Welcome, adventurer, to NCR Edinburgh's small but coloured-a-very-specific-shade-of-green corner of the Internet. Pull up a pew. Make yourself comfortable. Put on a cardigan. And join us as we embark upon a journey through the carnival of code that we like to call "NCR Edinburgh CodeFest: Summer 2015 Edition".
But it's dangerous to go alone! Take this [blog post as a HANDY but DEFINITIVE introduction to the NCR Edinburgh CodeFest process].
We caught up with Ratna (he of the cardigan) early on day 1 to try to understand a bit more about a whole range of topics: the patented Simplified 6 Step Process; the successes of previous CodeFest project graduates; and what we can expect over the next 2 glorious code-and-hardware-filled days.
Over to Ratna: "It's an opportunity to keep our engineers engaged after hiring intelligent and interested people. It's 2 days and your imagination. An opportunity to throw off the rigours of day-to-day enterprise development and just have some fun making something".
And that "something" tends to be pretty diverse. Previous graduates of CodeFest range from the "DIY ATM", which was created with salvaged parts; through "Where's (that wally) Kevin?" that allows us to approximate where in the building someone is based on the Wifi hub their phone is connected to; right up to "Got Milk?" which saves us literally seconds of effort and no eye strain whatsoever by negating the need to open the fridge and look inside to see if there's milk.
Fun is mandatory.
Twice yearly! For 2 days! Split into a Summer and winter program! ZOMG!!1!!
CodeFest always takes place at our home in Kittle Yards. Teams are free to make use of any the meeting rooms or breakout areas, which operate on a first-come-first-served basis.
One exception to this is the ground floor foyer area which is reserved for our drop-in hardware lab - expertly run by Casey and Alex (who was on Robot Wars once, don't you know?). This is where teams can come for all of their soldering and 3D printing needs. We mention soldering and 3D printing because we have LITERALLY NO IDEA what all of the other gadgety wizardry set up here is.
The only other exception is the flashy Media Centre (oooOOOooh!) on the first floor where the MediaTeam have set up camp. It's here that we can lure unsuspecting prey onto camera and INTERROGATE THEM, not only for own amusement but also for the purposes of clumsily editing the resulting footage together so we can DELIBERATELY MISREPRESENT everyone by compiling a HILARIOUS BLOOPERS REEL for subsequent submission to "You've Been Framed", earning us a pretty sweet £250 for the privilege of having Harry Hill narrate over our mishaps.
Through a tenuously YA-fiction themed "lightweight" "6 step" "process", that's how! Gaze upon its wonder:
Where projects are conceived and pitched, and the first delicate shoots of innovation sprout towards the harsh cleansing fire of our next step: The Grading.
"Good projects tend to be a mix of the following: something we'll use day-to-day; something that's light-hearted and maybe pokes some fun at corporate culture; and something interesting technically, that is perhaps an extension of something someone learned during their 10 annual study days".
The Proposing phase encompasses actually having the idea itself along with the pitching process which involves presenting to the rest of the office at the regular weekly town halls. Two minutes (no more) is given for a presentation and two minutes (no more) is given to what we call Q&A but which curiously almost always descends into a debate over whether a pterodactyl is technically a dinosaur or not.
This is also the point where we count the number of eyebrows in the room for use a little later in the process.
Where the wheat basks in glorious sunshine and the chaff has a good long think about itself.
Grading involves all in the office ranking The Proposed in terms of what they'd like to see happen, irrespective of whether they'd personally want to work on it themselves.
Where projects are JUDGED BEHIND CLOSED DOORS and the WEAK are DISCARDED MERCILESSLY.
This year's Winnowing took 15 proposed projects and whittled them down, based on The Grading (and a secret process known only to Ratna), to The Twelve - "Can I Park?", "Mario Kart Automation", "Video Voting", "Holiday Booking 2", "Multi-Screen Capture and Playback", "GitShake", "RoboJustin: Mobile Platform Alpha Version 2 Ultimate", "Karen's Hand", "AMIGO (Advanced Motivational Image GeneratOr)", "The FLS (Free Loo Service)", "The Thumb", and finally "TaxCoin".
Where ALL IS LAID BARE, HOPES ARE REALISED, and DREAMS ARE SHATTERED.
The Craving is ANOTHER stack ranking process (good grief) where all participants now rank according to what they'd actually like to spend their 2 CodeFestive days on.
This is also the step where Josh gets confused and puts his favoured project last and his least favoured first. Classic Josh.
Where teams are allocated, ALLIANCES FORM, and BITTER RIVALRIES EMERGE.
The Favouring is where Ratna applies an algorithm that's as complex as it is secret to The Craving. The truth is we don't know what happens here but Ratna assures us that HAPPINESS IS PARAMOUNT and that we should TRUST HIM.
This year's Favouring resulted in a few projects being dropped. It seems that we were keen that some of the projects do happen but weren't actually that keen on being part of it ourselves. Sort of like doing the recycling, I suppose.
Anyway. I present to you, in all of it's unordered list glory, THE SURVIVORS (aka THE NINE):
Both "The FLS" and "Can I Park?" have sufficient interest to result in 2 separate and competing teams. What will happen? WE JUST DON'T KNOW.
A frantic delirium descends upon the office.
Where the work actually happens and the accident book becomes the most updated document in the office.
2 days. Go.
Where results are presented; presenters are heckled and the victors take the spoils.
The Melding kicks off with each team presenting the fruits of their work. After this, the SHADOWY PRIZE COMMITTEE meet to agree upon the victors before awarding the ULTIMATE prize: WINNERS OF NCR EDINBURGH CODEFEST 2015: SUMMER 2015 EDITION (2015).
This is also the point where eyebrows are counted again. This figure is reconciled with our earlier count. If they match, THE WHOLE PROCESS IS DEEMED A HIDEOUS FAILURE and dev gruel rations are reduced.
We also use this opportunity to reflect on the process as a whole; rejoice in our refreshed vim; and eat pizza.
But I think the question on everybody's lips at this point is:
"I think that's enough questions for now".
Easy there, young padawan. Didn't you hear the man? We have more to share, for sure. But only in due course.
So. Stay tuned, blog fans, for more witterings in this CodeFest Summer 2015 Series (and, who knows, maybe even a video or two): COMING SOON TO A BROWSER NEAR YOU.
- The CodeFest Media Team