To BarCamp or to CodeCamp? Is that a question?
Since I have attended both BarCamps and CodeCamps, have helped organize a couple of BarCamps so far, and am helping promote the Silicon Valley CodeCamp, I think I am qualified to discuss the differences between the two. However my experience has been focused on events in
California, events in other corners of the world may be very different.
Both events are free and open to everyone to participate. BarCamp is more closely modeled after FooCamp while CodeCamp is more similar to traditional conferences. At CodeCamp you have a traditional website with signups. You submit the sessions you want to present, and the organizers will put together a schedule, with possible tracks. At BarCamp, you just have a wiki. As the event is gelled out, the wiki becomes more and more developed. Everyone signs up on the signup wiki page where they may say a word or two on what they want to talk about. A fundamental quality of BarCamp is that there are no pre planned sessions. Only a schedule of slots is decided before the event. At the event, butcher paper is taped to the walls, a grid is drawn, and folks fill in the slots with what they want to talk about. Some people still come with a polished presentation with Power Point and demos. However, some of the more interesting talks are when someone says I want to facilitate a discussion on topic X. Another interesting aspect is when groups spontaneously come together to talk on a topic as a result of talks earlier in the day. This free form un-conference attitude gives BarCamp a special feeling and excitement that is absent in traditional conferences. The cost is some chaos. At BarCamp sessions may run into other sessions and a certain amount of confusion may reign. You also have to constantly look at the board to make sure that you will not miss out on a new cool sessions.
The scope of material discussed at CodeCamp is limited to code. Talks are heavy with code samples and demos. BarCamp is more about Web2.0, technological innovations and social and business aspects of it with a healthy dose of code.
So is BarCamp better or CodeCamp? The answer is that they both have great qualities. When someone is coming to present on something, they can present at both camps. CodeCamp allows them to announce their presentations before hand. This allows folks who want to come down the camp to know who is presenting on what. They can bring their questions on those topics and plan in advance not to miss the talk. However, BarCamp’s ability to discuss new topics on the spur of the moment has great advantages also.
I talked to
Peter Kellner who is organizing the Silicon Valley CodeCamp about this. We decided to open up a few rooms as BarCamp rooms at the CodeCamp so we can have the best of both worlds — structure for things that are already known and lack of structure to allow for flexibility.