Be Good Not Bad by Brian Warren

7 February 2007

The Sprint

Photo Credit: Mark Bixby

Photo: Mark Bixby

When we at Method Arts found out about a crazy situation in New Mexico, we saw it as an opportunity. The situation, in a nutshell, is that in 2000 the state contracted a huge company to build a website for their unemployment benefits program. Seven years and $11M later, nothing much has happened. We saw this as an opportunity to get together and try our hand at building something that works, in just one day.

A day?

Sure, that’s crazy. But why not? I mean, things have changed. It’s much easier to throw together a team of smart, agile people and make something. And that’s what we did.

First of all, cramming everything into a day really isn’t a proper way to go through the development process on a website, and of course we didn’t finish it. As an exercise, though, it can be really great and lots of fun. I wont get into everything we did, because Mark blogged about it on the Method Arts site. He talks about what we did, why we did it and as a group, and where things stand now.

My Take

Personally, I was blown away by the caliber of people working with me. I had worked with some of these guys before but wow, there were a ton of talented people there. Everybody brought a unique skill-set to the table. Daniel Lyons lead our Ruby on Rails crew, and it was just fascinating to watch them work. Andrew Hedges brought an unexpected surprise in that he liaised between the design and the programming teams.

My favorite parts of the day were the beginning and the end. We started talking in very abstract terms about the types of people who would use the unemployment benefits website. We brainstormed all the cool things that we could do to serve their needs and exceed them. Seeing the guys think and work together was a treat. Something about the hypothetical nature of the project kept everybody a little more loose and a little more optimistic than in real life.

By the end of the day, we were wrapping up work. Of course we weren’t done, but everybody got pretty reflective by the end and we were all patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. It didn’t matter that we didn’t finish. It was an exercise in putting a bunch of really talented people together to see what happens.

Learn anything?

It’s a good sign that most of us want to get together and do something along these lines again. Everybody is busy, so who knows when it will happen. We may allow ourselves longer than a day to do it. Can you still call it a sprint if it’s a two-day jam session? Maybe we need a new term.

  • As I linked above, Mark wrote a post on Method Arts about the sprint.
  • Andrew blogged about it on his site.
  • We made the front page of the Albuquerque Journal but their site doesn’t let you link to articles. No linkage. You can find it if you really want, but it’s not all that great an article.
  • Duke City Fix, caught the story – a lively conversation resulted in the comments.
  • Daniel Lyons, our Rails ninja, posted a some thoughts just hours after the event.
  • Reid Givens blogged and did a podcast too, see below…
  • Here’s the podcast (mp3)
  • Here’s an interview with me (mp3) since I couldn’t make it to the group podcast.