The Great ReBarCamp Controversy?

@TCAR on Social Media!
Image by reeltor99 via Flickr

As I write this, I am in a hotel in Western Pennsylvania, where ReBarCamp Pittsburgh will take place tomorrow.

I’m writing this post because of a few conversations I had recently with friends of mine. It seems that there was a conversation about whether ReBarCamps served any purpose. Concerns were expressed that the ReBarCamps had become hackneyed, that every ReBarCamp featured speakers who were just vendors trying to sell things to people, and that the same group of people kept showing up to talk. There was concern expressed that  the ReBarCamps were nothing more than a social gathering for some people in the who knew each other and who kept to themselves during the events,  making them more of an elitist social gathering than an education or sharing event.

I just looked at the RSVPs for this ReBarCamp. it seems that none of the “usual suspects” will be arriving tomorrow. In fact, there are only six people here that I know, and I met two of them this evening, two are past state association Presidents, and two are organizers of the ReBarCamp and they would probably not yet be familiar names to you.

When I heard these statements I was astounded. This will be my 12th ReBarCamp.  I have been all over the country attending these events, and each one has had a different flavor. I have experienced them in San Francisco twice, Fredricksburg, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, Virginia Beach, Miami,Columbus, helped organize one in Philadelphia and here I am in today in Pittsburgh. During that time, I only remember two sessions that I felt had commercial overtones, and I walked out of one of those sessions, and in the second one told the presenter that they were missing the point of the event. At those events I have presented or moderated sessions with  topics like social capital (whuffie), social contracts, selling foreclosures, listing foreclosures, the future of the real estate brokerage, short sales and working with banks on defaulted properties among others. Each time , I had little or no idea what I would talk about until the day of the event. I have also participated in dozens of sessions moderated or presented by others. Most of them were interesting or fun, and the others I walked out of and found another session.

I have really enjoyed seeing many of the more experienced social media presenters at a number of the events, but I am excited to see who the presenters will be today. I’ll probably present a session or two, but the agenda will be new and different because the people are new and different.  Even the sponsors for this event are different, though the Social Media Marketing Institute is a “repeat offender” – however as the CEO , I know they will not be pitching a product at the event.

I am friends with the three men who created the first ReBarCamp,Andy Kaufman, Brad Coy, and Todd Carpenter. I don’t think they intended to get rich or famous from the event – they just wanted to try something out and see if people responded. And their creation has become a national event that has educated hundreds upon hundreds of people about social media, real estate, and a variety of topics too eclectic to be listed here.

Anyway, my experience with ReBarCamps tells me that the people that attend today will start the day confused and unsure of what they have gotten themselves into. They will bring with them differing levels of knowledge and different expectations of the days event.  By the end of the day some will be confused, some will be disappointed, some will be enlightened, and some will be engaged. But they will all be impacted by a volunteer driven sharing experience. And at the end of the day I think that’s a good thing.  SO much so that I look forward to doing it again at ReBarCampDC next week and San Diego next month – where new groups of people will hopefully share and learn and become engaged in an event created by and for the community to benefit its members. People keep voting with their feet, by walking into sessions at ReBarCamps everywhere.

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