Sunday, September 20, 2009

Code Retreat Chicago - Wrap-up

Other thoughts:
John Yerhot has posted thoughts on his experience.
Jim Breen has posted thoughts on his experience.

My thoughts:

Yesterday was the first Code Retreat Chicago (initial announcement and description), sponsored by Thoughtworks, and it was absolutely fantastic. If you were in Chicago, and you didn't show up, you missed out on a fun day of coding and practice; I got there at 7.45am, and I think I finally left at 10.45pm.

About 16 people showed up, which was great, since that allowed us to have a pair for everyone. We did 6 45-minute sessions, with a final 7th session that ran for about 1.5 hours at the behest of all the participants. Between the sessions, we had around a 15 minute break for discussing what we did during the past session, swapping pairs, deleting code and running to the bathroom. :) And, of course, a little bit of looking out the window at the view.

The people who come to Code Retreat never cease to amaze me with their excitement and zest for coding and practicing new things. After all, if you are willing to get up and make it by 8.30am, you're already showing your hand a bit. After the final session, most people stayed for several more hours to talk and socialize. It helped that Thoughtworks provided some beer, too, for the after-retreat festivities.

As usual when working on Conway's Game of Life, the first couple sessions saw people really focused on building the data structure, normally a two-dimensional array. Over the course of the morning, after discussing ideas between sessions, more and more people experimented with new approaches, started at different areas of the problem and fooled around with completely odd ideas (one pair spent their session pretending they were in the 1970s, when running the application was expensive, so they really focused on analyzing the algorithm intensely). I also shared some ideas from previous code retreats on things to try.

For lunch, we had food catered from Haifa Cafe. I've never been to a code retreat where there was pizza, and, if I'm involved, there won't be. If you are crazy enough to get up early on a Saturday to come spend the day coding with strangers, then you deserve to have a good meal for lunch. In fact, we ended up with a ridiculous amount of food left, so a lot of people stayed and ate dinner. I told people to bring some containers to take left-overs home, and there definitely was enough.

I took a bunch of pictures, so, if you are interested in seeing what it looks like when a bunch of geeks get together to code, look no further.

If you were in Chicago, you really missed out. But, don't worry, I'm going to be organizing another one this winter. If you live in another city, keep watch for a code retreat coming to your area. If you would like to organize or host a code retreat in your town, feel free to contact me. If you are in the Philadelphia area, mark your calendars for November 1st.

Thanks again to Thoughtworks for sponsoring this Code Retreat. Also, thanks to Michael Norton and Patrick Sarnacke for helping out from the TW side.