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First Annual Clash of the Coders

LeAnn Boucher

Special guest post by LeAnn Boucher, Ranch Public Relations.

We interrupt your regular Big Nerd Ranch Blog programming, stuffed with expert tips and teeming with hands-on advice, to bring you this behind the scenes interview with Big Nerd Ranch’s Most Bad-Ass Coders. (dramatic pause)

Clash Of The Coders Trophy Of Awesome

We sat down with the winners of the inaugural Clash of the Coders, a 48-hour internal hackathon staged to explore new technology, develop cool apps and test how much coffee a Nerd can possibly consume. Let’s just say that a cottage industry harvesting extra bold beans sprouted up outside our office.

First, the introductions. Team Franklin, harnessing the raw brainwaves of Bill Phillips and Chris Stewart, earned the coveted Big Nerd Ranch Most Bad-Ass Coders title with their project Roger. Franklin, Roger, Bill and Chris. Let’s start there.

BNR Blog: First, congratulations Team Franklin! We can’t help but notice a little naming trend. How did you come up with the name Roger?
Franklin: Well, after selecting Franklin as our team name, we knew we needed another proper name for our project. After tossing around names of people we didn’t know, we decided on Roger. Neither of us knew a Roger, so that settled it.

BNR Blog: Doesn’t Bill have an Uncle Roger?

Franklin: Yes.

BNR Blog: Have either of you participated in a hackathon before?

Franklin: No, this was our first, and possibly our last, competition. We want to rest on our track record of winning 100 percent of the hackathons we’ve competed in. We really enjoyed the process and had an idea that we were really excited about. That gave us a lot of confidence going into the competition.

BNR Blog: So tell us a bit about Roger.

Franklin: Roger is an Android app that…

BNR Blog: Wait, an Android app won the 2012 Big Nerd Ranch Clash of the Coders?

Franklin: Yes.

BNR Blog: That’s a bit of a surprise! Were there other Android apps?

Franklin: There was one other Android gem nestled in amongst the 11 iOS/OS apps that emerged from Clash of the Coders.

BNR Blog: What does Roger do?

Franklin: Chris came up with the idea before Clash. It’s a developer tool that helps you design the user interface of an Android app. Every time you save a layout file (a file that describes your app’s UI) on your computer, Roger picks up on that save and shoots the file out to any Android devices that are paired with your computer. You can see the UI changes on many different devices in real time with no effort on your part. This is especially important on Android because there is a lot of variation between devices. There are many different screen sizes and themes.

BNR Blog: Wow. That’s a really good idea. Will it ever be available to developers?

Franklin: Aaron loves the idea of open sourcing it as a developer tool. Check it out at .

BNR Blog: So you had a great idea. What was next?

Franklin: Next we researched what we could realistically do within 48 hours. We entered Clash of the Coders with a strong idea backed by a feasible execution plan. It gave us a lot of confidence going in.

BNR Blog: Were there a lot of sleepless moments?

Franklin: Actually, no! We would leave around 11:30 p.m. or midnight, go home to sleep and return by 8:30 a.m. We were in a zone though, oblivious to a lot of what was happening around us.

BNR Blog: How did you keep your focus during the long stretches?

Franklin: Music played a key role–tunes that were repetitive and drifted into the background. Also, gummy bears. Lots and lots of delicious gummy bears.

BNR Blog: What’s that they say about the best-laid plans?

Franklin: We did have a moment on day two Thursday evening with some of the code we’d written that day. We had assumed it was working correctly, but it was actually broken. That was a pretty low point. We took a step back to review what we’d done and troubleshoot. We ended up writing new code, but even then we felt confident that we could go back to the original code if we couldn’t resolve the issue.

BNR Blog: Which team would you consider your nemesi?

Franklin: That’s the funny part. While it was a competition, all the Nerds were involved in this awesome collective experience. We were doing it together. We weren’t concerned about winning, we wanted to take this really cool idea to fruition. It was a fun challenge to get it working as quickly as we did. Okay, maybe we did want to see the grand prize of “conspicuous technology” promised to the winners!

BNR Blog: How did you feel as the clock ticked down to Friday’s deadline?

Franklin: We finished Roger three hours before the final deadline. We had some ideas for more functionality, but three hours just wasn’t enough time to implement any of them. We have continued to add to it since then though. In case you missed it the first time, you can see it at .

BNR Blog: Well, congratulations again Team Franklin! Big Nerd Ranch’s Most Bad-Ass Coders. You can view an overview video of Roger. And, dear reader, if you were surprised that an Android app rose to the top in Clash of the Coders, consider that Big Nerd Ranch is a key player in the Android market. We have a thriving Android consulting business, teach a popular class and will soon debut Android Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide. Our Nerds are fluent in many languages: Dothraki, Klingon, Objective-C, Java, Elvish and Wookiee.

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