Time to Reinvent REBarCamp

A familiar sight for REBC veterans

So here I am sitting in my hotel room on Monday afternoon. I came in early because I had wanted to attend REBarCamp NYC being put on by the awesome folks at Lucky Strikes Social Media Club. You will notice the word “had” in the preceding sentence, because I just decided I’m not going to go to REBarCamp. This is not a knock on Patrick Healy, Scott Forcino, or the rest of the amazing, wonderful folks at LSSMC; I was involved with planning the REBCNY last year, and I thought we all did a great job. I’m certain, positive, that the crew of 2011 will do an even better job, and it will be among the best REBarCamps ever.

No, I just decided that I’m not attending because… let us be frank: the REBarCamps have become a more-or-less standardized affair over the last three years that is much less about conversation amongst equals and much more about social media and technology training for newbie real estate agents. Since I’m not a real estate agent, and not a newbie, I find myself looking forward more to hallway conversations and #lobbycon chats than the sessions themselves.

No reason to take up a valuable spot then. But I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Which is why I believe it may be time to reinvent the REBarCamp, and perhaps bring it back to the future.

First, Disclaimer… Plus Predictability

Every single time the topic of REBC comes up, there are passionate opinions on all sides. I think I still have some scars from last year, actually, when fierce debate was going on about what a barcamp is, what it is not, and the lovely hashtag #notabarcamp comes to mind.

So let’s start with this caveat: If you are organizing a REBC, then REBC is whatever you want it to be. You’re putting in the effort, you’re doing the work, so you get to call the shots and make the decisions. I will be the last person to throw stones or criticize anyone willing to put in the work to organize one. Having done it myself, I know how much work it takes, and I have all the respect in the world for those who put one on.

But let us be frank. I can predict several of the sessions tomorrow without knowing a thing about what’s been planned: Social Media 101, Facebook for Real Estate, Using Video for Real Estate, Location Based Services (e.g., Foursquare, etc.), How to Blog Effectively for Real Estate, Killer Apps for Real Estate on iPad/iPhone/Android, Essential WordPress Plugins, Mobile Search Apps, Google Analytics, Converting Online Leads, and so on. Anyone who has been to more than two REBC’s in his life can likely predict the same list of sessions. The once-upon-a-time Un-Conference has become quite a bit Conference-like.

The purpose of REBC these days appears to be to provide free training to real estate agents on how to use the Internet, use social media, and whatever else to improve their business. That is a noble goal, perhaps, but I rather think other organizations — such as REALTOR Associations, various conference organizers (such as Inman with its Agent Reboot series, or RETechSouth), and others — are better suited to achieve it.

The thing that made REBC special, at least for me, in the early days when no one really knew much of anything, was the sharing amongst equals. There was no sense of ‘teacher-student’ or ‘expert-newbie’ in the early days. Everyone knew just about as much as everyone else, and the sharing of ideas, talking about what each of us was doing, and the friendly constructive criticism from one’s peers were all very special.

A Modest Proposal

So, here’s what I’d like to propose as a way to reinvent and revitalize the REBarCamp.

Give, Not Receive

With all apology to newbies, if you really just need to know the basics of technology-centered real estate, go elsewhere. Check out the training your local Association or local MLS provides. Check out Agent Reboot. Definitely check out RETechSouth. But REBC is a place for practitioners to share with each other, not for free training on using Facebook to increase leads. This means that each attendee is expected to have some expertise, some perspective, on each and every session attended. No more passively sitting around taking notes from the “gurus” — you also are a “guru” like the person presenting.

All Sessions are in the nature of “What I’m Working On Now”

Once you cut out the newbie-training stuff, the dilemma becomes “Okay, Mr. Smartypants – what do you think is ‘advanced’ then?” I suppose you could have a session on “Programming Real Estate Websites for the Semantic Web Using Ruby on Rails” but literally three people could even understand such a session. Or, someone could think that a topic is suited for a truly expert audience, only to find out that everyone else knows that stuff cold and couldn’t care less.

The answer, I think, is to have every REBC session be in the nature of “What I’m working on these days”. It could be your blog redesign. It could be a new way of handling listing data from RPR to display on mobile apps. It could be a new product you’re building for Android. It could be a new business model for handling REO sales. It doesn’t much matter what it is; it does matter that it is something you are personally working on right now.

This way, even if the “topic” is something that everyone else knows, they can help you really advance your idea or product with constructive criticism. “Have you thought about using the new WalkScore API’s in your mobile app?” or “I think if you cut your price by 10%, you would get more market share” or whatever helpful advice they can give. And you in other sessions would add your expertise to help out a specific person with his specific issue.

In some cases, we’ll all be wowed by whatever it is that you’re working on. “Wow, I never thought of using Facebook and Google Voice like that before!” Those are the moments of insight and excitement for people who have been around the block a few times.

No Stages, Just Circles

Each and every room will be setup in a circle or set of circles. No more stages, lecterns, microphones, or anything that creates the impression that the presenter is a teacher and the rest of us are students. If you have to use a projector, use it. But the people will then be in a semi-circle and know that you’re a peer.

Cut Costs, Reduce Pressure to Fundraise

Sponsorships are a major headache for REBC organizers. When you’re putting on an event with a couple hundred attendees expected, finding space for free becomes troublesome. And of course, the badges, t-shirts, random office supplies, and the free lunch all add up.

With a small group, which is what I suspect the above principles would naturally lead to, the pressure for fundraising and finding sponsors decreases significantly. It’s really nice to have beautiful custom-designed badges and t-shirts. They’re not essential, however. Free lunch is wonderful, but if people are coming to REBC to get fed, I think their priorities are a bit mixed up. Space is always an issue, but if the number of people is closer to 25 than to 250, perhaps it’s easier to find someone willing to give us a large conference room for a day.

Part of the cost-cutting, however, absolutely has to be an accurate count of attendees. Too many REBC’s I’ve seen and been part of expect 350 people based on pre-registration on the website, only to have 200 of them cancel at the last minute. No thanks. I love what REBCNY 2011 is doing in this regard: charge $25, but that pays for your free t-shirt and lunch. That’s a good deal, and besides, people are less likely to skip out on things they have already paid for (unless it’s a gym membership).

So, every REBC should charge a nominal non-refundable registration fee — say $15 to $30. And give a free t-shirt (which would cost about $15) to each attendee. It remains “free” but you really cut down on no-shows.

More than Words

I figure, if I’m going to suggest these things as principles and ideas, I should be willing to do more than yap about it. So I will.

Once my move to Houston is complete, I would like to organize one of these “REBC-style” events either in Houston or in Austin, to see how such a thing would go. I’d expect it to be in the April/May timeframe, and frankly, if it ends up being me and two other people in a conference room, that’s fine by me.

I apologize if this strikes anyone as incredibly elitist and snobby. But I really don’t want to have to start arguing with the presenter at some session again, only to realize there are sixty people in the room who were hanging on the guy’s every word who now feel that their “learning experience” has been disrupted by some random troublemaker. I guess when I do feel as if I have something to teach, rather than discuss, I’ll go ahead and teach. But REBC for me will be a place to discuss, to debate, to talk about what I’m working on to get useful feedback on it, and to provide what insight I could to what others are working on.

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.

-rsh

  • http://twitter.com/dukelong Dukelong

    Thank God!…Oh and can I ask the governor to join in again!….. to many vendors…to many of the same people flying in to be a “Thought Leaders”..or pitch their stuff! To many asskissers of the same asskissers. Tech savvy…my ass. Real estate vendor pitch and ego fest is more like it. Don’t give me the “vendors create value” BS. If you are offended by this comment …then it is you! Rob, 25 people in a circle talking,debating and trying to help each other<<>. I’M IN!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Shiner/17903207 James Shiner

    I think you have some great points here Rob. When I organized RE BarCamp Boston in 2009 I ran into a number of problems that could have been avoided.

    First and foremost I think charging is an absolute must. People love the badges (although I think “Hello my name is:” ones for a few bucks would do just fine) and the t-shirts, but the problem is those are expensive, especially when you’re dealing with 200+ people.

    I also believe that lower attendance numbers would add value to REBC. Our biggest cost for RE BarCamp Boston and the item that actually caused us to lose money was the venue. We had to find a place to hold 200+ people in the middle of the city where space and parking is far from ample. I think once you get over 100 people it’s no longer an un-conference.

    Large audiences also lead to people wanting to hold sessions just to be the expert, and in some cases promote their product. Both of these situations go against what RE BarCamp is. I know at some REBC events I wanted to talk about video but felt that I couldn’t since someone else was putting on a video session. Regardless of who is “holding” the session I think anyone should be able to speak, whether they’re competitors in the space or not. It’s about sharing knowledge, not pushing a product.

    Lastly, I think it should stay true to what the original BarCamp was setup to be, which was a conference for people to further their knowledge in topics as opposed to learning about them for the first time. Like you said, RETechSouth and other conferences are doing a great job teaching, let’s make RE BarCamp a place to share.

    *Quick side note: I checked the Wikipedia page for “BarCamp” and noticed that someone added a line about RE BarCamp: “The real estate industry has adopted the Barcamp format with over 30 RE Barcamps completed and scheduled throughout the U.S. with plans underway to take the format internationally.”

  • http://twitter.com/KathySperlBell Kathy Sperl-Bell

    I agree even though I am nowhere near your level, but definitely not a beginner any more. I also find that many of the real estate people that are sharing are really trying to get away from practicing real estate by becoming gurus; hoping the rest of us will hire them to teach us how to sell more real estate.

  • http://twitter.com/tcar Todd Carpenter

    The problem with RE BarCamp has nothing to do with how they’re organized. The problem is the nature of people who attend. Most people just want to sit back and listen. When they do, the people willing to forward their own agenda have all the power. Nobody would attempt a vendor pitch if other people in the room would call them on it.

    I organized an invite only event much like the one you are proposing above in the summer of 2009. It was called whatevahcamp. Here’s a list of attendees:

    1. Jason Berman
    2. Andy Kaufman
    3. Derek Overbey
    4. Kelley Koehler
    5. Heather Elias
    6. Ginger Wilcox
    7. Jim Cronin
    8. Daniel Rothamel
    9. Todd Carpenter
    10. Kristal Kraft
    11. Jeff Corbett
    12. Mike Simonsen
    13. Bill Lublin
    14. Teresa Boardman
    15. Brad Coy
    16. Shannon Williams King
    17. Jeff Turner
    18. Ines Hegedus-Garcia
    19. Hal Lublin

    Now, under similar rules to what you are proposing, you’d think that would be a 100% awesome list of people to have participating. But even with this group, there were three people who essentially passed on participation, even though it was implied that that participation was on par with the Eighth Rule of Fight Club.

    That’s just the nature of people. In a bigger group, the Andy Kaufman’s and Jeff Corbett’s aren’t represented enough for the event to work like you want it to. So you work with what you have. Personally, if five people were in a room discussing something, I don’t know why thirty others would want to watch, but that’s what happens and more power to them. I’m just going to be one of the five people talking and not worry about it.

    I get something from every REBC session I attend because I speak up in EVERY session I attend. My agenda is advanced. The silent people’s are not. If they want it any different, they should speak up.

    • Anonymous

      Not only did I get great brains Todd but food on sticks. What could be better?

    • http://www.notorious-rob.com Notorious R.O.B.

      I hear ya Todd. And believe me, your word carries a lot of weight with me. I do think, however, that one critical change is to the topics. If you assume that everyone is your peer, then “advanced topics” make no sense. They’ll know as much as you do about any general topic. The only topics that make sense are the “Here’s what I’m working on now, and how I’m going about doing it. Any comments?”

      I hope to put this event on soon, and report back as to how it went.

      • http://twitter.com/tcar Todd Carpenter

        From you article:

        “The thing that made REBC special, at least for me, in the early days when no one really knew much of anything, was the sharing amongst equals. There was no sense of ‘teacher-student’ or ‘expert-newbie’ in the early days”

        The thing is,the first REBC in SF had teacher-student interactions. Lots of them. So I like your idea on topics, but I just think the expectation that a group of peers, each talking about their own business and sharing feedback is something that doesn’t translate well to a group of more than say 15 or so people.

      • http://twitter.com/respres Jeff Turner

        Rob, I think this is a fabulous Idea and I have to agree with Todd on this one point. Watching what happened at Whateveh Camp, getting a large group to really open up about what they’re working on is a challenge. It may be a huge challenge, depending on who attends. That said, I wish I could be there. I would have LOVED to help you achieve it.

  • http://twitter.com/OCRealtress Carolynn Santaniello

    Bravo. I may just have to fly out to Austin to check it out, especially if you promise to dress up as your alter ego. Now, THAT would be a thought provoking discussion.

  • http://twitter.com/BrandieI brandie young

    Good points RobHahn. It sounds as though the concept has reached the tipping point…. next things next.

    While I agree with charging (we’ve met, so you KNOW this to be true) it’s “off brand” from the original concept.

    Perhaps, to your points, people should be required ‘plead their case’ or apply to attend. No vendors trying to sell or gurus looking for future gigs. Just a select group of people with unique experiences to share.

    Either way, it sounds like it’s evolving into a conference. Not that that’s a bad thing.

    Cheers!

  • http://www.miamism.com Ines

    Damn Rob, I love that you make me think….I’ve been trying to figure out if I want to take on the challenge of organizing another REBarCamp here in Miami and have not been able to put a finger on why I am hesitating.

    I’m with Todd that the issue comes from who will attend and what they expect to get out of it and unfortunately, unless the camp is organized around another major event where a lot of “equals” will attend, the mix of the audience will be huge.

    I know I separated 2 columns in the day for beginner stuff and my intention was to have genuine conversation and sharing, but in many cases, it was the speaker and the “listeners”. Of course I’m the type that interrupts to participate, but as an organizer, I sat back and watched and in many cases thought I had failed somehow.

    There’s another issue that comes to play with these. If I organize one of these in my own marketplace, I would not feel comfortable about discussing my marketing strategy or plans I have for my business….hence comes the big black monster and vendor-centric conference where the person organizing needs to get something out of it.

    It’s not easy, but now that you say it – I will have to make a trip to meet with some of the minds I respect and openly share what we’re doing.

    • http://twitter.com/BrandieI brandie young

      Inez – Great point. While you’re willing to share strategy … not necessarily in your own backyard. That does create a question: How can you attend a local Barcamp and get meaningful information if people don’t want to give away their strategy … hmmm

  • http://PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com Jay Thompson

    Were you sitting in our Phoenix REBC planning session last week? We mentioned a LOT of what you’re talking about.

    Already decided for REBCPHX3 — no t–shirts, and no free on-site lunch. As you mentioned, this will cut the need for sponsorship dollars by 50 – 75%. All we need is money for space, and a few various items (markers, white boards, maybe some chairs).

    Our motto is “Put the RE back in REBC”. There will be no “presenters” no “keynote” no “vendor tables” (in fact, we are hoping to have no “vendor” sponsorships. We have several progressive associations and an MLS here that “get it” and should be able to cover the venue expense. No vendor sponsorships means no pressure from a vendor – “We sponsored, we want to “lead” a session” which we all know turns into a sales pitch.

    That’s not happening this time.

    I’m still not a fan of charging, though I’m not as against it as I once was.

    I don’t think you can force everyone to participate — tcar hit the nail on the head there. And if someone learns something by sitting around listening to others participate, so what?

    Some of the best “sessions” I’ve been in at REBCs were impromptu gatherings. Remember sitting out on the picnic tables at the last REBCSF in the afternoon? THAT is what I’d like to see more of. A LOT more.

    And I think we’ll see it at REBCPHX3.

    • http://twitter.com/BrandieI brandie young

      Jay – Awesome. I’ll bet your event will rock. Re charging $: In my experience producing events, it instantly makes it more ‘valuable’ if one must pay to reserve a chair – even a nominal amount. The slippery slope is then people want to know what they’re getting/who’s speaking … then you need to break into your Seinfeld “show about nothing” schtick.

      Maybe throw it out there for feedback on a $20 reg fee with profits going to a local charity?

    • http://www.bawldguy.com Jeff

      Jay — when’s your REBC-whatever goin’ down?

      • http://PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com Jay Thompson

        Jeff – tentative date is April 8. Pretty solid, but not yet confirmed with venue. Would LOVE to have you there! Watch http://rebarcamp.com/phoenix for details.

      • http://twitter.com/thesachambers thesachambers

        I am eyeing this one – looking like I can fly there for less than I can drive to PDX – still making plans though

  • http://www.facebook.com/lanethegarageguy Lane Bailey

    I was the lead organizer for Atlanta rebc in 2010… and likely in 2011. And one of the constant challenges with registrants was “who will be speaking?” The second one was from sponsors, “will we get a booth?”

    I didn’t do either… sessions were on the fly, and not always based on the most popular sessions (which all seemed to be basic level)… and while there were vendors, we really pressed them to not pimp their wares via sessions (I think we were successful on that point).

    Personally, I LOVE the idea of a more advanced rebc model… and I think I have a name for it. I might want to give it a whirl here in the Atlanta area. Actually, it was more of what I was hoping the barcamp event would be. But it seems that no matter how many agents learn about technology and social media, there are always a throng of agents that are clueless and looking to learn.

    It will be interesting to see what the future holds…

  • http://twitter.com/RailLife Nick Bastian

    I am really excited for what the next Barcamp in Phoenix is turning out to be. While not the exact blueprint you have put before us, it isn’t too far off.

    Our initial planning meeting last week left me more anxious than I expected. We could care less about making it the same old, same old. We won’t be charging but we don’t need to worry about “no-shows.” Eliminating the shirts and lunch was a collective decision geared towards bringing in people that want to participate and share information.

    Discussions will be a huge focus of ours. Jay explained it well but I just wanted to add my .02. :)

    We are fortunate to have a great planning team here in AZ. I actually hope our numbers are down, our topics are up and the learning curve is off the charts. I could care less about pimping magic bullets, I want to discuss what is working and where we are going.

  • http://www.Kens411.com Ken Brand

    This is the kind of thing that makes me laugh to myself, while I learn and think >>>>>> (unless it’s a gym membership).

  • Anonymous

    Rob- I tried to say something similar a few years back, but didn’t succeed as eloquently as you have.

    http://www.geekestateblog.com/barcamp-or-bored-camp/

    Wish I could make to Notorious Camp, but I don’t think it’s on the schedule for 2011.

  • http://twitter.com/jillayne Jillayne Schlicke

    Vendors should not be allowed to lead a session.

    Todd, not everyone wants to talk in front of or within a large group and they might be perfectly fine with just hanging back and letting others do the talking.

    Rob this is an excellent post and I hope the Seattle area folks read it.

  • http://twitter.com/tampahomes TampaHomes-Katrina M

    I agree with damn near all of your post! especially the CIRCLES, and elimination of the stages, secondly charge $30! anyone that knows what its about will pay that all day long, never complain, and be happy to contribute!

    Last, perhaps there should be a list of NON ALLOWED topics (this would get rid of the FB101 for dummies class! LOL) Hey we’ve all been there, but there is a time and a place for everything! It’s like saying I’m a computer programmer, but I don’t have a computer, can I still play? I want to bid for this contract job.

    Topics should be:
    * I’ve been blogging longer than 5 years,
    * NEW SEO for the unchallenged,
    * best tools for the techies etc

    you get the idea

  • http://www.seattle-realestate.com/ SeattleJim

    I LOVE it, Rob! I think there is a strong push to “dummy it down” and that creates the exact environment of passive participation you talk about. I think the “what I’m working on now” theme is brilliant! What a great way to get agents to open up and share their real world challenges and roadblocks that they were hoping to find some solutions to anyway.

  • http://www.realcentralva.com Jim Duncan

    Here’s one thing that has seemed to be missing from the barcamps I have attended in person and the ones I have attended from afar:

    A focus on real estate competency, discussions about the real estate industry. Technology is a huge part of what real estate agents do, but without the foundational knowledge upon which to build, technology is fluff.

    I’m with you on this – the time has come for a resurgence/rejuvenation/reincarnation of the rebarcamp.

    • http://twitter.com/respres Jeff Turner

      Well said.

  • http://twitter.com/mortgageporter Rhonda Porter

    we are currently planning the next REBC in Seattle and find ourselves pulling back on what we’re going to do (stopped doing lunches last year) and we’re now discussing “no bling”.

    I think part of the problem with the vendor issue is that REBC has been around just long enough that some vendors believe they have it “figured out”. There have been times at past events where I almost feel like a guard dog trying to protect the spirit from the 1st REBC in SF. :)

  • http://www.bawldguy.com BawldGuy

    Loved that the post began with the obvious, which is that REBCs have morphed into Newbies R Us. The last one I attended was in OC, and was primarily to meet with folks who were integral to a new marketing strategy I had on the drawing board. Would I posit that strategy in front of a group? Seriously? Not in this lifetime. Generic stuff you or I might be currently working on makes sense. But potential game changers?

    Imagine you’re the Yankee batting coach, who notices the Red Sox pitcher holds his hand slightly differently in the glove before he throws his slider. You gonna tell the rest of the league — or are you gonna keep that nugget inside the Yank dugout?

    Well known strategies and/or biz models makes a lotta sense as topics for peers. I’m wondering what else would be fair game, not to mention widely popular.

    • http://twitter.com/respres Jeff Turner

      This is a perfect example of Todd’s point above.

  • Jbinfrisco

    Everytime I see this discussion, I visit Wikipedia and read about “BarCamp”. Then I click “Rules of BarCamp” link. http://barcamp.org/w/page/405173/TheRulesOfBarCamp

    Is it even possible to take a concept like BarCamp from the tech industry & adapt it for use in the RE industry without losing the context of the concept?

    • http://www.athomeinscottsdale.com drubloomfield

      Reading this timely thread, I was thinking that it was time to go back and look at the original barcamp intent. Perfect. I love #4, and I did #8 in SF and had a blast. Love the interactivity and the sharing that comes with less structure and planning.

  • http://www.swanepoel.com Stefan Swanepoel

    Great post Rob, as always you create stimulating discussion.

    Just reading through the comments one can already see how divided and uncertain the industry is. Strange how we seek to discuss the dynamic, ever changing, constantly evolving, fast pace world of the web, social networking and mobile technology, yet we allow ourselves to get stuck so quickly in a certain paradigm. All of us, me included!

    Steve Jobs, not the right person to model after as he is so unique and exceptional, but that aside for a second, said: People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

    So does the real estate industry know what they want? Probably not, at least according to Jobs. Maybe we should have people like you, and Jay, and Jeff, and Todd, and Ginger, and Derek… create us something completely new. Boy, do we need it.

    I say go for it!

  • http://www.athomeinscottsdale.com drubloomfield

    Perfect timing for this post as we layout the groundwork for the next REBCPHX. We have a smaller team, may have a smaller turnout, but the focus is very much on the content and fluidity. Taking RE to the next level on a face to face basis. Just like we do individually every day.

  • Pingback: The Future of REbarCamps… : rebarcampAtlanta

  • Anonymous

    Spot on. Let me know when you get your event planned. I may have to buy a plane ticket.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MikePennington44 Mike Pennington

    Rob: I do agree that the quality of Barcamp content has become questionable but as more agents pursue technology as a solution to their future success, the number of newbies will out-pace experts at a staggering rate. How should the Barcamp movement address this?

    Admittedly, I do enjoy Barcamps though. They are another opportunity to learn, make new contacts, and identify trends. However, the entire concept as-is works better for introductory level topics as the group sizes are too large to be effective discussion opportunities or environments to learn “Programming Real Estate Websites for the Semantic Web Using Ruby on Rails”. Anyone who has been involved with running meetings knows that once a group becomes larger than 10 or so, you must have an agenda, moderator, or lesson plan.

    My suggestion, in regards to my hometown of Atlanta, is that #rebcatl is held 4 times per year with a maximum attendance of 50 people instead of shooting for 1 camp with hundreds. Yes charge a reservation fee. Yes give away all the money to charity and yes get one sponsor to buy 50 lunches. Donated space for 50 people with wifi is much easier to secure. Breakout sessions, 3 maximum, would be smaller and much more focused.

    Thoughts
    – Barcamps should shift towards tweet-up style as opposed to conference style.
    – The topics to be addressed should be loosely based on: “I need help with….” ‘I am working on…”
    – There should be 0 (Zero) speakers, thought leaders, or evangelists at Barcamp.
    – Terms of admittance: good folks, who want to learn and agree to participate in an environment that encourages interaction.

  • http://myeastbayagent.com andykaufman

    Lots of great suggestions in the post & comments.

    A few thoughts…

    The local REBC events are a product of the vision & execution of the organizers combined w/ the participants actions while there. The way we’ve organized SF is different than the NYC crew does theirs & every other REBC out there. The participants are going to be different in each area as well. Destination cities w/ events before other events are going to draw different crowds as well.

    The tone of REBCs, in that they’re so accessible can be a curse, but it also provides the opportunity for engaged participants to have a unique experience. Sometimes a session can devolve into a pitch, but there’s also going to be those picnic table sessions, or geeks on a beach where a handful of us stood in a circle on newport beach across the street from the REBCOC venue when we didn’t see anything on the board that excited us.

    One of the things I tell new organizers is to keep it simple. I always refer back to the Chicago event in 2009 that was ‘bare bones’, but had many of the characteristics of the ideal event that you describe. No t shirts, no provided lunch, a donated venue space & tons of great conversations.

    I look forward to seeing how the upcoming events in 2011 evolve. After talking to a few of the local organizers, I think we’ll see some great tweaks & additions to the upcoming events.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lori.bee Lori Bee

    I definitely think this should be required reading for every REBarCamp Organizer. Or attendee for that matter. I agree with most everything you said.

    Here in Charlotte, we do our best (it’s not perfect) to have sessions facilitated and not led. “Facilitators” are encouraged to sit and ask for interaction. I don’t mind vendors participating but they are highly discouraged from pitching. Big time. And the organizers monitor that. But to miss out on the knowleges of say a Derek Overbey from Roost would be ludicrous.

    We are blessed with an excellent venue and title sponsor who is very onboard with the goals of the REBarCamp movement. The main room is set up in semi circles and round tables (for smaller discussions) and some of the smaller breakouts areas, are literally couches arranged for great conversations. A couple of the rooms are classroom style but we try our best to rearrange them when we can. We have utilized a real estate school, a theater area, outside patios, and even a wine shop for our venue, for last year & this coming May 6th.

    I look forward to Jeff Corbett’s involvement as a #REBCLT organizer this year, as I know he will shake things up. Change is good. And I’ve seen it coming for a while too.

    But I know very well, that even though the awesome RETechSouth is just a few hours drive away, many agents in the Carolinas won’t travel that far, just to get started. Sure, they are late to the party. But isn’t also the spirit of REBarCamp to feed that desire for learning even if they are late?

    My goal (and I do need to talk to our other organizers so this is kind of talking out loud for now), is to have 2 different learning, but still highly interactive tracts for our attendees this year on May 6th. One for the beginners/intermediates and one for the more advanced attendees. I don’t want to stay same ole, same ole either. But I also don’t want our industry to be the joke of the online community, because we have a bunch of new people out there doing it wrong. I still want to be involved in helping them and making our industry better for it. I can forsee many REBarCamps separating learning tracts or even holding events on different days for the more advanced. That’s fine. It’s all learning and growing. I don’t want to stop, but I don’t want to leave people behind either.

    Thanks for making us think Rob. REBarCamps will be much better for it. But these are just my humble thoughts too. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lori.bee Lori Bee

    BTW, here is a pic of me & Ken Cook, faciliating one of those, “answer a question” type sessions last year at REBCCLT. http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/photo.php?fbid=459867854571&set=m.713071133.606966761 It was a really great session, full of lots of Q&A about Time Management of Social Media. It was very interactive, because everyone had different suggestions or ways that they manage it. It was pitched by a “new-bee,” (pun fully intended) who was overwhelmed by it all, and wanted to know how we did it. Great conversation!

  • http://www.kevintomlinson.com KevinTomlinson

    Ok. Rob I would go to Texas for that. Further, I don’t understand @Tcar ‘s list. Why would he put that there?

    That is what turns me off about the REBC’s in the first place. I know a few of those “attendees” who sell little to no real estate.

    Just the “list” stuff is so very high school-like it turns me off. Further, it has been interesting to sit back and watch the REBC’s cannibalize themselves.

    • http://twitter.com/respres Jeff Turner

      You completely missed his point, Kevin.

  • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

    Doesn’t matter if it’s a barcamp or an office meeting at a Brokerage. Until we get to “What’s in it for the Consumer vs What’s in it for Agents” it’s the same old ball being tossed around in a new field. There’s not a thing wrong with REbarcamps that the people in the room cannot “fix”. That is the whole point of barcamps. No Agenda means bring your A game, not your “listening ears”.

    Expanding the information available on the internet so that consumers can better educate themselves regarding real estate and the real estate process is why we blog and why we use Social Media. NOT to get more business! Want to thin the herd? Tell them that!

    Tell them, if you think this is about YOU…please stay home!

  • http://twitter.com/FloridaSunSales Debbie Kirkland

    What a timely post for me. I’m heading to Orlando to talk about the second REBCORL to be held in conjunction with Florida Realtors annual conference in August. I’m nowhere near as savvy, as polished on social media as any one of the responders to this thread, (which I agree with Lori Bee that all planners could benefit from), but here’s the deal for me,.. I attended one barcamp – Miami (thanks Ines!). I sat like a fly on the wall, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know a soul there, but I could probably name half of them now. One thing is certain, from that point forward I knew there was a mission for me, and for others to open this kind of venue up to others like me who are just beginning to realize the importance of networking with people like yourselves who would be able to teach me something long after barcamp. The ensuing professional and personal relationships were so important that I made a photo board of my influencers and a similar video to open the REBCORL event with. That my friends, is what the barcamp experience began for me.
    I feel like the focus of every event morphs into what the participants need. Those unfamiliar, as I was in Miami, will certainly not participate as much, but don’t think they are not paying attention! I really don’t see any reason a barcamp can’t meet everyone’s needs. As a planner, I think just making that clear is key, explain how it works! I’ve got a few topics in mind to pin people down to discuss already!
    I’m sure not every person will take something away and actually use it, and no doubt a few can’t even grasp the concept of a barcamp after they’ve been to one! Furthermore, if folks like Todd and Kevin couldn’t sit in a corner and find something interesting to debate, that would be a first, LOL, (although I’d pay to see it!). We could give away every trade secret we have, and people would still roll over and play dead. However, those who do understand the gravity of open events and unplanned topics of interest, whether fully developed or canvassed in a barcamp session, will find their way to a discussion board, a conference call, the next happy hour or hopefully to the next barcamp.
    The feedback from the first REBCORL although huge, was overwhelming. In a good way, thankfully. People from around the state called for months wanting to know how to plan one, when the next one was etc. Evidently even the newbies garnished something, and the mega-advanced formed a few alliances as well. It was as balanced a barcamp as I could have hoped for, being the first one I’ve planned. This discussion does have the wheels turning though, and planning just got a little more insightful and fun. This whole thread’s kinda like a barcamp,… and no two people are talking at the same time! Wonderful, Thanks Rob!

  • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

    Debbie,

    You raise a lot of good points and I have to say I do not agree with those who say sessions should not be led by “vendors”. David Gibbons isn’t around, but clearly at Miami REbarcamp and any barcamp, David was awesome and technically from a “vendor”. Same with Bill Lublin. He had an awesome session in Miami and he is a semi-vendor :)

    The group moderator isn’t supposed to be the only one talking, they are just “leading” so no reason why it can’t be a vendor as long as they aren’t trying to sell something when talking.

    • http://twitter.com/FloridaSunSales Debbie Kirkland

      Thanks Ardell! Our vendors at REBCORL were freaking great… Bill, Mike Mueller, Bobby Carroll, Marci at Obeo… I think we have to have them there. If I had not seen them in Miami, I wouldn’t have gotten busy with a blog, a new website, and yes even Zillow who I love antagonizing. They’re very often presenters of information and tools that go well beyond the scope of their businesses. Heck, they wouldn’t be in those businesses if they didn’t know how to present the total packages..really. The crowd knows what to do with pimps.

  • http://www.notorious-rob.com Notorious R.O.B.

    Hey everybody; some really good thoughts and comments here. I do want to make clear that I’m a huge fan of “your house, your rules” when it comes to REBC (or any other conference). These general thoughts are for those who see things as I see them, and for myself as I plan one of these events. Lori and Debbie and others — you gotta do whatever is right for you. And if that includes getting newbies more engaged, then so be it.

    It’s just my personal opinion that there are many avenues for engaging newbies; there are so very few for sharing and engaging among non-newbies. That’s all.

    As for vendors, I’m not at all opposed to hearing from vendors, as long as it’s in the nature of “Here’s what I’m working on now”. I mean, wouldn’t you love to hear from say Zillow or Realtor.com about what projects they’re working on right then? Or from your MLS?

    Plus, the topic does not have to be technical. It could be, “I’m working on a training course that would raise the bar on professionalism” — we’re all likely to have thoughts on something like that.

    • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

      Rob,

      The real estate industry has suffered dramatically because the pros don’t want to be around the newbies. The pros work from home and the newbies pick up bad habits in the office from each other and their “sell, sell, sell!” brokers. The newbies can’t find the pros in the offices anymore.

      That’s why they come to barcamps. Don’t shut the newbies out…once again. There’s way too much of that going on already.

    • http://twitter.com/FloridaSunSales Debbie Kirkland

      Agreeing with Ardell. I’m not a newbie nor am I notorious. What I love is that I asked others like me, and on a higher learning level to attend Orlando because I wanted that mix, that challenge for everyone. What I have observed, and waded through, are those who are bored with the presence of others who “need to know” and too famous to share, (with the very ones they market themselves to that is). Perhaps it’s just too hard to look back for some. Are there people who’ve simply outgrown sharing, period? I’m IN the business, and I know there are not enough events for newbies, or intermediates,.. not like Barcamp. I think if anyone is bored, it’s time to create a new venue entirely. Challenge yourself in any way you need to in order to grow. I’d still like some of my influencers around, I’ve got a lot more questions for them.

      • http://www.notorious-rob.com Notorious R.O.B.

        I don’t know that I disagree with Ardell, except the focus is different. I am always happy to share and teach, newbies or not, when I feel that I have something worth sharing and teaching. Ardell’s focus on the _people_ dividing them between experts and newbies is where we differ. I’m focusing more on the content.

        Fact is, I’m not done learning. While I am grateful to those who think I know a thing or two, I’m always conscious of the fact that I need to learn more, know more, and always improve. And knowing that a REBC session is aimed at newbies who want to learn, how do I keep going in and getting into debates at a level they won’t understand? I think that’s disruptive of their desire to learn, and disrespectful of the presenter who came to teach, not to be challenged.

        So I hope the spirit of sharing and being available never goes away. At the same time, there does need to be at least one event or type of event where those of us who won’t get anything out of Blogging for Real Estate can discuss, debate, learn and share, without fear of being disruptive to others.

  • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

    I wouldn’t be caught DEAD in a “Mastermind” group or a bunch of agents calling themselves “geniuses”. When you start excluding people…you declare yourself some kind of honored “class”. “Exclusive clubs” went out in the 70s. If you draw a line in the sand…put me on the “newbies” side please. And while you’re at it, let the buyers and sellers of homes in too.

    There’s a joke about a room up in heaven for people who think they are “all that” and won’t let others in. I think the punchline is it becomes their own self proclaimed Hell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jpdalton77 Jonathan Dalton

    Do I want to tangle with Lady Ardell? Nah, my new heart isn’t strong enough for that yet. ;-)

    I’m relatively certain I made the same argument on Agent Genius almost two years back. Everyone who attended REBCSF the original was in a huge hurry to go home and do the same thing without seemingly understanding what made that experience as unique as it was. Booking speakers, having people come to hawk their wares, all of this misses the point.

    Right now, I go to hang out with friends who I never get to see in person. There are only a couple of people who lead sessions that interest me because the vast majority are geared toward newbies. Not that I don’t care about newbies, but I don’t care about newbies.

    As for the consumers, I can’t imagine they’d want to attend what amounts to a mini trade show. Or even a mini happy hour. Sometimes we greatly overestimate the level of their interest and engagement. It’s my job to be the real estate rofessional and to know more than they do. Simple reality.

    Most of us are working on better ways to reach out to consumers and to make their experience better. We’re also looking for ways (I refuse to say “best practices) where we can better market ourselves to these consumers. Because the business may be about them, but without an effort to reach out to them and secure them as clients, we’re not in this busines very long.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jpdalton77 Jonathan Dalton

    God bless Google … here was my post from February 24, 2009 on Agent Genius.

    http://agentgenius.com/real-estate-sales-marketing/marketing/mark-your-calendars-re-bar-camp-bismarck/

    • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

      Far be it from me to argue with an “Agent GENIUS”. Last checked my IQ was at “genius” level, but I was in grade school. Sources say it likely reduced by 20 points with age.

      Do you have to take an IQ test to get into the “Agent Genius Club” so it is a “true” statement, like you do for Mensa? I’m all about being honest and no false advertising, as you well know. Or is that one of those allowable “puffery” statements? :)

      REbarcamp is “about” anything you want it to be. See that board in the picture in the post? All you have to do is go up to the board, write in your “genius class” ON the board and put your name as the host of the group. How you control or gauge who to let in and who to bar entry from is your problem.

      Maybe you can say “Can the newbies sit in the back and the “geniuses” in the front please, so I don’t waste my time on those who are “beneath me”? Or maybe you can post a big sign to that effect in the meeting room.

      If you do…take a pic of it for me, will ya. Would love to write a post on THAT! :)

      Last year I decided not to go to REbarcamp. What I didn’t do was write a post about why I was “above all that” justifying why I might have chosen not to attend.

      Not going? OK! Your choice! That doesn’t make it a bad thing. No need to justify why you didn’t go. And Rob…the seats are really not valuable at ALL! “No reason to take up a valuable spot then.” They are Freakin’ FREE! Sit in it or not. Help others or not. Learn something or not. But don’t think it is freeing up a “valuable” space if you choose not. If you can’t GET something then go to GIVE something…kinda like Church. The going isn’t always about what you can GAIN from it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jpdalton77 Jonathan Dalton

        Agent Genius is the name of the website, which you know. And please don’t put words in my mouth that I’m not saying. If I wanted that, I’d get myself unbanished from Swann’s site so he could do it.

      • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

        I’ve been thinking a lot about Gregg lately. It’s Martin Luther King Day. Not a good day to be talking about keeping out “the newbies” or being exclusionary. Not sure there is a good day for that, but Marting Luther King Day isn’t it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jpdalton77 Jonathan Dalton

        Good thing I said neither then, isn’t it?

        And, truthfully, there has to be a better day than MLK day to try and stretch the battle for civil rights to include the struggles of a neophyte real estate agent in learning WordPress. #justsayin.

      • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

        It depends, Jonathan. It’s OK to have entry requirements as long as there is a solid standard of entry and you don’t break it. We have to be more careful in our business than most.

        You can have an event and say “must be in business for at least 5 years”, but really, why would you? You can say , “Must have sold at least a dozen houses via Social Media” to attend this discussion group. You can have a group called Agent Genius and say must have an IQ minimum of 130, as Mensa does. I tested that last night. Asked someone what they thought of a group called “Agent Genius”. Question was: “What IQ Minimum do they need to have?” I said none…it’s just the name of the group. Answer: “Well then that’s ‘false advertising’, they should at least have to wear a chicken hat.”

        But “invitation only” is always a bunch of BS and who you know. We have to take “who you now” OUT of our business PERIOD because often it is the minority that suffers. The English Additional Language Agents are rarely the speakers or contributers at these things, but to exclude them would be horrific.

        No…I don’t think that is a stretch on Martin Luther King Day.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jpdalton77 Jonathan Dalton

        Ardell, I like and respect you but you’re diving headfirst down the rabbit hole. This was a post about revamping the BarCamp structure and philosophy and had absolutely nothing to do without anyone’s ethnicity, race, religion, anything. No one ever suggested excluding anyone based on those criteria.

        Agent Genius isn’t a group. It’s a website, plain and simple. What exactly does Active Rain mean, by the way? If you live in a city, can you write for RealTown since a town isn’t a city? Should Daniel Rothamel have to give up his site because he’s not an actual four-legged zebra? It’s an absolutely ridiculous argument you’re attempting to make about the name of a website only mentioned because I wrote a post there.

        If this business is about who you know, clearly I don’t know them. And I’m still damn productive nevertheless.

        When you come back from Wonderland, we can continue the discussion.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jpdalton77 Jonathan Dalton

        And, incidentally, the entry requirement for Agent Genius was me asking Benn if I could write there. That’s a pretty high hurdle, huh? Thought I would have cleared the IQ bar as well if they felt the need to set it at 130.

      • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

        Jonathan,

        You and I have been rolling around in the dirt for many years now because you just refuse to “get it”. That’s OK. I’ve come to accept that…somewhat.

        But if you call a house 8,000 square feet and it is only 1,700 square feet…or if you call a group Agent Genius and have no genius level entry requirement…both are false advertising. Period!

        Not your fault you say? YES it is! If good people don’t force honesty, transparency by refusing to be part of false advertising…then they become part of the problem vs part of the solution.

        As to barcamps and requirements, the RE Industry did NOT invent barcamps, my friend. What does Agent Genius have to do with it? EVERYTHING because you CAN change a barcamp IF you have a legitimate bar and entry criteria.

        A barcamp is an extension of the original Rand Think Tank. “invitation only” has to have a criteria. It can’t be a list of who you know or who you “want” to be there like a freakin’ cocktail party.

        Real Estate is not MERELY a business and I don’t expect non-licensed people like vendors to “get” that we have a high degree of Public Trust to accommodate. We are the Gatekeepers. We are the Leaders. We cannot be the followers.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jpdalton77 Jonathan Dalton

        I guess then Best Foods mayonnaise really is the best. Silly of me to believe that was just a name chosen for advertising potential.

        Can’t waste any more time answering the points you’re making that have absolutely no connection to anything written above (in this case, the idea that the real estate industry invented barcamps. Like most everything else you’ve pointed out, that line doesn’t exist anywhere in this thread.)

      • http://www.realtown.com/ardell/blog Ardell DellaLoggia

        Mayonnaise is a great place to end this conversation. Mayonnaise says it all.

  • http://www.myfhamortgageblog.com/mark-madsen Mark Madsen

    REBC Vegas in May before it gets too hot? Keep it simple and small. I’d be happy to organize something.

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