MofoCamp : Collaborative Learning via BarCamp Fork

Every year at our Rails Consulting shop Integrum we take from Christmas to New Years off to rejuvenate and recharge. It just so happened that this year Jan 2nd landed on a Friday making for a very awkward return to work. Jade and myself discussed what the best way to use that time would be. We wanted to provide a fun hack like day, but felt that just tinkering on an application or open source product wouldn’t be all the fruitful for most people.

So we started brainstorming how we could do something educational, fun, team building and hackish for the day. We talked about picking a few technologies that were new that we wanted to know more about and break the team up and do something using that technology. However, that just felt awkward and wrong. Jade suggested that maybe do it BarCamp style to select what technologies to hack on. Rather than use the technology we thought maybe just learning more about it and reporting back would work best.

Late last night Jade sent a message to the team announcing this new Integrum MofoCamp 2008* format. Completely void of details of course. We prefer the emergent approach to things. We kind of let things roll and ended up with the following format. It seemed to work well.

  1. Everyone assembles and shouts out things they want to know more about. Moderator lists on whiteboard. (15min)
  2. Moderator takes show of hand vote for each item on list. (10min)
  3. Top items are marked for research and roughly equal teams form around topics. (5min)
  4. Teams break up and research the topic they have chosen. (1-2hrs)
  5. All teams reassemble. Each team gets 10 min to present their findings and another 5 min to field questions. (15min per team)
  6. Teams break up and then use the technologies presented to develop something fun. (1hr)
  7. All teams reassemble. Each team gets 5 min to present their newly developed creation. (5min per team)
  8. Everyone goes and drinks beer! (or profit)

We did steps 1-5 before lunch as first half of experiment. We then did steps 1-5 again after lunch and added 6-8. Everyone agreed steps 6-8 were a nice addition. We enjoyed this so much and because of boxed time we feel it would be excellent to do within a Gangplank Hacknight. So expect very soon to see a MofoCamp at Gangplank Hacknight. If it goes well we hope it will be a regular occurrence and that other areas might join in on the collaboration and host their own MofoCamp.

Fig 1. Team doing research via projector round table.
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Items that showed up on our list (some of the items got erased so this is not comprehensive). jQuery, CouchDB, Cucumber/Webrat, EC2/S3 and CI/Integrity were the researched topics.

Fig 2. Master list of topics.
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*Mofo is short for Mother Fucker.. The term that Integremlins affectionally call each other. Anyone willing to share in the experience of learning something new is also one bad mofo! Therefore it was the only logical name for the event and the format.