/dev/fort: you can build it in a week @ OpenTech 2013
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/dev/fort: you can build it in a week @ OpenTech 2013



Imagine a place with no distractions - no IM, no Twitter, in fact no internet access at all. Within, a dozen or more developers, designers, thinkers and doers. And a lot of a food. Now imagine that ...

Imagine a place with no distractions - no IM, no Twitter, in fact no internet access at all. Within, a dozen or more developers, designers, thinkers and doers. And a lot of a food. Now imagine that place is a fort. /dev/fort is an opportunity for web folk to come together to learn from each other and build something from scratch in a week. We've previously launched sites such as spacelog.org and historymesh.com, but the value is as much in tackling different problems, trying out new tools and techniques, and just having fun in a ridiculously nerdy way as it is in shipping a final product. That said, we do like to get things out onto the internet, while not cutting corners and aiming wherever possible to do things the right way rather than just the most expedient. We aim for 80% test coverage. I'll be talking about what's good about stranding yourself a hundred miles from civilisation, rapid evolution of in-jokes under pressure, and some tips you can use even when you don't have a fort handy.



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/dev/fort: you can build it in a week @ OpenTech 2013 Document Transcript

  • 1. You can build it in a week*James Aylett/dev/fort* even if you get caught in a blizzard http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013/dev/fort is a tried & tested way of convinced otherwise intelligentpeople to strand themselves in an isolated spot where they are at risk ofstarvation, hypothermia, whiskey and pop culture references.As a side effect we build websites.
  • 2. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013What is /dev/fort?A dozen people. An isolated location. No internet. No phones. A week tochoose an idea, develop it, design it & build it.
  • 3. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013What is /dev/fort?Some things we’ve builtWLNY. Mostly Final. History Mesh. BeHabitual. We’re best known forSpacelog.
  • 4. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Why would anyone do that?
  • 5. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Why would anyone do that?It’s really prettyFirstly because isolated spots can be really pretty. And we all like prettythings.
  • 6. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Why would anyone do that?The unusual can be inspiringIf you’re like me, you live in London and you work in London and, let’sbe honest, you don’t leave London all that much. Going somewheredifferent can cause interesting things to happen inside your brain andresult in new ideas.
  • 7. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Why would anyone do that?Geeks are fun to hang out withSometimes its good to hang out with others from your tribe. Thats whywere here today, in part.
  • 8. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Why would anyone do that?Geeks are great to learn fromAnd we get to learn things from people we don’t usually get to workwith. That’s another reason we’re here today.
  • 9. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Why would anyone do that?Isolation encourages focusAnd of course without distractions you can get a huge amount done…
  • 10. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Why would anyone do that?Revitalise interest in your day job…and when you put everything together, it can make you excited to goback to work. Seriously.
  • 11. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaborationOne thing that happens at /dev/fort is that a group of people who maynot know each other particularly well start functioning as a team reallyquickly — in just a couple of days.
  • 12. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration** without contravening the Geneva ConventionNow admittedly in most companies you can’t lock your team away for aweek, but there are still things that we’ve seen that may help. None ofthem is particularly radical — there’s recommendations on some of thisgoing back decades or even centuries — but it’s easy to forget, and in asurprising number of companies there are people who think you can puta bunch of people together and instruct them to be a great team.
  • 13. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Teams form from withinYou can’t. You don’t create a team by saying it exists, or by lecturingpeople. You can’t impose culture. What you want to do is to help peoplework together and become a team themselves. Of course at forts were*all* part of the team. Small startups are like that too, with everyone upto the CEO (and maybe even investors) working together closely. Ascompanies get bigger, you start to get a difference between team cultureand overall company culture.
  • 14. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Teams form faster under pressureBut the type of pressure is important. You can’t just dump a load ofdeadlines on people and turn them into a team. Well, actually you can,but they’ll become a team filled with hate. Hate for you.But if the group imposes its own pressure, thats a different matter.
  • 15. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Teams know where they’re goingIt’s surprising how few teams have a clear idea of what they’re trying todo. It’s surprising how few *companies* have a clear idea. And if theydo, they’re not always great at sharing this with everyone.
  • 16. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Teams have their own languageTeams are like little communities, so it isnt surprising that they startdeveloping their own languages.
  • 17. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Teams have their own languageJargonSome of it comes about from whatever theyre working on. A sharedvocabulary for the problems youre tackling is so helpful in talking aboutthings — and in about knowing that youre all working towards the samething — that at forts we try to agree names for the concepts wereworking on as early as possible. (This also helps highlight any placeswhere there isnt consensus.)
  • 18. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Teams have their own languageNicknamesSome of it is more playful. Or sometimes just by necessity: I onceworked in a startup of six people where four of us were called James.And when we were building Spacelog we named everyone afterastronomical objects.
  • 19. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Teams have their own languageIn-jokesAnd because teams are communicating a lot, they start to develop theirown jokes — or to evolve existing ones. With a bunch of web folk, theymay build on jokes doing the rounds on twitter, tumblr or whatever. Atthe last fort we referenced one animated GIF so much that eventually itjust became a gesture <do> 13 people in the world know what thatmeans.Eventually, a team may start making jokes they wouldn’t say to others:they find their own limits of taste and decency. This can cause aproblem if you have a team talking in an IRC channel all day…and thensomeone else goes and reads the chat logs.
  • 20. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Try cooking togetherSome teams eat together. And this is great, but whats even greater iswhen you get to cook together. (Not everyone has to cook. Some peoplejust chop, or turn sausages under close supervision, or do the washingup.) Spending social time together helps bond a team, but doingsomething active seems to be even better. (This is one of the drivingforce behind most team bonding activities — and note that one of thepaid adverts for "team bonding" on Google yesterday was "corporatecooking classes".)You can go much further — at forts we dont just cook together; we eat,cook, laugh, drink and give impromptu performances of Gangnam Style.You may not want to go that far. Going back to an earlier point: teamsforms from within. Figure out what works for you.
  • 21. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Improving collaboration*Team ⊆ CompanyIf you have four people in your company, you probably won’t think ofseparate teams. But well before you hit 20 people you’ll split into teams— and it’s important to respect this.If you’re the CEO and you notice your web team — designers &developers — are having breakfast together one day every week and youthink “that’s great” and start coming: you’ve probably just broken thatteam. They no longer have that space to socialise as a team.
  • 22. Additional photos byMark Norman Francishttp://flickr.com/photos/mn_francis
  • 23. Additional photos byRuss Garretthttp://flickr.com/photos/russss
  • 24. Additional photos byBen Firshmanhttp://flickr.com/photos/bfirsh
  • 25. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Curious?You may be wondering “how do I come to a fort?”. We run about two ayear, but forts are always popular so I’m talking to potential sponsors sowe can run more. In the meantime, get a recommendation fromsomeone who’s been.
  • 26. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Curious?Feedback?
  • 27. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Curious?Feedback?james@devfort.com
  • 28. http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013Curious?Feedback?james@devfort.comSurvey: http://bit.ly/devfort-opentech-2013-survey