I’ve been asked a number of times for the date of BarCamp Harrisburg 2015 on both Twitter and in-person.
The answer, sadly, is there isn’t one.
It’s hard to believe that Harrisburg has had a rendition of BarCamp since 2009, and normally around this time I would be scrambling trying to promote the event and seek sponsors. While 2013 had an incredible turnout, last year’s event saw an unfortunate decline. The lack of 2014 t-shirts aside, I would attribute the lessened attendance to three factors:
- A sudden schedule change.
BarCampHbg has traditionally been held in April, however, the event has always been subject to longtime host Harrisburg University’s room availability. Due to scheduling conflicts, the date was pushed to May. With the warmer weather knocking, many people likely had other engagements.
- Harrisburg City Parking.
With the city’s leasing of street and garage parking came higher rates and longer hours on Saturday. While I can’t scientifically point towards this change as being a definitive factor, it wouldn’t be a surprise, and I’ve talked to other event organizers that have noticed attendance decline during this time.
- General interest waning.
General interest in BarCamps have declined over the years. Just look at the lessening number of camps being held globally on barcamp.org or the stats via Google Trends (below). While BarCamp Philly still has a strong following, I’ve seen BarCampNYC practically evaporate, to the point of once sitting in on a session where attendees asked “Do we even need a bar camp?”.
Ultimately, none of these factors play into the success of an unconference for learning, sharing, and networking. I look back at all of the past camps with an appreciation for everyone I’ve met and what I’ve learned. I’ve had to explain to attendees that each year’s themes have been different thanks to what the attendees brought, and that some of the smaller camps have actually been more fun.
Last year, HU notified me that they would no longer be able to hold the event on a Saturday. While I could search for another venue, frankly, the thought of it exhausted me. I’ve learned the hard way that without a sponsoring venue one has to navigate facility size, room rental fees, and event insurance. I’m not necessarily opposed to doing this, but I think I’ve reached a point where I shouldn’t be doing this, alone.
I’ve reached out to the organizers of Harrisburg Startup Week (many of whom I met at BarCamp Harrisburg) on the possibility of making BarCamp Harrisburg a part of their schedule of events. There’s nothing definitive, yet, but in the meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you. Is BarCamp Harrisburg worth continuing? Does anyone know of a suitable venue that would sponsor space? Should a fee be collected to help rent a venue? Comment below, and if any details do solidify I’ll be sure to post them.