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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Developer Challenges: Helping Us to Improve Our Craft

NOTE: This was originally posted to the Dynamo Blog.

We’re sharing an initiative that we’ve been experimenting off and on over the last year called “Improving Your Craft”, a.k.a Dynamo Developer Challenges.

These began as weekly challenges to help the team members and the team as a whole to improve development practices and increase developer happiness. Admittedly, when I was first driving this initiative, I was infrequent in posting these challenges, and the weekly schedule was a little too ambitious. Based on feedback from the team, we reduced the frequency to a monthly schedule, and I’m more disciplined in posting challenges each month—a calendar reminder really helps!

Here are some examples of the challenges posted to date:

  • Self-Directed Morning Code Review
    Inspired by Jason Fried’s post Morning tells the truth, this challenge asked developers to review their commit log from the previous day as a self-directed code review.
  • Pull Requests for Code Reviews
    This time it was Zach Holman’s talk How GitHub Uses GitHub to Build GitHub. The driver for this challenge was to encourage developers to review each others code, pollinating knowledge across projects. If you’re not currently using pull requests, GitHub has some great documentation on the topic.
  • In-Person Peer Code Reviews
    As an extension to the previous challenge, developers were asked to sit down with a peer for a 30-minute code walkthrough. It’s amazing how much the author of the code learns by just walking someone else through it.
  • Automation
    A final example was encouraged developers to start thinking what they can do to optimize their workflow. Too often we run the same set of commands everyday, when a simple shell alias can save us from repetitive typing or making a time-consuming mistake.

Hopefully this gives you a feel of the type of challenges that the team has been working on. And we would love if you joined us! Previously, these challenges have been posted to our Basecamp account, but we will now be posting them to the blog. I encourage you to share your experiences in the comments and the team will be sharing their as well, either as comments or blog posts (hint, hint!).

Although I’m a little late this month for April’s challenge, please be on the lookout tomorrow.

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