Team Makers goes to Shoreditch

Being Noughty

I have had the most intense week of my Makers experience so far. Maybe it’s because it’s the end of week 7 and I am not quite sure where the time has gone, or maybe because we have been working in groups on a (relatively) new set of technologies. Either way I feel like I have done and learned a huge amount. It started with making a single page application to quickly store notes at the beginning of the week, and by the end, we were building an SPA to summarise a set of news articles. We created the first release of ‘Noughty News’, delivering ‘fake news for millennials’, or at least, whatever news we could get our hands on to parse into our homepage. The results are pretty cool, and say a lot for what you can accomplish in a team given only two days and vanilla Javascript.

Head of Brand Nick created this beautiful logo

I have had more fun this week than I have had in any other week. Team spirit was high throughout and I think this made our work better. Feeling like you have a sense of ownership over what you are doing and having fun while you are doing it makes the experience of completing a project more rewarding, and I feel more proud of what we have produced than other pieces of project work which might have been technically more sophisticated. One of my jobs in the last two days has been to write a testing library, which I had the pleasure of naming after myself. Or, at least, after spending too long in front of an anagram generator, it was a version of myself called ‘InSepiaParchment’. Given that our product was ‘Noughty News’, the command to run our node server was naturally ‘beNoughty’.

Many giggles

When it came to planning, we frequently found ourselves flying blind. Last week we made Makersbnb using techniques we were all accustomed to, and this made planning a straightforward process, identifying what needed to be done, who could do it, and how long it would take to achieve. This week, a large part of the project involved concepts we were still learning about, such as writing a testing library, manipulating DOM objects, and creating our own JSON file. We would start by splitting topics of research between us based on who was interested in what, after which we would each cobble together an approximation of our respective puzzle pieces and explain them to the rest of the group. This exercise gave me a newfound appreciation for standups, retros and planning sessions. They have frequently felt gratuitous to me in the past, however when steering a project between five people, all of whom know very little about what lies ahead, stand-ups were a fantastic way to combine our knowledge, and construct the next steps we would take. Without good communication, we would not have been able to build the bridge while we walked on it.

One person mentioned in the group retro at the end of the week that they have noticed how accustomed we have become to pairing; so much so that any other method of programming feels odd. I have noticed this too, especially after working as a group of five. Programming in a three leaves an awkward distribution of the ‘navigator’ role between two people, and programming individually feels almost like I am breaking some kind of sacred rule. At one point, we inadvertently ended up ‘mob programming’, a charming phrase introduced to us by Roi, where Nick coded, and four of us bickered behind him about what he should do next. Unsurprisingly, this was not the most productive point in the week. If we were to do this again, we would both plan it in advance, and ensure to follow the principle where the team agrees collectively on what the driver does before the driver writes the code. More teamwork lies ahead for us, as does more methods of experimenting with collaborative programming techniques.

Team CrassWench puzzle through Ed’s code

I went to two tech meetups for the first time this week, and found them a really valuable experience. The first was a Codebar workshop, where the group of attendees split off into threes consisting of two ‘students’, and one ‘coach’. The students individually work on projects while the coach splits their time between students, offering advice and talking through problems. I worked on finishing our team’s Napkin Notes app, and was amused by my coach’s surprise at the fact that I was using vanilla Javascript to write the entire thing. I felt somewhat apprehensive about showing him what we had written at first, but we ended up having a productive debugging session. I will definitely go again, and feel pretty confident that I’ll soon be able to sign up as a coach, especially in Ruby. The second meetup I went to was a machine learning talk in a very cool place called Shack15 in Shoreditch. While the talk was definitely not pitched at the group I went with, it was a useful experience in meeting other people, and getting into a place where I feel more confident discussing and learning about machine learning with a relatively sizeable contingent of others at Makers.

After five days of hardcore Javascript coding, and seven weeks in total at Makers, I have reached the point where I am starting to appreciate how much we have all learned in a short space of time. Completing autonomous work, researching techniques for myself and talking to others outside of Makers about our projects have all contributed to an increment in how justified I feel my role is in training to be a software developer. Things are gradually getting more serious. We are all spending more time thinking and discussing about what we will work on when we graduate, and I as a group, I feel we are behaving more like developers and less like students. I foresee the next few weeks being even more interesting and useful as a result!