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Highgroove Hack Night

Like many software professionals, developers at Highgroove tend to code a lot outside of the work we do for our clients. In fact, Highgroove specifically allots each developer time to work on non-billable projects. Usually this time is used for some combination of sharpening our axes by reading technical material or watching screencasts, and working on open-source software or other internal projects.

Because Highgroove is a results-only work environment, making sure we are meeting or exceeding results is very important. Last night, a few of us hung around at the office and worked on an internal web application to help us track these results, holding us accountable and encouraging us not only achieve them day-to-day, but to do so longer term.

The application development was already well underway before the hack night, but was rough around the edges and already had some bugs logged.

I gave everyone an overview of the app and the tasks that needed to be done (in rough priority order), but allowed each leeway in exactly what to work on.

Working on the same project with a focused team of incredibly smart folks was really exhilarating! Immediately, small groups formed and took on specific chunks of development. We divided and conquered: “Oh, Patrick’s working on that view now, let me go bang out the functionality behind it real quick.”

Inevitably, a technical rabbit hole appeared. In this case, an issue with Google Apps OpenID that was preventing developers from logging into the application on their local machines. We came up with a hack solution that allowed work to continue, and made sure to timebox fixing the actual problem: “OK, try 15 more minutes, and then let’s ‘give up,’ regroup and try something new.”

Finally, it was refreshing to use the same processes we use with clients for our own application: planning iterations, using Pivotal Tracker, writing tests first, constant communication with our office manager, Megan, the “customer”. Eating our own dogfood makes us even better!

In the end, we got a few bugs and features pushed up, a few more in progress, and a really nice frontend design that’s well under way!

Have you hosted a hack night as a company? How did it go?

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