Nov
10
2017

Continuous collaboration

A number of staff from around the University have just been to the Drupal conference DrupalCon. I had the great experience of giving a presentation about collaborative development with Tim Gray from the IS Applications division. Shortly after our return from the conference we were able to continue the collaboration theme with our 4th EdWeb development code sprint.

Drupal Conference Vienna

Tim and Bruce giving their presentation at DrupalConDrupalCon is an amazing conference with a really strong community element running through it. It was great to have the opportunity to represent the University of Edinburgh at this event and be able to share our experience of building communities and promote our take on collaborative development.

We added an Agile development slant to the presentation as this tends to be a popular track at DrupalCon, and so our final presentation title was ‘Get off your Agile treadmill and build a community instead’.

Basically our theme was that Agile is a fantastic project methodology that aids a fast and furious development process through encouraging frequent communication within a team. But there are times when you can lose sight of the bigger picture by concentrating so heavily on discrete blocks of functionality.

By continually repeating fast development cycles you can get stuck in a rut and sometimes you need to step back, re-evaluate your product vision and refresh and revitalise your team at the same time.

It’s a theme that runs through DrupalCon with many teams recognising the importance of taking time out of development ‘sprints’ to work on knowledge transfer, cross training and collaboration. Everyone knows this but it is something that is an area many recognise is in need of continuous improvement. Just like the software itself!

Our new approach says that building a community from your users can be one way of taking a break from constant development but that has considerable benefits as well. We’ve taken an innovative and unusual approach in Higher Education of running our EdWeb development code sprints where developers from around the University community come together and work on our CMS EdWeb for the day.

What’s so powerful from organising community events with real users is that you learn so much from them. You see people taking a genuine interest in what you do and watch a relationship build between your users and your product, which is pretty rare for a Content Management System.

Events like our code sprints can:

  • mix up the team dynamics and bring about natural change
  • gets everyone out the comfort zone, find and recognise untapped skills
  • and refresh and revitalis the team!

Watch the presentation by Tim Gray and Bruce Darby:

Get off your Agile treadmill and build a community instead

Stratos also presented at the IWMW conference talking about our culture of collaborative development:

Presenting the build up of the University collaborative culture

Supporting the Drupal community in Scotland

Every month Drupal Talks organises an evening session in Edinburgh. It had taken a short break and was in need of space to meet. The University has stepped forward to allow the group to meet at various venues around the campus. It’s just another way that we support the Drupal community.

It’s not only about the technical aspects of Drupal as a recent speaker was from the Drupal Community Working Group which works to promote the Drupal Code of Conduct and maintain a friendly and welcoming community for the Drupal project.

The next event is an autobiographical talk titled “There and back again…” which will be given by Brian Ward, Technical Team Lead at Inviqa. All the talks can be viewed at meetup.com.

Drupal Talks events on meetup.com

Our 4th EdWeb code sprint went international!

On Friday 13 October we held our 4th code sprint in Argyle House. 10 developers came together and we were joined by an 11th in Poland – the first time we’ve had a remote worker attend one of our sprints and the first time our sprint has gone international. We had pizza for lunch, talked and shared knowledge and even managed to fix 5 issues.

So it was good to put all our talk to real practical effort and reap the benefits from our community. It always amazes me how hard people work on these days but also how much fun they are.

We’ll be looking to organise more sprints in 2018. If you are interested in coming to a sprint and are not sure what this entails come along to our informal University Website Technical Peer Group events.

Join our Technical Peer Group

Find out about the group and join the mailing list to hear about our events, meetings and code sprints:

University Website Technical Peer Group

The next meeting is Wednesday 22 November, 15:00 – 16:30 in Meeting room 14, Floor E, Argyle House and the theme will be about Drupal 8, migrating to Drupal 8, the Drupal conference in Vienna and the last EdWeb code sprint.

Book a place (EASE login required)

Developers hard at work at laptops

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