OpenCodeCamp - Where the best of HackDays and BarCamps come togetherMay 8th, 2012Cristiano Betta4 minute read

TL;DR I want to run a new kind of event: OpenCodeCamp (working title). OpenCodeCamp should be an event that promotes knowledge sharing and skills swapping amongst developers of any age or level of experience. It should be free of commercialism, competition, sexism, racism, age-ism and accessible to developers of any seniority.

Read the full post and leave a comment if you want to get involved.

Where did this come from?

I love HackDays but I have some issues with where they are going as you may have noticed here, here, and here. I also love BarCamps, having been to many and having organised a few, but I noticed that HackDays and BarCamps are diverging in purpose and format.

Our contact at City University where we ran 2 BarCamps once described BarCamps as "free learning events". Anyone can come in and learn, and most people will do their best to teach others whatever knowledge they have. It brings together anyone interested enough in learning new things and with an open mind to share their own skills and knowledge in return.

In my eyes (though I might be wrong) this is how HackDays were when they started. They were events where anyone could come to play with new programming languages and platforms, learn about new concepts and ideas, and collaborate on interesting and crazy new ideas. Sadly from there the events have become increasingly more competitive, lowering the amount of true knowledge sharing that is done, and making the events ever more closed off to anyone from outside of the particular industry that the HackDay focusses on.

Proposing OpenCodeCamp (working title)

So here is what I want to do instead: I want to run an event that promotes knowledge sharing and skills swapping amongst developers of any age or level of experience. Inspired by the rules of BarCamp, I think OpenCodeCamp should have the following rules:

  • Rule #1 - No spectators, only participants - Like with BarCamps the goal at a OpenCodeCamp is that everyone participates. You should be either involved in teaching, learning, or creating new technologies for someone else to use. If you wanted to find the nice networking you normally find at a conference, then go to a conference.
  • Rule #2 - OpenCodeCamp is for everyone - Attending OpenCodeCamp should not require you to have any experience in the topic for that camp. There should be enough people to even get the new people excited and learning new things.
  • Rule #3 - Technology over data sets - It's great that a company has a great API to search for any cat picture on the internet, but at a OpenCodeCamp we rather have them talk about how they created the API than what is in the data set or how it can be used to make money.
  • Rule #4 - No competitions - Competitions take away from the sharing aspect of OpenCodeCamp and should therefore be avoided.
  • Rule #5 - Permanence over fashion - Try and imagine that what you create during OpenCodeCamp should be usable in 10 years time. That might mean making it open source. This way the product also doesn't have to indefinitely run on the original developer's server.
  • Rule #6 - [INSERT YOURS] - This list is far from done. Let me know if you think something should be added.

I don't have a definite format for this event yet. I'm thinking of something somewhere in between a HackDay and a BarCamp/unconference but we need to deal with a few small issues including:

  • What format? - Should this be a 1 day or 2 day event, with or without overnight, with sessions or more open spaces, etc?
  • How to measure outcome? - The one thing I like about HackDays (in contrary to BarCamps) is that at the end you can say "This is what was created". Should we have people present what they did at the end, even if it isn't anything visible? I personally like the idea but I think it might get very boring.
  • Should Open Source be an inherent part to the event? - One way to measure outcome is to make it a rule that anything that is generated during the weekend should be contributing to Open Source. I'm not sure if this should be a "Open Source OpenCodeCamp" or inherently part of OpenCodeCamp.
  • How to keep this out of the hands of companies and PR agencies? - I'd hate for OpenCodeCamp to go the way of a HackDay and somehow get abused by companies to be made more and more of a tool to get cheap labor out of developers. I think we can prevent this by making a good set of rules, and I'm not sure if we should do anything more than that.
  • Who's paying? - One of the reasons we've seen more and more HackDays is because companies can see a nice return of investment on putting a few bucks into a HackDay which in return gives them a few nice prototypes they can show to their investors (a.k.a. cheap labor). How would companies react to an event where their APIs are not at the centre of attention.
  • Change the name? - There is already something called CodeCamp out there but this name was the best I could come up with. Any other suggestions?

How to help out?

Leave a comment here or send me an email with any suggestions. Also feel free to share this article with anyone you think might be interested in helping out.