Post GiveCamp Reflections

GiveCamp this year was a great opportunity and I had an awesome time. Taking a weekend out and focusing on giving back to charities that are making a difference in peoples lives and communities felt really good. Also I got to hang out with some great people.

Our charity CUFA (Communities United for Action) came to us in need of a way for people to report on properties that have become problems in their community.

The app (http://cufacincy.heroku.com) that we built to help out with this problem was in concept pretty simple. It allowed a person to report a house by address for various problems such as high grass, overgrown bushes, and broken windows to CUFA who then can report the property to the correct authorities for a municipality. It also allowed CUFA to provide the user with some helpful contact info for local representatives for that municipality who could assist them.

Over the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) we set out to build this application and along the way I feel like it reaffirmed a lot of what I have learned about writing software.

The first thing it reaffirmed was the value of a good team. This year our team largely consisted of people from here at Gaslight. Don’t get me wrong I love working with new people and getting a chance to pair with other developers. However, with the short time frame it was really nice to have a team behind me that I was used to working with and I knew how to collaborate with. Also having the support of two of our very talented designers Ryan Arthur and Kristin Lasita was a huge boon. One of the skills that was in high demand the entire weekend was that of good designers. I would love to see more designers get involved next year!

Second something that is true for any software project; Having direct timely access and feedback to and from your client / product owner is vital! With just the weekend to deliver it was a huge win for the project that our charity was available most of the day for all three days. At times I felt bad because we spent a lot of our time with our heads down in our laptops or lost in the back and forth discussion that is involved in pairing but, whenever we ran into issues or questions about a feature Kevin or Mary from CUFA was there to help us. Their help was invaluable and we could not have delivered without them. Huge thanks goes out to Kevin and Mary for sticking it out with us.

Another thing that struck me was the value of up front planning and the conversations that were had prior to GiveCamp. Thanks goes out to CUFA, Bill Barnett, and Chris Moore from Gaslight. Pairing down, prioritizing and taking the time to write stories ahead of time was essential. Knowing and having confidence as well as understanding the value of what you are working on is always critical to the success of a project. Cucumber stories and Trello really shined here and allowed us to move and execute quickly.

The fourth thing that was reaffirmed to me was not matter how well you plan or how much you have thought a problem out; software is hard and there is always something you did not plan for. In our case we relied on certain geocoding data from Google that was not as consistent as we had hoped. Despite problems and at times feeling like we may have bit off more than we could chew we were able to deliver on the core of what CUFA had asked us for. That felt really good.

I was proud of our team and all of the other teams at GiveCamp. There were tons of success stories like ours over the weekend and a lot of awesome charities benefited. I met so many passionate, smart and caring people this year and the energy in the rooms over the weekend was high and infectious even into the late evenings. The entire support team of GiveCamp did an excellent job keeping team leaders on and focused with regular standups about every hour and made sure people got help whenever they needed it. There was around the clock snacks, meals and support and I cannot thank them enough for the wonderful job they did. I can’t wait to see what GiveCamp can accomplish next year!!

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