What were you doing on Saturday, March 2012?
You should of been in Marion, Ohio… participating in Coding in the Clink VI. Dan Wiebe (twitter – @dnwiebe) has been asking me for months to participate and I have always had something else that was more important. Big mistake on my part. The short version, just in case you do not want to keep reading… it was AWESOME !!! and I will do it again. Every person should attempt to attend. As good as any code-retreat I have ever attended.
so… I am going to recap my entire day as an attempt to hopefully bring light what kind of experience, Coding in the Clink VI, really was… at least for me.
I live about 1 hour and 20-25 minutes south of Marion. I started the day, actually the night before, thinking about what the next day would bring. Of course, your mind is quite capable of making things worse than they really are… especially when you are thinking about going to prison. At 7AM, I left the house, headed for Marion Correctional Institute for a day of coding… or at least that is what I was hoping for. I arrived a few minutes early, met by Dan (Wiebe). I must of had a look of nervousness on my face. Dan quickly asked me how I was doing. I, of course, answered… ‘fine’… actually I was quite nervous and not really sure how I should be feeling.
Everyone else arrived, we removed everything from our pockets and were greeted by the metal detector. I PASSED. This is when the nerves peaked. It is not normal to want to enter a prison for the day. People are not supposed to actually want to go ‘behind bars’ for an enjoyable Saturday. We, as a group, were escorted down the main hall of the prison… greeted by two, not one, but two very large steel doors. We had to pass through the first, lock the first, and then the second was unlocked and we passed into the prison. The ‘long walk’ led us to the ‘computer lab’. We were welcomed into the lab by several prisoners, all very excited by our arrival. It was a very nice experience. Still nervous at this point, but much more at ease, Dan greeted everyone and tried to start the introductions. He was stopped by Lee, with an announcement of donuts, coffee and lemonade. After a few minutes of breakfast item gathering, the introductions and code-retreat formalities were started. We had to learn each persons name… and that was it. We were all just developers, nothing more… nothing less. Dan introduced us to the challenge of the day, the game of Mancala. Seemed pretty simple at first pass… we learned otherwise throughout the rest of the day.
As a team, we decided on 45 minute iterations and 15 minute retrospectives. The first iteration was slow and rough, but we made it through. The iterations started adding up… and the code started flying. The rules were… each prisoner had to pair with an ‘outsider’… ‘outsiders’ were not allowed to pair with each other. Each iteration required a person to pick a new pair and not to pair at the same station as the previous iteration. Also… the code was not deleted between iterations, as normal, which really changed the dynamic of the retreat. If I remember correctly… lunch was served after 3 iterations… this brought some really nice conversations. The most enlightening event for me, was when I realized I had forgotten that I was in prison and thought I was just in any other agile team room at any other client.
The final iterations occurred, the final retrospective happened… the day ended with me completely enjoying the code, the new friends I made and imagine… in prison ! A venue I would have never have imagined I could have said, ”I had a good time”.
Thanks to Dan for organizing and inviting me to ‘number six’… hope to be invited back! Thanks to the ‘guys’ for a wonderful, enlightening, and productive code retreat… hope to see you soon!