There’s always something to howl about

BarCamps — Trust Us — It’ll Be Worth Trashin’ Your Day?

First of all, I generally like and support the concept of RE BarCamps. I attended the first one, held in San Francisco a few years ago. Before making plans to attend, I knew about who would teach what, in loose terms. If memory serves, Brad Coy and Andy Kaufman set up and hosted that first BarCamp.

When the NAR national convention was here in San Diego last year, I went to that one, more to see folks from around the country than anything else. Recently, I attended one in Orange County. There were a lotta ‘names’ there, some who taught classes, some just attending like me.

The concept from where I stand is taken directly from where Dad was educated his first several grades in school — the one room schoolhouse. (And yes, he said it was red. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) What sets BarCamp apart from the ‘one room’ concept is that there’s no one teacher in charge, with full authority to control what goes on. What makes it much like the OldSchool approach is the dynamic of students teaching students. In this case, real estate agents teaching their peers.

A Minor Criticism

C.A.R. Expo is in Orange County the week of October 4th, just a 90 minute jaunt up I-5 from me. The day before it begins in earnest, there’s a BarCamp. I have no idea whatsoever who’s gonna be teaching, or, no kiddin’, even what’s gonna be taught.

Not makin’ that up. I’ve always known at least the roughed out list of topics to be taught, and who was gonna be leading those time blocks.

I’m willin’ to be part of the OldFart Brigade, as at 59 I’m certain to be hugely above the median age of attendees. But seriously, this ain’t my first rodeo — and I’m not some dinosaur who’s refused to adapt to the online world. It’s not as if Tony Gwynn was puttin’ on a baseball BarCamp without any details.

If I was a major leaguer and Tony was hosting/teaching at a baseball BarCamp, what the hell else would I need to know in order to attend?

Look, if Tom Ferry was gonna be leading a class on cold calling, I’d be there, in the first row. If Greg Swann was ticketed to teach a block on how he markets his listings? I’m there. Dan Kennedy gonna show us how to better use direct mail? Who wouldn’t be there?

But just show up? Not even a hint of what’s to be taught? I was recently on a panel with two other agents, talkin’ about what we do to generate business. It was on a Tuesday night for Heaven’s sake, and over 150 or so agents showed up. Wonder how many woulda been there if the marketing for it merely said, ‘Some guys, you know, agents, will be talkin’ about how to make money as a real estate agent.” Fortunately, the other two guys’ names were a pretty healthy draw.

So tell me: Why would anyone in the great Orange County/L.A. area block out an entire Monday to attend a day of 45-50 minutes classes on who knows what topics, with whoever teachin’ ’em — much less drive up from San Diego?

Just askin’.


25 Comments so far

  1. Scott Schang September 25th, 2010 6:27 pm

    You raise an interesting point here Jeff. One that i’ve been pondering myself.

    I am a barcamp junkie. I have been to every barcamp in CA except the first one (I think it’s 12 or 13 now).

    The schedule and speakers have never been announced prior to a barcamp that I can recall because the entire spirit of the event is that the topics are “attendee driven”.

    Most often, when you show up to a barcamp you are asked at the registration table if you are here to lead a session or just want to attend sessions.

    You are then given an index card and asked to write either the topic you want to lead a session on or what topics you would like to learn.

    The organizers then frantically try to match what the attendees want to learn with the topics and “speakers” that offered to present and wallah! The schedule is made. On the spot.

    C.A.R. expressed an interest in having a barcamp prior to Tech Tuesday and EXPO and Myself and Hilda Ramirez (co-organizer of rebarcamp silicon valley) volunteer to help organize it because of our passion for the movement and our experience.

    I assure you that there will be many of the most innovative and successful thought leaders in the space at the event and we might even have a couple of surprises.

    I promise that anyone that shows up will not go away disappointed unless you were expecting to sit in a chair all day and get talked to by some “expert”.

    Barcamp is not a conference, it’s a community. Barcamp is a spontaneous, interactive, participant dependent event.

    To your original point though, I have wondered if we should introduce more “structure” or at least leak some of the hot topics that are always big hits at barcamps.

    I am curious to see what input fellow bloodhounds have on the barcamp topic.

    So, quit yer belly achin Bawldguy and git ur butt up here if for no other reason than to sit down with me and shoot the shit for a while about closin deals! You know I love that topic!

  2. Scott Schang September 25th, 2010 6:46 pm

    P.S. Here is the website I put together to learn about and register for barcampEXPO –

    We are trying a new method for submitting topics and leading sessions – you can submit your requests for topics or offer to lead a session through the site.

    We are also asking registrants to share social marketing success stories to share with the entire group at the closing session for the day.

  3. Don Reedy September 25th, 2010 7:22 pm


    Pick me up in Oceanside on the way up. We’ll get Scott into a rundown, and either tag him out or get him to run out of the base path.

    Serious. Call me.

    Scott, BG and I both drink single malt….just sayin…

  4. Ken Brand September 25th, 2010 7:56 pm

    First, you didn’t have to walk 2 miles in the snow to get to school did you? Or, was it 2 miles of sand. No, I remember my mom, who grew up in San Diego, telling me as kid, she walked to school in the snow.

    Second, yeah, I’d definitely go, any cat curious, life long learner should go. Real estate is all about getting out and about, seeing people in real life, and see’n what happens.

    Report what’s what, when you get back.

  5. Scott Schang September 25th, 2010 8:19 pm

    @Don – that makes 3 of us!

  6. Todd Carpenter September 26th, 2010 12:17 am

    I love Re BarCamp. Having helped organize the first event and many more. But..

    You never know what you will learn at a BarCamp. Could be something great. Might not be anything at all. So I don’t risk it. I lead sessions. I don’t “teach” sessions. I lead them. People who try to teach or present at an REBC are just as well off attending toastmasters every week. It’s not what the event is about. The real trick to a successful REBC session is to lead a session, get a bunch of people into a room to talk about a subject you want to talk about. Share you experience and find out what they think.

    You never know what you will learn, but if you’re not putting yourself in the driver’s seat, you might as well not go.

    Jeff, you’re way to smart to sit in the back of the room and be taught.

  7. Rhonda Porter September 26th, 2010 7:33 am

    “The real trick to a successful REBC session is to lead a session, get a bunch of people into a room to talk about a subject you want to talk about. Share you experience and find out what they think.”

    This is the challenge with many REBC’s imo… when I’m involved with organizing an REBC in the Seattle area, I do my best to keep the original spirit of REBC alive. Many attend or get involved with planning with their own personal agendas and they should check them at the door.

    I remember at the Seattle event of Eastlake, I was working w/Drew doing the schedule…I had a “social media expert”‘s asst. come up to me to tell me that this person would like the room they were in reserved for the entire day for their class. And there can be issues when sponsors feel they should have more of an opportunity to speak to the crowd in spite of the efforts of the planning committee to be clear that it’s an “unconference”.

    There’s talk starting up in my neck of the woods about planning the next REBC Seattle… I’m sure we’ll face the same issues.

    IMO if someone really needs to know the planned schedule or if they really have the need to “teach” or speak to a group vs. lead a group, REBC may not be what they’re looking for.

  8. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 7:50 am

    Rhonda — Gonna start with you first, cuz you brought up something, between the lines that helps make my point. You said…

    โ€œThe real trick to a successful REBC session is to lead a session, get a bunch of people into a room to talk about a subject you want to talk about. Share you experience and find out what they think.โ€

    Paradoxically that’s about the purest statement of what REBC is. The paradox is that if I wanted to give up my day to listen to the blind leading the blind, I’d just go to some of the local RE board seminars on ‘how to blog’ etc. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a crapshoot, right? If a particular room is populated by those experienced in the subject matter, someone who’s not, could benefit big time by listening to the give ‘n take. We’ve both been to a time block in which we’ve come to be enriched by the leader, only to get sabotaged by those who keep the discussion at the most rudimentary level.

    But then, how could I argue against that? It’s why that leader was there, right? To help others ignorant of the subject matter take their game up.

    I guess the unspoken question might really be — is REBC mostly for relative newbies in the business?

  9. Doug Francis September 26th, 2010 7:55 am

    When I discovered that I had missed the first D.C. RE BarCamp way back in 2009, I knew that I had to find one to attend. Scott’s point that this is a “community” is spot on.

    But there was a little doubt in my head as I got in my car at 4:30 a.m. to drive to my first BarCamp in Virginia Beach (about a 4 hour drive, yikes!)but I had an instinct that it was going to be worth it.

    Tina Merritt had pulled together the Dakno guys, Bill Lublin, Frank Llosa and Matthew Rathburn at a strip mall BBQ place for an amazing “unconference”. As F-18’s roared over the restaurant, I learned more there than I ever expected.

    In life you have to take risks… just go and actively participate.

  10. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 8:20 am

    Hey Scott — I’ve not attended a barcamp without knowing at least several of the topics and their leaders. Maybe that’s only due to me knowing so many of those behind the scenes. The one you were so active in this summer, OC, was solid in that I knew what topics to expect, more or less, and knew the leaders were top notch.

    Part of the logistical problem, at least from where I stand, is that I’m both a newbie know-nothing and an advanced practitioner — depending on the subject matter. Sometimes I can’t even understand the nomenclature used in the first few minutes, especially if it’s a tech related class. Then they build from there. If there was an investment time block, with me as the leader, where would I start — with the first chapter or in the middle of the book?

    How hard can it be to make a judgment call on what folks are wanting, based upon suggested topics and available leaders? Would it be hurtful to the spirit of REBC to have a sorta pre-registration for suggested time blocks? Or how ’bout classes for beginners and more advanced attendees?

    I plead guilty to belly achin’. ๐Ÿ™‚ The fact of the matter, is that I’d planned to attend this REBC if only to rub shoulders with some of the cool kids who’ve always been nice enough to tolerate the presence of a dinosaur like me. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s almost always in the halls, lobbies, and eateries that so many of the wicked interesting discussions happen.

    Is the better attitude to have, going into barcamps, one of a networking opportunity primarily, with the chance to learn something new an added bonus? That works for me.

    Oh, and for the record, Don’s right about the single malt thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 8:35 am

    Hey Todd — Like your idea about taking the risk out by leading groups. Problem is, what most REBCs have on their menu, I’m not qualified to lead. Sure, I’m an experienced blogger, and my blog generates significant coin, but so what? Once I say, “Write about what you know — don’t sell folks all the time — make it about them and their problems, needs” — what do I say for the next 44 minutes? ๐Ÿ™‚

    I appreciate your complement, but the topics asked for by attendees don’t touch on any area of expertise of which I have significant command. I’m a TechTard, so eliminate anything from that column. Blogging? I know my subject matter, write about it, then push ‘publish’. Investing? Never seen it on the menu, understandably.

    So tell me, what am I ‘smart’ enough to lead? You caught the essence of my dilemma when you said, “You never know what you will learn, but if you’re not putting yourself in the driver’s seat, you might as well not go.” Have you done most of your learning in the rooms or outside them?

    Oh, and sorry for not remembering your pivotal role in the very first REBC in SF.

  12. Greg Swann September 26th, 2010 9:10 am

    > So tell me, what am I โ€˜smartโ€™ enough to lead?

    Salesmanship. And that’s the problem, as far as I’m concerned. REBCetera is not the blind leading the blind, it’s vendorsluts peddling FUD. A disorganized crowd is a pickpocket’s playground, and a disorganized conference is made to order for one-stop-shopping con men. If you want to do the cool kids a favor, teach them how to sell. They don’t even know it, but that’s what they really need to learn.

  13. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 8:46 am

    So Ken, love how your mom walked through snow to get to school in SD. That’s a neat trick. ๐Ÿ™‚ Wonder if you mom lived in one of the mountain towns in the east part of the county?

    I’ve never understood this never ending sense of curiosity, as it’s more often than not, led me into black holes of time I’ll never get back. Sure, we can’t always be assured of solid outcomes, I get that. But, most REBCs are a minimum of 100 miles from me. Those in OC/L.A. simply get up and drive 10-20 minutes or so and are there.

    If it wasn’t for the promise of networking and/or intriguing conversations outside of the REBC rooms, I’d never drive up.

  14. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 9:25 am

    Knew you’d show up eventually, Greg. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ve not seen the time infringement by vendors at any barcamp I’ve attended. They’re there, but are pretty well muzzled. In OC for instance, they were put in their own rooms, with signs outside declaring them as a sponsor. They kept to themselves without exception that I experienced.

    Ah, salesmanship. There it was, all the time hiding in plain sight. By far the best observation so far. The question immediately morphs into which school of sales? That conversation alone could go on forever.

    I’ve opted for the ‘concept’ school the last 20 years or so. It’s what’s been taught to Fortune 50 sales forces, many members of whom were already making seven figures. That would indeed be the perfect topic for barcamps.

  15. Todd Carpenter September 26th, 2010 9:38 am

    Jeff, In Orlando I lead a session on Homeownership and how to talk about it responsibly. It’s got nothing to do with blogs or social media. REBC’s don’t have to have anything to do with those topics. At the first REBC, I lead a session about how the web is changing the mortgage industry.

  16. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 10:13 am

    Thanks, as I can see now that I’ve been too narrowly defining the REBC topic playing field. What topic(s) would you suggest I’m qualified to lead? Thanks again, Todd.

  17. Scott Schang September 26th, 2010 11:58 am

    There’s no question that the “vendersluts” attempt to infiltrate barcamp. There is actually a very purposeful effort to expose these types and encourage people to exercise the “two feet rule”. If someone tries to break off a sales pitch at barcamp, use your “two feet” and walk out!

    AND I agree with Greg about what you have to offer Jeff. Salesmanship, marketing, responsible and ethical business practices have not been replaced by new media. These core tools if business are, however, greatly amplified through the greater abort for one to communicate and expand thier sphere.

    Unfortunately, most of this amplification is of the liking sort from sales-tards. I will listen to a tech-tard leading about sales and conversion every chance I get.

    Let’s do something crazy for EXPO. Let’s get the word out, talk about specific topics and even thought leaders and let’s see if we can elevate the participation as a result.

    So Bawldguy? Can I put you down for a Salesmanship for Tech-tards discussion?

  18. Scott Schang September 26th, 2010 12:01 pm

    Stupid iPhone. Hope you can make your way through the auto-correct typos!

  19. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 12:40 pm

    Sure — as long as you can define exactly what, “Salesmanship for Tech-tards discussion?” means. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Scott Schang September 26th, 2010 1:44 pm

    @Jeff – I think that salesmanship is salesmanship. There are no short cuts, technology will not cure stupid, you still have to be valuable, knowledgeable and exhibit expertise in your field if you want to close deals.

    Technology only amplifies your skill-set whether good, bad or ugly.

  21. Jeff Brown September 26th, 2010 1:47 pm

    “…technology will not cure stupid, you still have to be valuable, knowledgeable and exhibit expertise in your field if you want to close deals.”

    Pure gold.

  22. Greg Staker September 26th, 2010 4:51 pm

    The Orlando session on Homeownership was one of the top 3 of the day. I’ve attended an Unchained and now a Bar Camp. Same milk, different carton.

  23. Greg Swann September 26th, 2010 7:42 pm

    As I said, I’m not selling anything — nor am I inviting comparisons.

  24. Rhonda Porter September 26th, 2010 8:08 pm

    Jeff, actually, Todd made that point–I quoted him and probably didn’t give him the proper credit.

    I wish everyone could use a “way-back” machine to go the very first REBC in San Francisco–that’s what I strive for whenever I’m lucky enough to be involved with planning an event.

    I think where things go wrong with an REBC is if someone shows up w/certain expectations or an agenda.

    Greg–would I be far off by suggesting that when you and Brian attended the Seattle REBC, you were hoping to promote your Bloodhound event?

    IMO, and I’m not an authority on REBC–but I do consider myself a “purist” and I think I “get” what the original event was about–AND I think it could work if you push all the BS aside– you cannot show up w/a personal agenda (I’m going to schmooze & promote my biz and/or teach a class becuz I’m an expert)… you shouldn’t sit back and watch a class being led if you have skills and don’t participate–I’ve been to Twitter sessions and, as much as you guys bark about what a time suck it is for you–I have found success w/twitter & FB–others can too–most do it wrong–but I don’t sit back and judge, write a post and bash REBC later–I get involved in the session.

    REBC is what you make it.

    It may or may not be for you…and that’s fine too.

    I think if it’s organic–it can be magical. I don’t want to here so & so give there fantastic session that they do all over the country, even if it’s an honor they’ve traveled here in town.

    A good example of how REBC can work, imo, is the last event in Seattle–we had folks specially request on index cards to hear Dale Chumbley talk about Facebook and poking–might sound dumb to you guys–but Dale gets around and it works for him and he shared with who ever wanted to listen. We all contributed and jumped at that session (it was one of the few I could attend a part of).

    I love it when my competitors at a REBC tell me that they don’t get what I do w/SM. I hope they never do–but if I’m at an REBC–I’ll share because that’s what it’s all about and I believe in it.

    Not everything works for everybody–the “Bloodhound” method of business doesn’t work for everybody.

  25. Jeff Brown September 27th, 2010 9:23 am

    Hey Rhonda — Agreed, different strokes etc. Frankly, the Bloodhound ‘way’ or ‘method of business’ is what works — at least as far as I’m personally concerned. I’m well documented here in consistently saying nobody gives a tinker’s damn how those cat skins got on the wall until they actually SEE them there. If I could define the BH way, it’d be whatever produces consistent, and predictable RESULTS.

    >”I think if itโ€™s organicโ€“it can be magical. I donโ€™t want to here so & so give there fantastic session that they do all over the country, even if itโ€™s an honor theyโ€™ve traveled here in town.”

    Not sure I understand, sorry for being dense. If it’s a fantastic session, why wouldn’t folks wanna hear it?

    >”I think where things go wrong with an REBC is if someone shows up w/certain expectations or an agenda.”

    My agenda is possibly three-fold. (three-fold?) First and foremost is to learn something of value in terms of rubber meeting road. Am way past tired of enthusiastically touted ‘can’t miss’ crappola, that in reality is nothing but theory. I once asked a session leader how well their approach had worked so far. Their answer was a few minutes of why it will work over time. See ya.

    Second, though it’s never come close to happening, understandably so, I would lead a session if there was anything I knew well enough in which more than four people would be interested. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Third, the impromptu ‘under the radar’ barcamps held outside session rooms. Since pretty much everybody knows more than I do about online stuff, it’s often like finding gold nuggets on the carpet cryin’ out to me to pocket them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Where I think we might genuinely disagree, is in the assumption that a buncha well meaning agents, discussing a given topic in a room for 45 minutes, will necessarily have measurable value. Since to me that statement is true on its face, it’s probably the main reason I’d like to know not only what will be discussed, but also lead by whom.

    Make sense?