Jul. 2nd, 2010

rickscott: Bemused-looking picture of Rick (Default)

Do we have enough hackathons in the testing world?

So over on the open source dev side of the planet, we have these things called hackathons. The archetype for this kind of event goes something like this:

  • Declare a rough topic: "Apache bug bash", "Perl-related projects".
  • Procure an inexpensive conference room.
  • Add a couple dozen highly motivated open source hackers.
  • Throw in snacks, wifi, collab tools, and a lot of caffeine.
  • Shake vigorously and observe the reaction.

Sometimes these are done before or after another major conference; sometimes they're scheduled on their own. They are more or less round-the-clock affairs where a heck of a lot gets done:

  • tens or hundreds of bugs get closed;
  • new releases of major software projects get done;
  • sweeping new features are designed or implemented;
  • entirely new projects get cooked up and launched.

As much as I love remote collaboration, people in the same physical space have much higher communication bandwidth; you can communicate with more nuance and turn around replies much more quickly. They're also much less subject to the interruptions of daily life: fire drill because a server crashed, the garden needs to be fed, the cat needs watering, etc. The cross-talk that does happen tends to be germane to what's happening in the moment. This all means that:

  • many coordinated tasks get done in a relatively short time;
  • discussions can move forward a great distance in a relatively short time; and
  • a lot of cross-pollination happens -- people riff off of each other's ideas and come up with amazing new things.

Despite how productive hackathons can be, they cost very little. All that needs to be paid for is travel, space, and accomodation, and the hackathon location can be selected so as to keep these low.

I think that the writing-about-testing conference engendered many of the points listed above. I'd like to see these kind of affairs happen more often.

The testing world has a number of great 'pro' conferences: StarEast/West, STPCon, CAST, and so forth. But do we have enough hackathons?


rickscott: Bemused-looking picture of Rick (Default)
Rick Scott


Canadian philosopher-geek who's profoundly interested in how we can collaborate to make technology work better for everyone. He's an incorrigible idealist, an open source contributor, and a staunch believer in testing, universal access, and the hacker ethic.

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