On Hackfests and BarCamps

Recently I attended BarCamp Charlotte at Area 51. It happened to be a week-off of this years ConvergeSouth Greensboro, a similar event I’ve attended annually for about five years. As a tech-mixer affectionado I thought I’d post some thoughts on the interwebs about the genre.

BarCamp (4) Charlotte Field Report

  • Free as in beer; fully sponsored one-day’r with free lunch and a tee-shirt.
  • No national speakers, but lots of nice, friendly, and energetic attendees.
  • Never enough bandwidth, but not everything, or person there was tech.
  • Bar-format I suppose is standard, but the whole propose / vote / small groups thing seems to help get side-liners to lead, and head-liners to (temporarily) press mute.

Personally, I would like to see BarCamp and similar events become more routine and to some extent more solutions-driven and topical.  The format lends itself to self-organizing and low costs; but it’s the people there that are the juice. Point being, Challenge + Attendees = Outcomes.   Thus, a themed Bar that focused on a particular community challenge, might help produce a self-assembled group to tackle that challenge.

Additional thoughts on BarCamps

  • There is some potential to use Bar themes to help smooth political discourse in the US. Sure, maybe it’s a reach, but clearly we need to be trying new things in that area.
  • For active communities, an aggressive model of say big events once per quarter with smaller, more targeted events every week to two weeks is possible.
  • BarCamp is ripe for a national sponsor model. The sponsor would have to themselves be self-organizing; be hands-off enough to not be agenda-pushers; social-savvy enough to accept that parts of “the conversation” are out of their control. But especially for someone like a 4G carrier – where they could light the venue and let the live webcasts flow – I think they could produce some impressive, branded, media-shares.


Zoom out and over a bit and we see Hackfests, where (mostly) software developers assemble around programming challenges. Like BarCamps, Hackfests are emerging as simple and productive ways to get people “in the room”.  Similar to BarCamps, Hackfests have education and sharing at their core.

Free-Demo-Tables = Hackfest light.
Here in Charlotte I have been encouraging business event organizers to use the competitive nature of startups to drive PR and attendance.  That basically, if you give startups free space for demos, they will work their butts off to show up and show off their bleeding edge whatchamacallits – which in turn brings the press, the investors, and so on.  But more importantly, that the competitive nature means no slacking off for the startups. TechCrunch Disrupt and others of course are the big-top version of the concept, but locally, regionally, as a concept, free-demo-tables just don’t exist yet.

Final thoughts on these hack-events. BarCamps and Hackfests are probably another world for most of America. But for those involved, they are a type of little-engine-that-could for personal, social, and business development. Like the early days of the www, they feel like a perpetual experiment. And like www v. 0.1, that may not turn out to be a bad thing after all.


About Robert Reddick

Co-Founder at GateStaff where we offer a Time & Attendance SaaS solutions for workforce, staffing, and volunteer communities.

Posted on October 21, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on On Hackfests and BarCamps.

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