Last Saturday (11/14/2015) I attended my first code retreat, hosted by the kind folks at Pluralsight. The event was part of the Global Day of Code Retreat. 144 cities participated in the event, and for the first time San Diego was one of them.
Global Day of Code Retreat: A day to celebrate passion and software craftsmanship
The retreat is a one-day exercise in honing the craft of programming. It started with a short introduction and then we were asked to pair with someone for the first exercise: Conway’s Game Of Life. The exercise is specifically chosen because the domain is simple enough to understand within a couple of minutes, by implementing it is usually not trivial. We were not given any rules, except to use Test-Drive Development (TDD) throughout the day. Language choice and design was left up to each pair. After 45 minutes, we switched pairs and deleted our code. That is right: We deleted our code.
Why delete the code? Because the exercises are about learning, not about shipping working code. It’s supposed to be in contrast to what we do at work every day, where we create artifacts that are production ready and ship them.
In each exercise, I learned something interesting. I learned that it’s easy to take for granted the shared understanding and context that you have with your team around what “clean” code looks like, what to test, how to structure test and even what type of tests there are (ie. unit, functional, integration, etc). I learned that there are many people that are just now getting acquainted with TDD and extreme programming. I learned that pair programming forces you to be explicit about what you are doing and be convincing about the path forward, since you pair needs to agree. I learned that if you are willing to listen, you can learn new things from everyone and anyone.