BarCampMoney NYC or BarCampBank NYC?

Last year, I was delighted when Frederic Baud, one of the organizers of the first BarCampBank (in Paris), tweeted that he just discovered that BarCampMoney NYC was to be held on April 14, 2008. By complete coincidence, the organizers, including Jonah Keegan, had gained momentum to put on the event without knowing that a similar event had been organized in the U.S. the previous year, in Seattle, and that two additional U.S. BarCampBanks were slated for San Francisco and New England in each of the preceding two weeks to the New York event.

I assumed the NYC event was named BarCampMoney instead of BarCampBank simply because Jonah was not aware of the existence of the other events, and had been inspired to create an event in much the same way that the original event was spawned from BarCamp Paris, but had simply decided on a different name.

If you are not already familiar with BarCamp and BarCampBank, these are unconferences where the audience/participants are the star of the show. Entry is free or low cost, and there are no featured speakers. It’s a model of democracy in action. The best Camps are conducted using Open Space principles with no predetermined agenda. Despite its funny name, BarCampBank is an unconference dedicated to innovation in regards to technology and finance. It’s definitely not about bankers, per se. In fact, bankers are a minority of attendees at a BarCampBank if there are any at all.

I gave Jonah access to the BarCampBank Facebook group already in existence, which included people who were at BarCampBank Paris and BarCampBank Seattle. At this time, I also invited Jonah to change the name of his event to fit the existing community of BarCampBanks that had already occurred, or were about to occur. He declined, citing that materials had already been created and published with the BarCampMoney name, which was understandable.

The event was well-attended, with approximately 50 out of the 75 registered attendees showing up. The group was quite diverse, from investment bankers to angel investors to entrepreneurs to programmers.

The organizers are about to hold the event again, on March 7, and knew there was an opportunity to either stick with the BarCampMoney name, or switch to the BarCampBank name.

My arguments for switching to the BarCampBank name are as follows:

1.) Few bankers usually show up to BarCampBank. The fact that’s it’s not just about bank or just for bankers is explained quickly and easily. But it makes sense in that discussion is about how we can revolutionize the ways in which banking is done.

2.) There are already groups set up and organized online with the BarCampBank name, i.e. wiki pages, Facebook group, Google Group. These groups represent a worldwide audience of people who are interested in BarCampBanks, and may have attended one.

3.) There have been many BarCampBanks held throughout the world, namely:
BarCampBank Paris (the first one, in Sept. 2006)
BarCampBank Seattle
BarCampBank SF
BarCampBank NewEngland
BarCampMoney NYC
BarCampBank Dallas
BarCampBank London
BarCampBank Charleston
BarCampBank BC

Already on the slate for this year are:
BarCampBank London 2
BarCampBank SF 2
BarCampBank Vegas

Being planned are:
BarCampBankCharlotte
BarCampBankMadison
BarCampBankBarcelona
BarCampBankEstonia
BarCampBankMadrid

During a conference call with the BarCampMoney organizers today, the New York group has decided to stick with the BarCampMoney name for the following reasons:

1.) Historical precedent; continuity with last year’s event.

This is understandable.

2.) New York is special, and includes Wall Street, investment bankers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and is the financial center of the world; therefore it deserves a special name, different than the rest, to set it apart.

To me, this argument is weak. Every city is special and every city lends its own character to an event, especially a financial-related event. Having attended four BarCampBanks in four different cities, and even organizing one of them, one of the things that I most enjoy about them is the distinctive character that each city lends to the event. BarCampBank SF was wonderfully tech and start-up oriented, BarCampBank NewEngland was credit union oriented by design, the first BarCampMoney NYC was venture-capital and investment oriented, and BarCampBank BC had a worthy-cause and social media flavor.

New York as a city has enough star-power on its own that it doesn’t need additional differentiation through the name.

3.) Another reason cited for keeping the BarCampMoney name was that this subset of the greater BarCamp movement could catch on and be held in numerous cities worldwide. This argument makes no sense since the BarCampBank movement has already caught on and is already being held in many cities, with many more in the works. BarCampLondon 2 is slated for February 14 and BarCampBank SF 2 is slated for April 25 & 26. This argument also directly contradicts the argument that the NYC event needs a special name due to the unique nature of the financial community there.

A BarCamp of any type is primarily about meeting people in-person, and therefore is primarily oriented to the physical geography in which it is held. But since technology is breaking down barriers of geography, acknowledging the world outside, being inclusive to the greater movement is worthy too. To say that New York is special is redundant; every locale is special. To try to show the rest of the world that New York is special through having a different name is to not be inclusive to folks in other areas who may have interest in attending, or in some way getting involved. After all, though the efforts of Brent Dixon, at BarCampBank BC, via live video stream over the web, we had questions and comments from all over the world, including colleagues in Boston, North Carolina, Dallas, Madison, Paris, and elsewhere (Hi Ron, Matt, Brad, Chris, and Frederic!).

Ultimately, the name won’t affect the event too much one way or another, except in the expectations of some attendees. The question boils down to if the organizers want this event to be a part of a broader movement or not. As long as the event is held in the spirit of BarCamps, then either name will work.

Your thoughts and opinions on the matter?

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12 Responses to “BarCampMoney NYC or BarCampBank NYC?”

  1. David Gerbino Says:

    I vote for BarCampBank NYC

  2. Morriss Partee Says:

    I should reiterate that this subject is not up for vote; everyone involved in organizing this event prefers to stick with the BarCampMoney NYC name.

  3. William Azaroff Says:

    Thanks Morriss. I actually like the name for two reasons.

    It broadens the scope from the banking industry to the entire concept of money. In these turbulent times, that may be a wise move.

    Why not name it something different? We need all these little variations to encourage evolution in the way we approach things.

    I don’t think BarCampBank should become BarCampMoney or vice versa. There’s room for all of us.

  4. Ron Shevlin Says:

    I think the organizers of the North American BarCampBanks that I’m familiar with should have called their events BarCampCreditUnions.

  5. Morriss Partee Says:

    @William You bring up a great point. The BarCampBank name is a really weird one to begin with, and myself, I would prefer all of them have a name like FinanceCamp. That would be much more descriptive and appropriate. One of the biggest spinoffs of the BarCamp movement is PodCamp. PodCamp is sticking with their name despite that event not being just for podcasting because they have trademarked the name for the common good. That way one group or company can not appropriate the name for other purposes.

    @Ron When Jesse Robbins brought the concept to the US in 2007, his purpose at the time was to try to launch a new breed of credit union. So that would have worked. But there’s history behind the existing name. I mean, the name “credit union” itself blows chunks, but there’s 100 years of history behind it.

  6. Guillaume Says:

    I think if BarCampMoney highlights the fact that conversations may circle around new kinds of money like community currencies, the name makes sense.
    Re: the New York location argument, I think “BarCampFinance” may make more sense.

  7. Morriss Partee Says:

    @Guillaume Community currencies has not part of the conversation so far regarding the NY event, and I doubt it will.

    Thanks, everyone, for your diverse and interesting opinions! Keep ‘em coming, I love this open and engaging conversation. Which is kinda the point of whatever flavor Camp.

  8. tinfoiling Says:

    The name may be one reason why people would or wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t go to a BarCampMoney. Community currencies makes sense but not interested. BarCampBank does show an interest. What shouldn’t change is the open wiki that people signup on. By looking closely at the attendance you sometimes can get a good idea of what it may look like. If attendees also include their blogs you can get a real good idea.

  9. Morriss Partee Says:

    @tinfoiling Yes, that’s why I was pleased to learn about CrowdVine when it was introduced to BarCampBank SF. With crowdvine, you sign up, tell it where your blog stream, flickr stream, and twitter stream live, and voila, it pulls it into your profile. Using it, I was able to “get to know” a few BarCampBankers ahead of time. I then set up CrowdVine for BarCampBank NewEngland, for BarCampMoney NYC, and for BarCampBank BC as well.

    Yeah, this naming thing is interesting. It was certainly funny to put “Bank” in the name for BarCampBank NewEngland, since it was held in America’s Credit Union Museum, but I thought it was clearly the right thing to do to show support and kinship with the BarCamps that preceeded it, to acknowledge that the event was also part of an established movement.

  10. David Gerbino Says:

    I originally read this post on my phone while getting ready for work this morning and typed my first comment as I walked to the car. After rereading the post and everyones comments I realized the following:

    1) when I first saw BarCampMoney NYC last year I was disappointed it was not a BarCampBank. Once I went to the website I realized it was part of the BarCampBank family. I admit, the Money name part mislead me.

    2) I like consistency in naming. We are all bankers so what is so wrong with BarCampBank. Do we really need different names based on the institutions charter. Do we really need BarCampMutual, BarCampPrivateBank, BarCampCommunityBank, BarCampSuperCommunityBank, BarCampCreditUnion, BarCampFirstStepConversionBank, BarCampSecondStepConversionBank, BarCampThriftBank, BarCampCommercialBank, etc. I could go on but its late.

    So in the end, what ever.

    As long as the event has interesting people, spurs dialog, creates friendships, and improves our industry, I am for it.

    @dmgerbino

  11. Jeffry Pilcher Says:

    You all know what I think about the BCB naming system already…

  12. william azaroff » Blog Archive » ChangeCamp coming to Vancouver? Says:

    […] Last year I was one of the co-organizers of BarCampBankBC, an un-conference devoted to innovation in the financial services industry. BarCampBank has occurred several times around the world, and, as one of the attendees Morriss Partee recently blogged, each one takes on a local element. Morriss said that BarCampBankBC specifically “had a worthy-cause and social media flavor“. […]

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