Cambridge Software Craftsmanship Community blog

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July 2014 Workshop: Extreme Startup With Carlos Fernandez Garcia and Emanuele Blanco

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.

Want to share your experience? Fork this blog on GitHub.


Thanks to Carlos and Emanuele for running the workshop so well and remaining cool under pressure, and to Granta Design for hosting us!