these events if you are looking for new clients or have freelancing projects available to outsource.
Further, each BarCamp has its own logo, albeit slightly modified from the original, a website, and its own way of doing things. But, one thing that is common is the community spirit. Everyone on the mailing list is asked to participate not only at the events, but also in advance by giving their opinions or suggestions on how things can be done the day of the conference. Some event rooms have full internet connectivity, data projectors, and other modern gadgets to make the presentations more interesting, while others are bare bones with tables and chairs, made expressly for the purpose of talking.
To conclude, the underlying goal of BarCamp unconferences is to meet like individuals, express your ideas, learn something new, and teach someone else something new.