Notes from Bilbao Global Day of Coderetreat

Posted by Jorge on Dec 5, 2011

Hi everybody!

18 brave programmers (from 20 registered) got together this Saturday in the premises of Plain Concepts in Bilbao.
We had decided to start late (10:00h) so everybody would get the opportunity to get some rest, and to drive/commute comfortably.
The group was quite heterogenous; from fluent TDD-ers to some guy not having a clue of TDD. It was the first code-retreat for more than 12, but some of them had already attended some dojo-like events in the area (, so they somehow were tuned in the proper wave-length.
Languages; .NET, Java, Groovy, PHP, Python, Javascript.
We start with Corey's video and the sponsors' material, with some references to the Global Day demographics.
We then went through an explanation of the spirit of the Code-retreat and the rules.
The Simple Design principles were also explained, and the Game of Life introduced.

Conway's Game of Life Spaceship Gun from Experiment Garden on Vimeo.

First session was held to get hands dirty, and they were allowed to work with their friends (if any).
Those with the "Blank Page Syndrome" were encouraged to start step-by-step, so the tests would help them find the way. Others fell into the "One Test to Rule them All" temptation and suffered the time constraints. So it was only natural that the virtues of walking in small steps were discussed in the retrospective.
The second session got re-arranged couples, and the "Primitive Obsession" smell was the main theme to deal with. People started feeling the heat and they all seemed quite active and courageous.
Third session was half a continuation of the previous, with most of the couples playing "Ping-pong TDD".
One of the best quotes of the day comes from that retrospective; "I've learned that my pair can be a big bastard, and so I've discovered I'm a big one too" :)
The importance of the Test being decoupled from the inner details of the implementation was one of the facts people got from this exercise.
We got more free time than intended for lunch due to some delivery problems with the food, so we use the time taking the first beer of the day in a place nearby. Some of the guys remained in the office talking of technical approaches, though. Intense people indeed!
We did the thing to share the giveaways, and we made three connections to other coderetreats in Spain so people would notice they were not alone :)
I had toyed with the idea of introducing a "mute" session, but found that so much silence after lunch could lead us to a sleepy mood.
So we started the fourth session with some brain challenges; polymorphism, "no-IFs", and "avoid [gs]etters and 'tell, don't ask!'".
Guys got quite deep into the problem, and some interesting discussions arose. People felt somehow conned with the "no IFs" constraint, because they had hoped to get some greater enlightenment, beyond getting out of their comfort zone. Maybe I failed trying to explain this in greater detail.
At this point, people looked quite tired. We decided to make the 5th session the last one. I let them choose the pairs with which they had felt more productive, and face the last challenge with one thing in mind. "Legibility. Let the code be read as if it was a small story".
During this last session some people were pretty exhausted and were not able to keep up with the challenge. Others enjoyed that last chance for "doing it right", though.
In the closing circle, even though everybody was quite tired, I felt satisfaction in the air. I got quite surprised (and pleased) with people saying they had learned a lot, and I tried to stress the fact of the code-retreat being more an introspective trip than a traditional course.
We said goodbye... and left to take some beers with a huge, tired smile in the faces.
Thank you all for doing it possible! Thank you guys in the global coordination team for doing it so easy!