By Jami Miedema

BarCamp was a term I was not familiar with until recently. Even after I learned what it was, it took awhile for me to wrap my mind around it. A BarCamp is a user-generated gathering (on-site, not virtual) created by and for individuals who are eager to learn and share in an open setting. They tend to broadly focus on and attract individuals in the field of information technology, but the topics and agenda are not pre-arranged. In fact, the attendees provide the content and decide what they want to discuss at a particular session. They are also encouraged to participate by giving presentations or opening a dialogue.

BarCamps were “founded” in 2005 in Palo Alto, CA, and have since popped up in hundreds of cities all over the world. They are usually organized and advertized via the web, especially through the use of a wiki and blogs. An advantage of these open events is that they are typically free of charge, as sponsors are kind enough to furnish space, food, and money to ensure a great experience for the “campers.” Perhaps the biggest benefit is the talent that is brought to the table and the information that is shared during and after the event. According to The Rules of BarCamp, “When you come, be prepared to share with barcampers. When you leave, be prepared to share it with the world.”

The laid-back structure of BarCamp is a refreshing contrast to the very private, invitation-only meetings held by some IT gurus. Therefore, it has been dubbed the “un-conference.”  So, if you are enthusiastic about learning, but do not want the hassle and cost of attending a formal conference, BarCamps are the perfect way to gain useful knowledge and skills, contribute unique ideas, and find new networking opportunities. Visit to see if there is a BarCamp event near your location.