How to get the most out of a Code Retreat

Learn_To_Type_by_DEAD_SoLdIeRTomorrow is the Global Day of Code Retreat 2013, or as I like to call it, the programmers’ Christmas. Every year, I think of what I can improve in the code retreat to make it even better for the attendees. Last year, I decided to start by asking them what they would like to learn and then picked the sessions accordingly (and I started a blog post that’s in draft since last year…). It worked brilliantly. This year, I plan to explain better how to get the most out of a Code Retreat.

If you’re going for the first time to such an event, you probably will be surprised by a few things. You might feel confused and might not adapt to the event until later in the day. I hope that by reading these few recommendations you will get the most out of your first (and the other) code retreats you attend.

1. Embrace the freedom of deleting the code

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10 Reasons to Attend a Code Retreat

  1. You will love programming again

  2. You relive the first moments of programming (unless you started with Cobol)

  3. You will see how other people write code

  4. You will write and speak about code all day long. You’re between friends, accept that’s the one thing you could do for days

  5. You come as an expert and leave like a novice

  6. To live a paradox: it couldn’t possibly work but it does

  7. You experience 3-4 programming languages you never tried before

  8. There’s beer after it

  9. You could use it to find a new job

  10. Pair programming, TDD, clean code, refactoring

10 bis. For Romanians: Romania was the second country in the world to host one

Don’t let your methods look like this!

Don't Let Your method look like me!

I drew this picture with Corey Haines at the Krakow April 2011 Code Retreat. I started with the overall silhouette of the method, and Corey added the eye and the comment. In the end, I think we got an excellent motivational poster. So, developers, don’t let your methods look like this!

The right bottom corner is about another thing you should remember: at least know the name of your pair before starting to program. It’s funny how many times I’ve seen developers jumping right into the problem and forget this simple thing.

In the end, many thanks to the people who made the Code Retreat Krakow such an amazing experience. Pair facilitating with Corey is always an awesome experience, and I’d love to do it more often. I loved the energy of the participants and I’m really proud of the T-Shirt. Corey, Krakow, see you again soon!

How to Organize A Code Retreat

Here are some of the things we’ve learned about running a code retreat.
We’ve facilitated about 10 code retreats, including one with Corey Haines.The smallest one was with two (yes, two) people and the largest with about 20. Here are some of the things we learned.

Don’t try to convince people

Many developers who took part in code retreats tried to talk to their colleagues or friends and many times their answer was one of “it’s a buzzword”, “it’s not during work hours”, “it’s plain silly” etc. They were disappointed, but it’s ok. One of the core ideas about a code retreat is that the people that come choose to come. It’s on a Saturday, it starts in the morning, it takes all day long, you need to write code and it’s tiring. People coming there really want to come.

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