Global day of Coderetreat: the Belgian edition

On 3 December 2011 I was glad to kick off the Global Day of Code retreat. Before I start bothering you with details I just would like to thank Adrian Bolboaca for co-facilitating our Belgian coderetreat. We co-facilitated all Belgian coderetreats in 2011 and it’s always a pleasure teaming up with him on these events.

For the first time in the history of coderetreats in Belgium we had this high an attendance rate (21/22). In the end only 1 registered person didn’t show up and he warned us in advance, so that was our first of many successes that day. Another first was that we had a woman joining our ranks. IT is still a man’s world, we really need to find some ways to get more women involved.

We had a lot of people that were new to the coderetreat concept and also to TDD and pair programming as techniques. So we started off with a first “getting to know the problem domain” session. We introduced the four simple rules of design in the second one and started to annoy people with questions about their naming and dependencies. Some participants struggled with these questions as though they were caught on a fishing line, others had a small Aha-erlebnis when faced with the statements both Adi and I made. Even though some people were more reluctant than others, all of them started really experimenting, trying out new stuff. The third session was really one where lots of people started leaving the comfort zone of known knowledge to expand into new areas and ways of solving this puzzle.

And now it’s time for me to take a deep bow and say that I failed. Because of the fact that we normally have to throw away one third to half of the lunch catering we forsee at coderetreats, I suggested that we do some sort of takeout instead. We ended up ordering pizza, and broke one of the sacred rules of coderetreat, which wasn’t a big success. The pizza was ok, nobody really complained but it wasn’t the best solution. Next time we will run a new experiment: we’ll try to find a host near a restaurant or tavern so that we can go out for lunch. We will need to make arrangements so that it doesn’t take up 2 hours.

Since we had a lot of new guys we decided to keep the “TDD as if you meant it” session for just after lunch. It’s always better to hit people with a difficult session like that on a full stomach. The retrospective of that session was really special for me. It was the first time that someone who got introduced to this concept immediately saw the immense potential this way of working can have when done right. It was definitely one of the highlights of my day as a facilitator. A couple of pairs actually liked the concept that much that they chose to do it during the last free session as well.

During the roundup of the day all participants were tired but really happy and inspired to use these new insights and indicated they would definitely come back to coderetreats. Everybody agreed that this concept is really strong and offers an awesome learning experience, no matter what your level of experience is.

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