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March 2010
April 2010

2010-03-24 »

Dear StartupCampMontreal:

You are not a "camp." You are a "conf."

The xxxCamp naming scheme appears to have originated with O'Reilly's "FooCamp," which was an informal event where a bunch of famous techie people came to discuss stuff. The more commonly known "BarCamp" series was created as a backlash to the invitation-only FooCamp, but in the same "unconference" style. Thus, the "xxxCamp" series of events is defined primarily by its unconference attributes, to wit:

  • Poorly organized (in a good way)
  • Informal
  • No prearranged agenda
  • More conversations than presentations
  • No cabal of unelected organizers who decides who gets to speak
  • No keynote presentations
  • No direct financial upside for any participants

StartupCampMontreal claims to have an "unconference component," but this component is obviously a second-class citizen. Among the many reasons that this is obvious (from my observations when I attended it last year), one is especially egregious: the unconference portion is from 1pm to 6pm in the afternoon... on a weekday.

It's reasonably possible for many people to get a day off work to go to a conference; company-sponsored "professional development" days are common. Getting a free day off to go to an unconference is very unlikely. And you know this, because you put the "core" (non-unconference, ie. conference) part of your so-called camp in the evening, when people will be easily able to attend.

I don't actually like "conferences." I find them tedious. Keynote speakers, no matter how famous, are almost universally cliches. Presentations selected by a cabal of organizers are almost never the presentations that would have been selected by an audience (as they do at StartupCampWaterloo, which is a real "camp") - they are therefore boring. And a highly structured set of presentations leaves little time for socializing and unstructured discussion, which is the main purpose of an unconference.

Basically, StartupCampMontreal is not actually interesting to me, because it is not actually a StartupCamp. Your name is essentially false advertising.

Your conference is well organized, well marketed, smoothly running, and attracts a lot of people including numerous sponsors, reasonably famous keynote speakers, and an ever-increasing number of attendees. I'm sure that many of those people are happy to go to StartupConfMontreal, and I'm not suggesting that you change your format just for me.

But what I want and expect from a StartupCamp is an unconference. This is why I will not be attending StartupCampMontreal in the future.

Best of luck and have fun,


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