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)
Already on the slate for this year are:
BarCampBank London 2
BarCampBank SF 2
Being planned are:
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?