This post is cross-posted on Blitzweekend’s blog
When Heri asked me to write a post on Blitzweekend’s blog to share some of my tips on building an app in one weekend I thought only of this one:
Don’t do it!
Truth is, if your manager and boss finds out you can do in 2 days what takes us 4 months at work, we’d all be screwed! So keep it quiet and pretend it was an old project you’ve been working on for a long time (months, even years if your boss is not that bright).
See the true story bellow:
If you’re still reading, maybe you don’t care about being labelled as a fast worker. Perhaps you just like creating new things so much, you can help yourself but build stuff again and again! But for most people the problem is: how to turn this into something other people can use. Not only you. Here are 3 tips I’d like to share with you on how to get that damn weekend project out the door, fast, without any pain (until you get labelled a fast worker) while having fun (for now! wait ’till you get labelled!).
Keep everything simple, as simple as it can get. Don’t try to solve all the problems in the world all at once. Find one problem, for example: greasy door handles, and solve that single problem: a web site for locating clean door handles in a specific building.
But hey, it would be cool to also share pictures of the greasy door handle with your friends! That’s when you start loosing focus. Choose only one idea and keep it simple and atomic. It should be impossible to split your project into smaller ones.
2. Remove, don’t add stuff
Here’s a quote I quote way to often:
Perfection is reached not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to remove
– Antoine de St. Exupery
Don’t think of new features you could add to make it more cool. Think of which one are just too much or don’t add that much to your project. If you need to add features to make your project interesting it’s because your original idea sucks.
It’s like a 3 legs chicken, if you pull on the features leg, you’re gonna need more resources and time. But if your time and resources are restricted, your only option is to cut off the features leg (who wants a 3 legs chicken anyway?).
If you think you’re going the wrong direction, start over. That’s why it’s important to put your code under source control from the beginning,
revert is your friend when everything goes wrong!
3. Make it work already!
Don’t go big bang approach! Build sometime small, simple (even stupid) and release, rinse and repeat.
Most people don’t take the time to automate parts of their development because they think: it’s just a small project. Bullshit! Because it’s a small project, you’ll be making lots of small changes fast. So you wanna make sure you can deploy in one step, test in one step and restart, stop, cleanup, backup, eat, sleep in one step.
In the case of a web application, deployment can be time consuming if your not used to it. The Internet is full of guides on how to do it. Make sure you deploy a small version before your project gets too much dependencies. If something fails, it will be harder to find out which of the 10 libs you depend on is bogus rather the just making a bare-bone app work. I would also recommend automating your deployment with tools such as Capistrano, Vlad or Paste deployment.
Now that we’re all labelled as fast workers I think blitzweekend should be shrunk to 2 hours.
Have you built an app in 2 days yourself? Share some tips with us! (but don’t tell our bosses)