I'm going to be one of 6 people representing New Zealand, against Australia, and the United States, as a member of the Code Blacks team in the competition. I'm honoured to be chosen to represent New Zealand.
The goal of the competition is to build a website, for a charity, in 24 hours. At the beginning of the 24 hours, you find out who your client is, and at the end of it, the site launches.
I'm a bit nervous; I haven't done anything like this before. But, it is also an exciting challenge to see how much I can do with the other teammates in the limited 24 hour time period. I find the idea of putting myself to the test in this way appealing - I will be directly responsible for producing a lot of code in a very short amount of time.
While we don't know what we're going to be creating, we do know that the CMS for the project will be SilverStripe. As a team, we get to choose the stack, and I recommended SilverStripe because I knew the speed at which we could get things done was very important, and, for obvious reasons, it's the CMS I'm most familiar with. I think we'll be able to get a lot done very quickly, because the CMS won't get in the way, it's easy to customise, and when we eventually figure out what it is we need to do, I will be able to tailor the CMS to our requirements very quickly.
There's a certain amount of prep-work we can do in order to make the 24 hours go smoothly, but ultimately, there are things we can only figure out after we know who the client is and what their needs are; we can't pre-build things. What we can do, however, is refine our process and our teamwork, so that we can hit the ground running. We need to make sure we understand each other's language and make sure everyone is comfortable with the chosen tools. The 24 hours is still going to be intense, but prep-work means we wont' waste time figuring out how to proceed once the clock is ticking.
I have hardly done all-nighters since last-minute assignment rushes in my student days, but I intend to channel that mindset for the competition. I remember the importance of having real food throughout the night, in addition to caffeine and Red Bull. Hopefully I can get into "the zone" and remain productive throughout the night. Maybe I'll find a Red Bull Ballmer peak...
One of the things I hope to bring to the team is to be the glue that brings everyone else and their work together. When a developer does his job well, he or she provides an infrastructure that lets everyone else do their job without any friction between the different disciplines. So copywriters can start preparing and organising the content without waiting for a complete design, or for the user experience team to be completely done. SilverStripe itself was designed with that in mind - bringing copywriters, designers and developers together in a way that each can focus on the thing that they're good at.
Building a website in 24 hours isn't a sensible or feasible way of doing something. It's something far outside the norm; the added challenge provides a risk of failure - or downright catastrophe. In a 24 hour competition, you make some fairly extreme sacrifices (if not fairly extreme mistakes!) both in terms of being unable to accomplish everything you want, and also the fact that you're working for 24 hours before you can go home. You need to find the biggest bang for your buck - and accept that sometimes you just don't have enough "buck" in 24 hours...
I'm looking forward to it.