The hackathon at UG FOCUS 18

As many of you know, we conducted a Hackathon at the UG FOCUS in Indianapolis this week.

“A hackathon, a hacker neologism, is an event when programmers meet to do collaborative computer programming.”

It all started a little over a month ago, where Mark Rhodes from the User Group called me and asked if I wanted to help out to conduct a hackathon. We had a few calls and decided to use this as a learning environment, where we put people who had never ever used VS Code and Business Central in a room with some ideas/challenges they could try out (you can find the challenges here: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/hackathonchallenges/)

The Hackathon

During the hackathon, some people were sitting in groups of 3 or 4 and some people were working alone (we didn’t force anything). It was amazing to see how the groups were challenging each other to NOT go for the cheat sheets and used blogs, docs and brainstorming to find a solution. Exactly what I was hoping for. They would also call for help and ask questions before asking for the password for a cheat sheet. The people working alone got stuck faster – and when they couldn’t find a way out, were faster to request a cheat sheet password.

The Results

On the second day (the very last session), people could show their progress and @DaveHatker stood up – demoing and showing that they completed 3½ of the 5 challenges and not only could he demo what they had done – he could explain how it was done and why it worked. He was talking about table extensions, page extensions, snippets, user controls, control addins etc. as if he was an experienced trainer and in reality, he had only been exposed to this less than 24 hours. It was also clear when looking at their code, that they had NOT seen the cheat sheets. In fact one of their solutions was smarter than mine – I learned something new just there…

I asked David to share a few words of his own about the Hackathon: “Dynamics 365 Business Central can do just about anything, it seems.  So when I heard that Mark Rhodes and Freddy Kristiansen had put together a hackathon, specifically, the hackaNAVathon at Focus 2018, I was excited to see what was in store for us!  For the very first one of these ever done, I thought the hackathon was put together very thoughtfully and even better, every participant was provided a virtual machine with everything we needed to accomplish our challenges.   The challenges were fun, practical, and built upon themselves to allow us to get familiar with all of the ins and outs of Visual Studio Code and the AL language.  The hackathon is definitely something I’d recommend to both the professional and novice NAV developer.  It’s a great way to see how you can accomplish almost anything with Dynamics 365 Business Central!”

What went really well

Mark and the NAVUG group went over and beyond to make the Hackathon a success, badges, T-Shirts, Pizza, Room, and pre-signed enthusiastic people, ready to hack...

 Groups of 3-4 people worked really well and would tend to get much further before going for a cheat sheet, even though the passwords for the cheat sheets was available on the screen. Different ideas on how to proceed comes up, searching documentation, blogs, samples etc. These teams was able to complete challenges without any assistance although this was the first time they ever coded in VS Code.

The Pizza - very good Chicago style Pizza. There is something about Pizza and Hackathon.

The Beer - the Scottish Style Ale from the Sun King brewery was really my kind of beer and although beer and Hackathon doesn't necessarily go together, it was very nice after a long day of conferencing.

The prepared challenges (see https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/hackathonchallenges) with steps and hints was crucial for getting some direction. What should people search for? It is much easier to figure out how to do things if you know what to look for.

What we learned

You shouldn't travel from Europe and arrive in the US Sunday evening and do a Hackathon Monday evening until 11pm:-)

You probably shouldn't have a Hackathon at the evening after a full day of conference. Days are long and full of learning

People working alone on the challenges tend to reach out for the cheat sheet much faster and even though this might get them to a result much faster, chances are that they don't always know why it is working. Groups of 3-4 people seems to learn better.

Definitely not the last time we are running a hackathon and I will recommend partners and customers to try this out, this is a fun, cheap and scalable way to learn.

The passwords for the hackathon cheat sheets are available at https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/hackathonchallenges (press Ctrl+A to reveal), but in order to get the most out of this - do run the hackathon in groups and learn from our learnings.

We will create more challenges and you are also more than welcome to contribute with new challenges for the community - don't be shy.

 

Happy coding

Freddy Kristiansen
Technical Evangelist

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