Our workshop this month was Rob Chatley’s “Extreme Startup”, run by Carlos Fernandez Garcia and Emanuele Blanco of the London Software Craftsmanship Community. Extreme Startup is based on a question-and-answer format: you register an HTTP server with the Extreme Startup game, and it sends you questions as HTTP requests.
After a few technology hiccoughs with the internet connection (note to future self: check this beforehand!), we were underway with the warmup round, and had seven teams registered with the server.
The first round focussed on keeping the application running: we learned that the customer is more upset to get no response at all than to get an incorrect response. The questions in this round were fairly simple maths-based questions: “what is 1 + 10”, “what is the largest of these numbers: 99, 3, 67”, etc.
The next round introduced a change in requirements; there’s no room to get complacent in this exercise! Suddenly we were hit with harder maths questions like “which of these numbers are a cube and a square”? One team, taking the innovative approach of handing off to Wolfram Alpha to answer the questions, quickly took the lead; another team, opting for an interactive approach to answering the questions, were in second place. Luckily there’s no bonus for a quick answer!
The third round upped the stakes further: now we had to handle non-maths questions, like “Who played James Bond in Dr. No?”. This stretched even the hardiest of solutions.
Overall it was a great workshop, which everyone attending enjoyed very much. Unsurprisingly the Wolfram Alpha team scored the most points, and with a large lead. There was strong competition between one implementation that always returned something, whether or not it was correct, and the team calculating the answers by hand. If you get a chance to participate in an Extreme Startup workshop, I highly recommend you take it!
Interestingly, only two teams wrote tests for their solution, and no teams used any kind of source control. Of the pairs, most were using driver-navigator pairing, but one used ping-pong pairing.
Starting again, people would choose the technologies they are familiar with to ensure a solid start.
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Thanks to Carlos and Emanuele for running the workshop so well and remaining cool under pressure, and to Granta Design for hosting us!