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Has the Bar Camp Experience Already Run it’s Course?

The future of bar camps

REBarCampHard to believe anyone would want to kick you to the curb just after your first birthday. In fact barcamps have done a remarkable job in moving our industry forward. Yet with the speed of change in all things business today, what future does it have?

Can it survive and what will it look like a year from now? Can it continue to engage ALL types of real estate professionals at different experience levels or will it simply become too boutique for it’s own good. A few thoughts and an inquiry into how you see it:

Written By

Realtor, Speaker, former Indianapolis radio personality. Least prettiest person ever on HGTV. Crashed in a helicopter and a Cessna 182. Seven lives left. Blessed by an amazing family!



  1. Dave Woodson

    January 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Greg, great point, I had my first barcamp in Chicago and I found it troubling that I was one of 5 people that would travel less than 60 miles out of NW Indiana to go to NAR Hq. I think there where be a dying audience to barcamps as older agents keep doing what they are doing and will sooner or later retire while younger agents will find that niche and that one or two medium to push it out.

    I think we need to change message a tad to help newer people and keep improving the message for those who need advanced help or ideas. I, personally, have discovered several good ideas at every barcamp that I have attended.

    And, really, if you get 1 or 2 good ideas that will help grow your business that is a good barcamp

  2. Todd Carpenter

    January 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    RE BarCamp is not for everyone. Monday morning quarterbacks for example…

  3. Ken Brand

    January 10, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Ahhhh….the human nature of success turning self destructive. I feel similarly.

    Here’s my 4cents.

    1. As more and more adventurous souls hop on the clue-train, there will need to be two or three tracks, depending on your experience with gun powder – Tall, Gande’ and Venti. Otherwise, everyone runs into or over everyone else.

    2. To me the most valuable part is meeting like minded tribe members and gleaning valuable stuff, inside and outside the sessions.

    3. One thing I think hinders the benefits, the sessions are two short, it difficult to ask all the questions and share all the comments, in’s and out’s and occasionally a session is dominated by 50 watt bulbs who think they’re 1000 watt bulbs. I’ve presented a problem, but I don’t have a solution. Sigh.

    4. Lastly, like most things, it’s what you make it. Same thing on line, if you sit silent, lurk and wallflower, you’ll miss out. Gotta splash around, get wet and wild.

    That is all…Cheers.

  4. Greg Cooper

    January 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Dave….I do agree that like everything else it needs to keep improving itself or it will run it’s course. Obviously as I stated in the video I hope it does last…there’s great value.

    Todd….I’m not sure if you actually saw the video but in the bigger sense I actually paid you, Andy and everyone else a compliment along the way. Not certain what the issue is for you in my believing that if it is to survive it must grow and be as inclusive as possible.

  5. Greg Cooper

    January 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Ken….I’m very high on your first point. We may have different types of bar camps in the future. Not everyone is going to dash off to Rob Hahn’s advanced SEO class if they’re not fully ready. Likewise Facebook 101 will certainly not be for everyone either. Your second point is clearly the reason so many people go and if that’s what continues to get nurtured then the bar camp experience will continue to be a positive one.

  6. Todd Carpenter

    January 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm


    I did watch the video. And again I repeat.

    RE BarCamp is not for everyone.

    It’s not a commercial venture. It doesn’t have to grow. It doesn’t have to cater to newbies. It doesn’t have to survive. It’s not a big tent. It’s a small tent.

    It what it is and the last event I attended in San Diego was just as cool as the first I helped organize in San Francisco a year and a half ago.

    Build an event that caters to newbies if you want. But catering to newbies is not what RE BarCamp was ever supposed to be about and designing events for the lowest common denominator are more like work then fun. Not interested. The sheer boredom of an all inclusive event (bloggers connect SF in 2007) is what inspired me to look for ways to create niche events in the first place.

    • Brandie Young

      January 10, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      Hi Greg,

      Interesting thoughts you present.

      To Todd’s point, BarCamp doesn’t need to grow, or try to cater to a larger crowd. But it does need to continue to evolve, and based on those behind it, I believe it will.

    • Nobu

      January 10, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      Hi Todd,
      I was going to ask you this Thursday when I meet you in Chicago but this might be as good a forum to ask: I realize there’s already some sort of event planned for MidYear, but is there a reason we couldn’t have a BarCamp on the MidYear/NARCon convention floor?

      Personally I think new blood, new perspective and newbie participation is crucial for BarCamp to stay relevant. Judging from the pent-up demand here in Mpls, I would think there would be plenty of people who’d want to share what they do know, while learning a ton, all while opening up the door for many more; namely the thousands of bored Convention-goers looking for a spark in their business. Plus it’ll take up otherwise wasted space on the floor.

      I just think our way of doing business, in terms of use of new media, needs to be validated with some – again, as evidenced by my market; while making MidYear/NARCon valid again to the rest of us. I believe there’s value in both get-togethers, but not many do. Just a thought.

  7. Matt Dollinger

    January 10, 2010 at 3:37 pm


    Really liked your post here as this has been a question for me as well. I have gone back and forth as to whether the BarCamp is truly valuable or has become a social see-and-be-seen-groupie-session.

    What I’ve come up with is this – it’s both and that’s what keeps it from being just another conference. I think it serves multiple levels. For some it’s connecting with friends to keep them in a good place in a bad market. For others it’s all about learning. For some it’s both. Who am I to tell people they’re right, wrong or whatever.

    Rob Hahn and I had a discussion about this a while ago and proposed the idea that if you’re new to BarCamp you MUST present. I think that would be a great way to bring in new blood and keep topics fresh (to expand – you would have to come up with a topic in advance and the attendees would vote on them or something like that).

    Another idea would be to get it so that there are various sessions of different levels. I think that this would keep the “mic hogs” that you indirectly talked about from just using this as an ego leveraging platform. Say that there are 20 sessions: 5 on Advanced SM, 5 on Introduction to, 5 on Future Brokerage, 5 on Tools to better your business. I think that’s kind of what they try to do with scheduling now, but I think you get my drift.

    Think about this. Lollapalooza was awesome to setup when it was 1 day and 15 bands. It’s grown to a level when the “let it fly” mentality would take away from the event. I think that with BarCamp maturing it’s getting to the same level.

    (My Disclaimer – I think that the work to setup this unconference, maintain it, etc. has been amazing and don’t discount any of the awesome individuals that bust their @ss to keep it running. I hope that these thoughts are taken as constructive not destructive)

  8. Duke Long

    January 10, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Maybe Barcamp type events should not happen at all?
    Maybe they are not necessary, or are they?

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    January 10, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Frankly, I’ve gotten more from REBarCamps than I have from

    I’ve been especially fond of the Virtual Barcamps.

    Many real estate blogs have just become a circular conversation of what we heard or wrote three years ago. They are great for new readers but haven’t really contributed to my bag of tools.

    My experience with barcamps has given me new or better tools for my business. Whereas Twitter and Real Estate blogs have seem more intent on tearing down…well, everything.

    In the past three months, I’ve gone from over 50 RE blogs to three. I no longer read everyday, but maybe once a week. However, when I can do so without taking away from my business, I’ll make every effort to go meet with like minding people and learn a new trick or two.

  10. Matthew Rathbun

    January 10, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    BTW: Ben Martin and I worked to setup and MC a REBarCamp in Virginia and found that it was worth every minute.

  11. Ken Montville

    January 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Careful, Greg, speaking up for the newbie and little guy may get you labeled as a raving liberal…and we all know better than that! 🙂

    I’ve been to four REBar Camps and none of the Virtual ones. In fact, my first was the one in Fredericksburg, VA with Matt and Ben and I loved it. If was free, it was within commuting distance and I got to meet a lot of interesting people and learn some stuff I never knew before. I even got to see Todd’s “coming out” at NAR’s Director of Social Media (or whatever it’s called).

    I liked it so much I went to more. Each one was a little different and I started to get the feeling you allude to – that I was seeing the same people (which was nice but, hey, tweetups are nice) and, after awhile I was hearing the same thing. So, I stopped going. As Todd says, they’re not for everyone.

    They were great, for me, to meet a lot of the people whose blogs I read and to learn a few interesting technology tricks. They have value. I’m a little like you, though, I wonder how much more steam they have.

  12. Andy Kaufman

    January 11, 2010 at 12:52 am

    My comment is turning into a blog post, but my quick $.02 is that while REBC was never meant to be for everyone, it clearly resonated with a number of us in the industry & a community has formed as a result. Many REnetters meet each other for the first time at the events and life long friendships created & cemented.

    While I still prefer a basic setup with lots of open spaces, no pre-set agenda and interactive sessions, it’s up to each local team of volunteers to plan and organize an event that coincides with their vision within the general framework. It’s then up to us as individuals to be pro-active within this environment to connect, build, learn & share in order to get the most out of our involvement.

    If this doesn’t appeal to you, that’s okay. Whoever comes is the right people & whatever happens is the only thing that could have.

  13. Brad Coy

    January 11, 2010 at 3:25 am

    “Has the Bar Camp Experience Already Run it’s Course?”

    No. Interesting question though. One that seems to pop up here, there, and everywhere else on the web now and then. Why is that anyway?

    I think there are more important questions out there. Like, will Rob Hahn really host an advanced SEO session in NYC? If so, then sir you have some valid concerns.

  14. Daniel Bates

    January 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Never barcamped – drove 6 hours to Atlanta for ReTechSouth, which was great, but not worth the drive. I’ve really enjoyed the two Virtual rebarcamps though – as a presenter, administrator, and attendees – the 1st was a little 101 (pointed out in an earlier AG post) but the 2nd once seemed to really have something for everyone and with 4 classes to choose from at any given time there was lots to choose. Not as much IRL social interaction obviously, but perfect if you’re simply interested in hearing some of the best and brightest speak on their topics of expertise. The Tomato announced that we’ll try to do one every quarter or so, so certainly more frequent unless you’re driving across the country from Rebar to rebar and it also means more chances for improvement and lessons learned over a quicker time period.

  15. Greg Cooper

    January 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Well this has been an interesting discussion….perhaps more of one than I suspected. To be clear I am not criticizing the bar camp experience. If I could ever hang a legacy in this business on creating something as significant as REBC, I could die a happy man. Andy, Todd and all of those who have contributed have done an amazing job. The summary of my post is…..everything, EVERYTHING in our business is changing with warp speed. Even with the great contributions of the bar camp experience, IT WILL CHANGE. Would I keep it the same if I had my way? Of course….it works. But I’m not naive or foolish enough to think it’s static because that’s simply not reality.

  16. Stephanie Pfeffer

    January 11, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Fascinating conversation! Having only been to one I can say that REBarCamp was the second most impactful and eye opening program (after SXSW) that I attended in 2009. I deeply appreciate the idea sharing, open format and awesome/stimulating and exciting conversations I had and continue to have (hello..key!) as a result. Agree REBarCamp should change as it grows.. but duh.. its a living, breathing thing..doesn’t everything that lives change as it learns and grows?

    PS. Matt – LOVE the idea that all new attendees should be required to present. I didn’t – but suspect I would have gotten even more out of it if I did. Now if my schedule would just allow me to make it to another one! 🙂

  17. Doug Francis

    January 11, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Enjoyed all three BarCamps that I have attended and will participate in another sometime in 2010. I like sharing, feeling like part of the conversation, and learning something new.

    It’s funny but just when you think you understand it… well, the technology evolves again.

    Darn it, I missed the Kris Berg t-shirt!

  18. Joe Spake

    January 12, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Has the Bar Camp Experience Already Run it's Course?

  19. The Luddite Realtor

    January 12, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Has the Bar Camp Experience Already Run it's Course?

  20. Joe Spake

    January 12, 2010 at 4:35 am

    Has the Bar Camp Experience Already Run it’s Course?

  21. teresa boardman

    January 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

    I am conflicted about re bar camps. I love going to them mostly for social reasons even though I don’t like people. I have a hard time though. What is old to me is new to others and what is new for some is old for me. There is some value in networking with other agents but there is more value in interacting with persons who do not have real estate licenses. There is value in learning from others in the same business but there is also value in learning from people outside of our industry. One of the bests experiences I had this year was our Unsummit in Minneapolis. It has the same format as a rebar camp and was about techology and social media but it was a mixed group of executives, small marketing companies, communications companies and people from the high tech sector. e really interesting conversations about what is going on on the local level. I feel like I made some valuable contacts that will help my business and I have some ideas of where I can go to further my own education and improve my skills.

  22. Matt Case

    January 12, 2010 at 11:17 am

    REBarCamps work for me. Here’s why:
    I’m ADD. Short sessions and the rule of 2 feet mean I’m not stuck in a snoozer
    Interaction is key to my learning experience, and that I don’t have to sit politely and listen enhances that experience. See A.
    I’m cheap.
    I HATE being pitched to, especially by people who are supposed to be teaching me.
    I’m social. I like people. I love smart, engaging people, especially if they challenge me. I’ve found those people in attendance at REBarCamps
    I like to have fun. I play well with others. After REBarCamp is done, I get to have fun with my new friends.

  23. Steve Babbitt

    January 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Wow! Great comments and insights!
    I attended 3 barcamps in 2009. My first one, Columbus, was definitely the most interactive! SanDiego was more of a lecture session and so was Atlantic City, but I liked the fact that they were connected to a bigger event like NAR Convention or TriplePLay. You know, “hit two birds with one stone” idea!
    Like Matt, I too like meeting people and renewing friendships and the barcamps provide that opportunity in the social area as well. This is one element that is missing from the virtual barcamp which I attended as well.
    I guess for me, I’m not ready for them to stop and I appreciate all the work that is put in to organize and run them! Keep ’em coming!

  24. FrancesFlynnTho

    January 12, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Good thoughts RT@agentgenius Has the Bar Camp Experience Already Run it’s Course? (@tweal_estate @RealLifeSheri )

  25. Steve Babbitt

    January 12, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    RT @FrancesFlynnTho: Good thoughts RT@agentgenius Has the Bar Camp Experience Already Run it’s Course? (@tweal_esta …

  26. Martin Dorgan

    February 2, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    It’s a fact of life, there are always people coming into and leaving this world, just as there are in the Real Estate industry. And like there are good and bad apples in every basket, so is the interest in New Ideas. BarCamp gave me personally incite and reinforcement for what I find interesting. Example: I loved sitting through the video seminar by Greg Cooper and have reiterated most of what I learned to my fellow agents. But I was shocked and amazed at how many agents/brokers were actually A) in attendance B)Took something valuable away with them, afterwards – education.

    I believe we that attend Barcamp gain something new or learn something valuable and that is likely the basic concept we hope to come away with. I know I did.

    Hopefully the organizers don’t turn it into a commercial venue, but keep it a learning venue.
    I’d like to see the sessions spread over three days rather than try to cram everything ino one day. That would allow attendees to virtually not miss any sessions that were in conflict with others.
    And even though I sell residential real estate, ****I would attend a local BarCamp about Commercial Real Estate****

  27. Michael Price

    February 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Each one of these events is going to be different and whether or not they stay true to the format is something that is pretty much beyond anyone’s control. They are not for everyone. Some events will have plenty of content for a new agent, some many not have any at all. One thing is certain, there will always be plenty of “content” going forward. The thought that an REBC has become in any way “exclusive” has me scratching my head. By their very virtue, RE Barcamps are all inclusive. If you’re a new agent and you want to know something, show up and ask. That’s how it works. (You’ll even be able to keep some of the money you hopefully saved up to live off of while you start your new career)

    There have been and will continue to be those that view the concept as an opportunity to create a profit. Associations and “vendors” have already played loose with the brand to take advantage of the momentum, establish their own platform and charge an entry fee. Whether they succeed or fail is of no consequence to the movement overall, primarily because charging for entry and setting the schedule attaches a different kind of agenda to the process. It is antithetical to the concept of Barcamp to start with. That doesn’t make the pay to play events a bad thing, but it doesn’t make them a BarCamp experience either, It ceases to be what it is by virtue of the control associated with it.

    Where ever people decide to gather under the auspices of true a “unconference” , motivated only by their desire to give as much as they receive, the idea of RE Barcamp will continue on it’s own path.

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