Coding with a Stranger

March 16, 2014

Romanians have a saying: “Skills are not learned, they are stolen”. We believe this is true about programming skills as well, so we strive to create opportunities for programmers to steal skills from one another. “Coding with a Stranger” is such an opportunity.

A Personal Story

I will make a confession: I’m an introvert programmer. I love quiet environments and social interactions consume my energy. But I came to value social learning through some of the experiences I had.

1. The Mistake

My first large software project was developed for a French company on a consulting job. I worked there for more than a year, directly with the product manager and developed alone most of the application. At the end of the assignment I realized I made a big mistake: the user interface was strongly coupled with the database and therefore the code was not at all modular. I was honest and confessed my mistake. I also decided to never make it again.

2. The Mentor

My second large software project was very different. The technical lead of the team was an amazing developer from Belgium, and he ended up acting as my mentor. Part of our work was to develop a NoSQL database (before the concept existed) and wrote our own unit testing framework because there wasn’t any for C++. I made it certain to steal from him as much as possible, and I’m still basing my technical decisions on the things I learned back then.

3. The Enlightenment

Later I learned from Corey Haines and JB Rainsberger another way of looking at code. I started to understand what I need to do to change code fast, no matter how adverse are the conditions. I was already doing refactoringunit testing and following design principles, but I learned what it takes to move to the next level. The code that I write today is much more different and much easier to change than the code I used to write.

These are three defining moments that showed me how much I can learn from people with different experiences. While I am still an introvert and I still find it tiring sometimes, I take all possible chances to write code with strangers, either at conferences, at “Code And Beer” or through remote pairing sessions.

Code with a Stranger

This is why we decided to have as part of the I T.A.K.E. Unconference 2013 a “Code with a Stranger” event. Here’s what will happen:

  • We reserve tables for 6 people at restaurants or pubs in Bucharest
  • We will display the list of restaurants in the conference room
  • Anyone who wants to attend will write their name on the specific list for the restaurant
  • In the evening, you will go there together with your laptops and decide what to learn from each other

The event has only 4 rules, specifically designed to improve your learning experience:

  1. Choose a group where you don’t know the others. You will learn much more from a stranger than from people you already know
  2. Start by introducing yourselves and saying what you would like to learn
  3. Write code together. You will learn much more through practical examples than by discussing
  4. Leave whenever you feel you cannot get more value from the meeting

That’s it!

All you have to do

is to attend the I T.A.K.E. Unconference 2014, in Bucharest.

Did I mention that this is just a very small part of what will happen there? There will be talks, workshops, open space, keynotes and lots of networking and learning opportunities with programmers from around Europe.


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