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An unconference is a participant-driven meeting. The term "unconference" has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees, sponsored presentations, and top-down organization. For example, in 2006,CNNMoney applied the term to diverse events including Foo Camp, BarCamp, Bloggercon, and Mashup Camp.
Harrison Owen developed the Open Space Technology format/method in the mid 1980's. He publishedOpen Space Technology: a User's Guide, in 1993. This book discussed many of the techniques now associated with unconferences, although his book does not use the term "unconference." The term unconference first appeared in an announcement for the annual XML developers conference in 1998.
FooCamp is an invitation-only event for the Friends of O'Reilly that was created by Tim O'Reilly and Sara Winge the VP of Corporate Communications for O'Reilly Media. Sara drew on her experience of open space and conversations with Harrison Owen to develop the format  The first one happened October 10-12, 2003. In 2005 some of the attendees from previous years decided to produce their own "Bar" Camp.
These three different events, BloggerCon, FooCamp and BarCamp were all part of popularizing the term "unconference". Foo and Bar Camp in particular popularized the form where "there is no agenda until .. the attendees made one up."
Styles of facilitation
An unconference can be conducted using a number of different facilitation styles. Some of these are:
- Birds of a Feather
- Fishbowl (conversation)
- Knowledge Cafe
- Lightning Talks
- Open Space Technology
- Pecha Kucha
- Speed Geeking
- World Café