I’ve been reflecting on the RailsRumble and our less-than-successful entry and thought I’d share some observations while they’re fresh.

Jen’s Long Drive

First, let me frame this up for you. Jenifer Hanen and I jumped into this at the last minute (we were team #140, registered roughly 12 hours before registration closed) in the midst of busy lives and on the basis of a recently-formed friendship but no prior collaborative experience or sense of each others depth, breadth, or style. We live about 400 miles apart, so there aren’t any opportunities for casual communication. I have a wonderful wife and the two best kids on the planet who were very indulgent of what was later termed “my two-day playdate,” (which nearly made me shoot tea out my nose =) but can’t ever be put on full ignore.

We went in with a low-pressure, let’s-have-fun-while-trying-to-make-something attitude. We knew that busy schedules before and during as well as the vagaries of busy lives could mean any number of interruptions and possibly just end the contest early for us.

I got to know Jen better. New collaborations are hard; as much as you may think you’ll just get together and throw down, you’ll invest a lot of (fun!) time telling stories, swapping philosophies, and getting a sense of what the other one means when they say something like, “don’t sweat that other stuff.” What’s the other stuff and why am I not sweating it? Should I have been sweating it earlier? We could have conquered this by getting together sooner, but we were both swamped right up to contest start time and beyond.

I learned more abut CSS and Javascript in a weekend than at the last three conferences I’ve attended. Hanging out with practitioners of an art is, for me, the best way to learn. But then, I like people and conversations.

I have a much deeper (and clearer) understanding of Capistrano. I like the namespaces in Cap 2.0; I also like the big pile of implicit tasks you get.

You never think you’re over-complicating things, even when you are. I was. Ironically, it’s one of the things I most watch for (and kill quick) when managing software teams … and I got a very intimate view of the other side of the coin. Probably the single biggest lesson I learned; I’ll blog about it more later.

Constraints are good. The usual cliches, from Parkinson’s Law to “art is never finished, just abandoned” to “what gets measured gets managed,” are near and dear to my heart. In retrospect, I wish we’d mapped out the time and attached loose deadlines to stages.

It takes a village. There were many of you who helped with advice and well wishes before during and after. Thank you for that.

I also learned a bunch of stuff that I’d already know if I read Agile Web Development with Rails from end to end. I’m going to make time to skim it once through and try to take notes rather than dive in and play with new bits. I’ll post some of the bits here.

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11 September 2007


railsrumble ruby/rails