Live Coding Challenges at Revelry team meetings

coding challenges

At Revelry, we’ve been thinking about new ways to encourage continual learning amongst the team. Today, I’d like to talk about a new learning tool that is working for us: “live coding challenges.” The live coding challenge is a game where two competing players solve a problem with help and feedback from the team.

There are two main reasons why we do live coding challenges. We have Revelers of many backgrounds and levels of experience. Some of us have Comp Sci degrees, but some of us majored in things like music, civil engineering, and economics. However, we do have to teach each other some traditional Comp Sci approaches. Coding challenges are a venue for doing that. The second reason is that we sometimes need to “live code” with unfamiliar members of our clients’ teams. There is a performative aspect of live coding in front of a stranger that gives everyone stage fright. The best way to cure our stage fright is through rehearsal.

Here’s how it works: every Friday we pick two “players” from the team. Everyone on the team is eligible. In fact, our CTO was the first player. The players stand at the whiteboard. We give them an exercise drawn from our real applications and a bank of classic programming problems. The two players independently solve the problem on the board. The crowd plays along too: the players can ask for help from the crowd, and we encourage every team member to create their own solution. After 10 to 15 minutes, we stop coding. Then, we have the players explain their solutions and get feedback from the crowd.

This has worked well for us. The first time we did a challenge, it was a little awkward. The players were noticeably nervous and the crowd was quiet. Our second try was better. The players seemed “looser” and the crowd gave more feedback and individual solutions. People seem to have fun with the game, and appear to be learning a lot from it. We’re going to keep doing coding challenges and find ways to improve the challenges in the future.

Have any questions about live coding challenges at Revelry or running your own coding challenge league? Leave a comment or hit me up on my ask.fm

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