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Participants in the first BarCamp simultaneously comment, listen, and follow along on their screens.

BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences primarily focused around technology and the web. They are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants. The first BarCamps focused on early-stage web applications, and were related to open source technologies, social software, and open data formats.

The format has also been used for a variety of other topics, including public transit, health care, education, and political organizing. The BarCamp format has also been adapted for specific industries like banking, education, real estate and social media.


Five of the six originators of BarCamp: Tantek Çelik, Chris Messina, Ryan King, Andy Smith (termie), and Matt Mullenweg.
Aung San Suu Kyi gives speech during BarCamp Yangon 2012

The name BarCamp is a playful allusion to the event's origins, with reference to the programmer slang term, foobar: BarCamp arose as an open-to-the-public alternative to Foo Camp, which is an annual invitation-only participant-driven conference hosted by Tim O'Reilly.

The first BarCamp was held in Palo Alto, California, from August 19–21, 2005, in the offices of Socialtext. It was organized in less than one week,[1] from concept to event, with 200 attendees.

Since then, BarCamps have been held in over 350 cities around the world, in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Australasia and Asia.[2] Attendees have often travelled internationally to attend BarCamps.[3]

To mark the first anniversary of BarCamp, BarCampEarth[4] was held in multiple locations worldwide on August 25–27, 2006. The second anniversary of BarCamp, BarCampBlock,[5] was held in Palo Alto at the original location, but also over a three block radius on August 18–19, 2007, and was attended by over 800 people.[6]

The largest recorded BarCamp took place in January 2013 with over 6400 confirmed registered attendees in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). The January 2010 BarCamp Yangon attracted over 4700 attendees (confirmed with registration forms). [7]


BarCamp makes their organizational process freely available, codifying it in a publicly available wiki. In addition to the BarCamp-branded network, it is also a model for user-generated conferences in other fields and for more specialized applications such as EdCamp,[8] IndieWebCamp,[9] WordCamp,[10] PodCamp,[11] Seattle Mind Camp,[12] crisis camps,[13] SkeptiCamp and THATCamp.[14] The real estate industry has adopted the Barcamp format with over 30 RE Barcamps completed and scheduled throughout the U.S. with plans underway to take the format internationally.[15] The BarCamp format has been used to organize events in foreign countries like the French-language VinoCamps[16] which have been held in wine regions across France. Important software innovations like JQuery have been released at BarCamp.

Structure and participatory process[edit]

Unlike traditional conference formats, both BarCamps and FooCamps have a self-organizing character, relying on the passion and the responsibility of the participants. Attendees schedule sessions by writing on a whiteboard or putting a Post-It note on a 'grid' of sessions.[17] Those giving sessions are discouraged from using the sessions for promotion.[18] BarCamps are often organized largely through the web; anyone can initiate a BarCamp using the BarCamp wiki.[19]

Students taking part in a BarCamp at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore, in February 2009

Although the format is loosely structured, there are rules[20] at BarCamp. All attendees are encouraged to present or facilitate a session or otherwise contribute to the event.[17] Everyone is also asked to share information and experiences of the event via public web channels, including blogs, photo sharing, social bookmarking, Twitter, wikis, and IRC. This encouragement to share is a deliberate change from the "off-the-record by default" and "no recordings" rules at many invite-only participant driven conferences. It also turns a physical, face-to-face event into a 'hybrid event' which enables remote online engagement with BarCamp participants.

Hosting and attending[edit]

Venues typically provide basic services. Free network access, usually WiFi, is crucial. Following the model of Foo Camp, the venue also makes space for the attendees, or BarCampers, to literally camp out overnight. Thus, BarCamps rely on securing sponsorship, ranging from the venue and network access to beverages and food.

Attendance is typically free of charge and generally restricted only by space constraints. Participants are typically encouraged to sign up in advance.

Historical precedents[edit]

This form of self-organized user generated conferences are conceptually similar to (although simpler than) Open Space Technology (OST), and also related to hackers' meetings in Europe, especially those nearer to anarchism and autonomism, happening since the '90s in Temporary Autonomous Zones or other occupied places. However, BarCamps lack the political motivations and are actually quite integrated with the mainstream ICT industry, often getting substantial sponsorships from major corporations. Some BarCamps, like RecentChangesCamp, BEAST (east bay Bloggers) Camp, HealthCamp and others, use the whole of the Open Space methodology.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]