36 Hours of MAX: Small Agile Development Teams

July 8, 2006

I was just reading a blog post on “WeBreakStuff” about “Railsday: Pushing the limits of 24 hours“. I have always been a big fan of ColdFusion (CF) development and find it amazing the amount of steam applications built with Ruby are gaining recently. I found “Railsday” particularly interesting because in 2003 I presented an idea to Macromedia’s Event Marketing team which was built on the same premise. I called it 36 Hours of Max:

Excerpt from my original document:

What: A three-day competition coinciding with DevCon, for MX developers. The goal will be to coordinate the creation of a web site/application based on a strict specification in 36 hours using nothing but MX products. By holding the event at (or around) DevCon we would maximize exposure and create an added feature for future DevCon gatherings. (A humanitarian angle could be added to the “what” by choosing a Non-Profit organization and either re-designing or creating a site for them. Maybe an organization with little money or resources.)

Scenario:

Teams of 6 (could be more or less) would work together to complete an application based on a pre-defined specification. The specification is the same for all teams and the application must be built exclusively with Macromedia Studio MX.

On the final day all the entries are *collected* and the judging begins [may want to perform preliminary judging during the day on Saturday so that Judges are aware of the programs before actual judging]

The awards ceremony follows the judging and is open to all attendees of DevCon

[Optional] require no pre-coding by releasing the specification at the beginning of the contest

Since one of the values of CF is to be a Rapid Application Development architectures I was a bit surprised that Macromedia did not take me up on my idea. Maybe the idea was before its time (Hey Adobe if you are listening….) Now with the advent of Flex and the tight integration between CF and Flash I think that an idea like this has even more merit then it did in the past. I do not know a lot about the architecture of Ruby but I know a lot about CF and I can say that it would be difficult for any architecture to have the IDE/Application Development integration that CF is pushing.

Value of Small Agile Development Teams
One of the topics that WeBreakStuff spoke about was the value of small agile teams. I left a very small agile team at Seton Hall University a few weeks ago. The web team responsible for implementing our CMS has some incredible talent and interesting dynamics. Lee Clark and Mike Hyland are avid bloggers and compliment each other in their development/design skills. Where Mike leads the way in CSS and HTML layout, Lee produces database interactions in PHP and CF. In addition, there is Marie Somers (Team Lead) and Kevin Whary (Applications Development).

I have seen some good applications development teams out there but none with the dynamics that match this groups abilities. Covering the gammut of CSS/HTML/JS/CFML/Linux/SQL Server/MySQL support, the team is nimble and efficient. [Ok, enough promotion]

The real value here with teams of this size, is that they can get things done. There is no time to overthink things and rarely is any time wasted. In the fast moving environment of Web Development these are great qualities in a team. What makes this group really interesting is that they can cover start-finish an entire Web application.

Nimbleness + Proper Planning = Success
Often the notion of Rapid Application Development carries with it a connotation of poor quality. How can you produce proper applications in weeks in months?

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