From the Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BarCamp
"BarCamp is an international network of unconferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants — focusing on early-stage web applications, and related open source technologies and social protocols."
Andrew Lih :
"Typically how Barcamp works is folks arrive ready to discuss, present or demonstrate something. You write your idea on a yellow PostIt note, and stick it on the board. After all interested folks have put up their proposals, they are either voted on or just organized by the conveners into 30 minute time slots throughout the day. At Barcamp Beijing there were slightly fewer proposals than slots, so each one got a slot.
In reality, many presentations are really just an excuse to get conversation going as the most useful learning happens in the hallways and side discussions." (http://www.andrewlih.com/blog/2007/09/03/barcamp-beijing-2007/)
"Publisher Tim O’Reilly has an exclusive “Foo Camp” for Friends Of O’Reilly in Northern California each year, where he invites a select techno elite to meet and create a conference agenda on the spot and hang out. He calls it the “wiki of conferences.” After the second year of FOO Camp, some tech folks were annoyed that it was so closed a group. Even invitees from one year were not always invited the next year’s event, which caused some angst. So geeks in the San Francisco area decided to have an alternative “Barcamp” at the same time where anyone could come and have an unconference of their own. The idea became viral, and now there are Barcamps around the world, as an adhoc gathering of techies with the common interest of sharing knowhow and ideas." (http://www.andrewlih.com/blog/2007/09/03/barcamp-beijing-2007/)
Christophe Aguiton and Dominique Cardon:
“BarCamp is a tremendous illustration of the effect of horizontal and weak cooperation in the process of innovation. The first BarCamp was held in Palo Alto (near San Francisco) in August 2005 as a spin-off and response to FooCamp, an annual invitation-only conference hosted by Tim O'Reilly, the well known open source publisher who gave the first definition of Web 2.0 (see O'REILLY, in this Dossier). August 2005 was the beginning of the Web 2.0 wave and a lot of people wanted to attend the FooCamp. Because their entry was denied, a small group of friends in their thirties active in the IT sector decided to organise their own conference, open to everyone. In less than a week's time, 200 people attended the meeting - a spectator-free "unconference" dedicated to presentations of Web 2.0 applications and ideas for new services. Practically, the participants presented their name, their company or group and three tags giving an idea of their current preoccupations. Then, each person who wanted to present an idea or exchange about something entered their topic in a matrix table drawn on a big sheet of paper showing the rooms or meeting places and the time slots. After the end of the BarCamp people could move to a mashpit, which is a collaborative web application building process: the participants choose some ideas for applications and, working in groups, finalized a first version of those applications. During the BarCamp people shot photos and videos which would later be posted on Flickr, Youtube or Dailymotion. After the BarCamp, participants wrote reports or posted their presentations in blogs or wikis, thus expanding the visibility of the meeting: on February 20th 2007, the term BarCamp had 3,460,000 references in Google, 20,000 photos on Flickr, 110 videos on YouTube and 17,500 blogs or blog posts in Technorati. By 2006, the BarCamp had spread to many countries, particularly the rest of the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and India.
The concepts of "spectator-free" and "unconference" didn't appear with the BarCamp, but they are contemporaneous and their emergence is in phase with several other attempts to organise "open" gatherings and public meetings. The term unconference was first used in the late 1990s for techies' meetings (XML developers) and became more popular when it was picked up by the blogger community in 2003 and 2004. The "Open Space Methodology" was theorised by Harrison Owen in 1987 (OWEN, 1997), but two more recent big annual gatherings have been more significant in spreading these new collaborative practises. At the world level, the WSF (World Social Forum) and its local and continental versions are the biggest events using this kind of bottom-up methodology. The forums – which are a gathering of those who reject neo-liberal globalisation - are able to attract up to 150,000 activists, as in Brazil in 2005 (AGUITON & CARDON, 2005). In the Nevada desert, another event, regularly attended by the San Francisco BarCamp core group, is organised each year in the same participatory way: "Burning Man" is an artistic gathering of almost 40,000 people, guided by ten principles; radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.
In the BarCamp, as well as in the WSF or Burning Man, there are technical organisers, but the content belongs to and comes from the participants, who build the events in a bottom-up self-organised process. BarCamp, as well as the WSF or Burning Man, is a contact-generating machine. Attending those events, participants don't know what they will discover, but they do know that there will be a chance to present their ideas or proposals, to learn from others, and to get new contacts or to refresh old ones. These are characteristics very similar to those we identified in the use of Web 2.0 applications and services in the first part of this paper. “
Source: The strength of Weak Cooperation. Christophe Aguiton and Dominique Cardon. Communication & Strategies, No. 65, 1st Quarter 2007.