Global Day of Code Retreat: A Great Way to Spend a Saturday

10 Dec

On Saturday I attended the second annual Global Day of Code Retreat. It was quite possibly the best developer day/conference I have attended. This is not to diminish some great conferences and code camps like MADExpo and Nova Code Camp, but this experience is different in an extremely important way.

Most conferences and code camps contain sessions aimed at keeping developers up on the latest and greatest technologies. A code retreat focuses solely on your development skills. No frameworks, no shiny new tools, its just you, a partner, your favorite IDE, test runner and some simple business rules.

For 45 minutes, you and a partner use TDD and pair programming to implement the rules for Conway’s game of life. At the end of 45 minutes, you get a 15 minute break. Oh, and you delete the code you just spent the last 45 minutes writing.

“What?” you exclaim, “Delete my code?”

Yes. Code Retreat is not about the solution, but the journey. Most of us spend day after day executing, but many of us spend very little time practicing our craft. So after the first round of programming we knew the problem better, the next 45 minutes should be a breeze.

“This time your methods may contain only four statements.”

With each 45 minute session, the facilitator presented us with different constraints. This prevented us from regurgitating the same code over and over, but more importantly it reminded me how many ways we developers have to solve the same problem.

“This time you may not use any conditional statements.”

These constraints were challenging and every green test was exhilarating.

The Global Day of Code Retreat reminded me that writing code is fun, pair programming is awesome (its been a year since I paired) and that I need to stop and take some time to practice the art of writing code, not just watching the latest TekPub video.

If you live in the D.C. area and want to spend more time practicing your craft, join the local Software Craftsmanship User Group, or better yet, facilitate your own Code Retreat.

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