Geographically, The FOSSBox at Rochester Institute of Technology and The SU Student Sandbox at Syracuse University are separated by less than one hundred miles. These universities represent the western and eastern epicenters of central New York. FOSS@RIT, center of gravity for all things free and open source at RIT and Syracuse University's student sandbox, a student business and startup incubator, put together a cross-university, multi-disciplinary collaborative code sprint for their respective summer programs. Here is a simple breakdown.
- Startup background
- Is this a 'ground up' project?
- Is your codebase public?
- Do you have running code, or a public-facing website?
- What are the components of your software stack?
- How many active developers do you have? How many are participating today?
- What are some reasonable goals that can realistically be accomplished in a 12-hour period?
- Hacker background
- What is your weapon of choice? (What languages and platforms are you particularly skilled or familiar with?)
- What projects are you particularly interested in?
- Dinner break
- Periodic Status Updates
Each startup was asked a series of questions to give the hackers an idea of where their project stood.
Each hacker was asked a few questions to get an idea of what projects would be the best fit for their limited cycles.
Hackers sat down with each prospective team to be sure they were a good fit, and scope out potential deliverables.
Folks get down to it, and start writing code.
Folks get properly caffeinated and fed.
Check-ins make sure each team is on track and see if they need some extra cycles.
At the end of the night, each team is interviewed about what they accomplished, what they thought worked well, and how we can improve events like this in the future (See the grid below).
|SU student sandbox||The Syracuse student sandbox is an incubator that helps aspiring entrepreneurs push their ventures from idea to company.||
|TaggLynx.com||Sidebar offering engaging conversation on what you're browsing, with those who share your interests.||
|SafeSip||Pre-paid taxi service allowing students to travel on and off campus.||
|GrowndSwell.com||The future of social event planning--know who's going to be where.||
|WriteFlick.com||Annotate anywhere on the web, and share in one click.||
|Stampede.it||Trample the deal. Lower the price.||
Scoping is king
There is much to say about being 'productively lost' in a codebase, and about learning by doing, but there is nothing more frustrating than hacking for 12 hours and having nothing to show for it at the end. It feels great to set goals and then hit them, and really demonstrates the efficacy of the sprint model.
Matchmaking is messy
Though it is likely that with a large enough pool of hackers, you will have someone with each needed skill in their toolbelt, it is not guaranteed. Sometimes one particular skill is in high enough demand that time-sharing will be necessary. Again, scoping is key.
Learn by doing, not by watching
It is better to let team members drive when learning new technology and tools, rather than passively watch over the shoulder of a hacker. As they say, instead of giving someone a fish, teach them how to fish.
If you're in the region, and would like to experience these outcomes first hand, we encourage you to attend the SU sandbox demo day, the culmination of the Sandbox's summer program, taking place on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. FOSS@RIT will also have a table at their tradeshow if you'd like to meet some of the hackers from RIT.