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Bringing back BarCamp Philly, our first unconference

Organizers are aiming to revive the annual day of programming "collaboratively built by the people, for the people." Tim Allen makes the case for why you, too, should get involved.

The schedule board at a past BarCamp Philly. (Courtesy photo)
This is a guest post by BarCamp Philly co-organizer Tim Allen.
Some pivotal moments of my life have come at BarCamp Philly, the one-day unconference focused on imagination, design, development and creative pursuits in Philadelphia.

I first decided to look at Wharton Computing as a place to work when I met a few staff members at the inaugural BarCamp in 2008. I got involved as a volunteer in 2009, and before I knew it, I was helping organize and host it at The Wharton School. In 2013, I was traveling the East Coast with My Bloody Valentine in concert, and in amazing synchronicity, MBV was playing in Philly on the night of BarCamp 2013; that was a busy weekend! And in my most intimate BarCamp Philly moment, I decided to get honest when I talked about the problem of turning a blind eye toward alcoholism and addiction technology communities in 2015 after getting sober.

After several years of pandemic hiatus, the organization team is hoping to host BarCamp Philly again this fall. Historically, it was held annually on a fall Saturday at The Wharton School. It has been one of the most fun, and enlightening, days of the year. It first happened in 2008 and last occurred virtually in 2020.

How it works

Recent BarCamp Philly organizers with a crowd of attendees (L to R): Brian Crumley, Joe Campbell, Amanda Renzulli, Maurice Gaston, Briana Morgan and Lisa Yoder. (Courtesy photo)

BarCamp Philly is an “unconference” — a day of programming collaboratively built by the people, for the people. Picture this: When the magic starts at 8 a.m. in the forum level of Huntsman Hall at Wharton, the schedule board is cultivated and is open to all attendees for contributions. Breakfast is provided, thanks to BarCamp Philly sponsors, when people begin to arrive and gather.

Anyone is free (AND encouraged) to fill out a card with a topic they’re interested in presenting or facilitating. Content is presented by programmers, creatives, suits, entrepreneurs and artists in workshop sessions, roundtables, talks, performances, audience participation sessions and everything in between; about a quarter end up being about tech topics. Attendees then vote on the topics with stickers.

Depending on how many sticker votes talks receive, rooms are assigned of appropriate size. From 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. (with a break for lunch with your new friends), the talks happen in the classrooms of the forum level. An after-party follows to finish the day.

Quintessentially Philly

Angela Andrews speaks at a past BarCamp Philly. (Courtesy photo)

BarCamps were popular across the world 15 years ago. Why has it lasted in Philly — where, we believe, it snagged the honor of being the city’s first unconference — longer than anywhere else? Because it is a quintessentially Philly event: purely democratic, celebrating the weird and unapologetically inclusive. Past topics have included everything from “Running: Not Just for the Zombie Apocalypse” to “Feminism Now That Trump Won” to “The Fraud Police Are Coming: Dealing With Impostor Syndrome” to “Geeks With Kids” to “Traditions From Anarchy” to “Testing in JavaScript.” A remarkable 8-year-old once led a session on iPad movie production!

It is time to bring it back — and we are hoping that you will be involved as an organizer, volunteer or attendee. You just might experience some pivotal moments of your own.

Let us know how you want to be involved

The board from the first BarCamp Philly in 2008. (Courtesy photo)

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