Instead of a ‘Startup Weekend’ which is a pretty common occurrence where people bring ideas to start something with, everyone showed up with projects-in-progress and the goal of launching something by the end of the weekend. For me, this meant a big backlog of updates to a rack of servers and updates to some Rails and Drupal sites (as well as pairing with someone else here to beat Diablo III on Normal difficulty), but for other people it meant everything from a brand new company website, to migrating old PHP code to a new Ruby on Rails backed site, to a minimum viable product release of hydrogen: a command line tool for managing WordPress installations.
Much food was eaten, and a lot got done. The schedule planned for presentations of what everyone finished to take about an hour on Sunday, but we spent almost 2 hours seeing all the cool things that everyone accomplished. Like everything Highgroove does, this was the first round of an experiment and we think it was pretty successful.
That said, we learned a lot that we’ll use to make future events that we host even better. First up, some Accountability would have helped: Defining what ‘finished’ actually means and checking in with everyone a few times through the weekend would have helped people stay on track. Agile development encourages re-prioritization and changing scope when faced with challenges or deadlines, and a lot of people were so heads down in their projects they didn’t think about re-scoping things so they could launch Sunday afternoon. This meant less people were able to ‘finish’ than how many could have.
A bit more structure would have built a bigger sense of community and gotten more eyes on problems instead of just leaving everyone to their own devices. Connecting the Node.js person in one room with the Illustrator in another room at the right time could have led to even more awesome things. Little schedule things like enforced (short) time limits for all introductions and presentations, as well as timed breaks and activities would keep things moving and effective. Even things as simple as “every time we ring this crazy bell, talk to someone you haven’t talked to before for 5 minutes” could have led to more awesome things.
Lastly, better marketing and exposure during the weekend would have been great. A live stream of some sort, blog posts and tweets with what is going on, and ways for people to participate remotely would all have built more momentum and led to more things getting done.
The concept of a ‘Finish Weekend’ is one we like, and look for another one of these in Atlanta in the future!