Lessons learned from anti-hackathon

Last post was what we accomplished. We also learned a lot, I think.

First of all, when we do this again, we will be clearer up front about how much time we expect to spend on the project. I think most of us did not realize how much this week was going to involve a black hole for time.

Since we’d never done this before, we didn’t have an explicitly defined set of expectations up front other than make the conference calls every day. What worked out as I expected was that people had different hours. This was good.¬†When I woke up around 10 am, I’d see what Sam had been doing ¬†since 5 a.m.. Similarly, when Linas would get off work at 7 pm in England, he could see what Jessica and Ryan had finished working late into the night in California.

One night, Dennis came into my office around midnight and said he felt he had not contributed his fair share and offered to work on any code I wanted to hand off. He worked on it until 9:30 the next morning.

Several people who had originally expressed interest decided before the first day that this was more time than they had to devote. Those are the people who look before leaping.

After leaping ¬†…. I would say those of us who participated¬†were overall pleased with ourselves but tired.

The second thing we will do differently next time is encourage people to speak up right away and take responsibility for part of the project even if, as happened, there is overlap or¬†redundancy, or they change their minds after working on it. ¬†We had a wide variation of people with coding experience, from zero to thirty years.¬†We ended up with one person who, after the third day of a five-day event still didn’t really have a part of the project. You didn’t need to just lean in, but jump in. That’s something we learned for next time.

Everyone working on the project learned a lot, I think. Pretty much everyone but me chose to work with tools they were not that familiar with but were interested in learning better, from ember.js to impact.js to base camp. I did end up looking into flot.js at the end, and did learn a little about ember. Mostly though, I used a lot of what I already knew, and I was a tiny bit disappointed with that for me personally. (There is a story behind that but it’s boring.) On the other hand, I was thrilled with how much we accomplished in such a short period of time.

I don’t know if I would call this a lesson learned, but a benefit I had expected and did get from all of this was a break from the game I was working on. For weeks, we have been day after day working on Spirit Lake and Fish Lake, just 1,000 little improvements. As much as I love my work, I was getting burnt out. This morning, I couldn’t wait to get back at it.


I’m in San Diego for a text mining workshop on Monday and Tuesday and I’m looking forward to working on the game in my hotel room in the evenings.

As I said in my last post, I’d do it over again – but not for a while.


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