2016/05/02 Leave a comment
I attended the Perl QA Hackathon in Rugby ( http://act.qa-hackathon.org/qa2016/ ). Of course the hackathon started a day early (20th) and ended not until everybody left on the day after (25th), but that is typical for Perl hackers. QA Hackathon, what does that mean? QA stands for Quality Assurance, which means all attendees work hard on improving the quality of Perl. Fixing problems both old and new, fixing bugs, improving documentation, setting up guidelines and protocols, adding new features, changing existing features, and sometimes even killing off unwanted features. Hackathon is a hacker’s marathon, and the marathon part does not mean it is a game or a match, it just means it lasts long, it goes on and on and on for hours and days and at the end, the hackers are tired and mostly happy and proud. A hacker in our hackathon is a white-hat hacker, a friendly person, set on improving the world. Not the black-hat hacker, who should be called a cracker, who wants to steal, destroy and misinform. I was feeding the hackers and taking notes, so my role was limited, I definitely not worked as a hacker.
I offered my services as a keeper of notes. Meaning, I attended four meetings, of the type “sit with 2 or more people around a table, have some things to discuss, and maybe even have a vote about topics”. I took notes. I wrote down the notes in a document, and I sent the document by mail to the leader of the meeting. The leader would have to rework it extensively to make it useful, it was just the things that were said. Sounds easy enough. Well, I am not much of a coder, and the meetings were at times extremely technical, and people used words I never heard before, so every now and then I had to ask somebody to repeat a sentence. It seems that I was not the only one that benefited from my interruptions. :-) Anyway, I took notes at the meetings “Test2/Test::Builder”, “The River of CPAN”, “Test2”, and “Naming of the next QA Hackathon”.
I offered to take care of food and drinks. But the organisers (Neil Bowers, Barbie and JJ Allen) already arranged with the (excellent) staff of the Rugby Hotel ( http://www.therugbyhotel.co.uk/ ) that we would have breakfast and lunch in the hotel, and they also arranged tea and coffee and juices to be served throughout the day. So I wondered what my contribution could be. Well, I am a bit of a mad person, so it became clear very fast. There’s never enough fruit, tomatoes and other snackable veggies, cookies, candy, chocolate and more. The hotel people said they could provide this, but were a bit baffled by the quantities I mentioned. And no, I was not allowed into the kitchen, because of insurance problems that might arise.
In the 2 days before the hackathon started, I checked out the surrounding area for shops to buy food. I found acceptable nearby shops (like ASDA) and superb shops a bit farther away (Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer). The travel distance to the better shops was a nuisance. The nearby ASDA turned out to be very good actually.
I bought a colander, a small knife and a bigger one, a nice wooden cutting board, some detergent, several rolls of kitchen paper, several nice bowls and plastic containers. Every day, I bought grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, apples, oranges, pears, cherry-tomatoes, radishes. I also bought cucumber, plums, olives and carrots, but hardly anybody took them, so I didn’t go for those again. All the fruit and veggies had to be cleaned, and stripped of leaves, stems, roots, and bruised/bad/moldy spots; the completely bad ones just were removed; then another cleaning, with water; and drying, with kitchen paper. Serve in a bowl or plastic container.
Hygiene was of the utmost importance to me, so I kept cleaning the sink and the floor in my room’s bathroom, and of course the knives, the wooden cutting board, the colander, the bowls, etc.
I also bought cookies, because, well, hackers without chocolate chip cookies, it’s weird. Several types. Also, some cookies without chocolate. And chocolate bars and chocolate bonbons. I found some vegan cookies too, and vegan chocolate. For some reason, several people wanted Haribo candy (personally, I despise the stuff, it contains ground up animal bones, the smell is abhorrent), so I bought it for them. Other types of candy. Several types of English cheese (I brought a Dutch cheese slicer from home, because I wasn’t sure I would find one in Rugby, and I was right about that). I refused to buy “energy drinks” (ghastly horrible stuff), but I did buy some sugarfree cola (also quite horrible).
All this helped fill a big food table (see the pictures). People now just have to take a plate and take several of the fruits and veggies they like, add a cookie and a candy and a chocolate bonbon. Or while walking from one room to the other, take one as a quick snack. I was amazed how fast some items would “vanish”, especially the strawberries were eaten like they are a miracle food.
If you want to organise a hackathon or a small workshop, I think you should consider doing something like this. Otherwise people will go out the door to buy stuff for themselves, and that disrupts their (and others’) rhythm in work, and discussions. It makes thinks go smoother when they have a mixture of healthy and not-so-healthy snacks. Try to get a volunteer to do this for you, maybe somebody not technical enough to contribute in the programming stuff, but who still wants to contribute.
In total I bought and prepared and served over 10 kg of strawberries, 12 kg of grapes, 10 kg of bananas, 5 kg of radishes, 10 kg of cherry-tomatoes, and much more. It was part of my company’s sponsoring of the event, and it did cost only several hundred pounds (much less than what a typical sponsored dinner evening would cost).
Time was more an issue, indeed: shopping, preparing, serving, and cleaning, cost me several hours a day. But looking back at it, it was a pleasure. People were quite happy with the food. Just standing at the other side of the room and seeing 5 people each fill a plate with the food and walking away while eating some of it, and in the meantime also talking about technical issues with the other people, and after those 5 people soon others visited, well, that’s a reward in itself. Maybe I am a bit responsible for some good stuff ( http://act.qa-hackathon.org/qa2016/wiki?node=Results ) in Perl because of this food. Nice thought.