This past weekend myself, four other coworkers from VISI, and 5 friends (10 total) participated as the “Code Cowboys” at the 24 hour website challenge sponsored by Sierra Bravo and VISI. Last year was the first year of the event and this year was the first time myself and everybody on my team participated. We were paired up with a non profit to build a website for that morning and got started two minutes later. The event was well organized as all non profits had must have, would like to have, and pie in the sky requirements all typed up with ten copies. Documentation to their existing FTP site was also ready to go.
The Code Cowboys were paired with Access Press, a news publication for the disabled in the Twin Cities. The representatives from Access Press were present for 90% of the event, which demonstrated how important a new website was to them. Here is a link to how their site looked on archive.org before we started. Apparently the site has undergone many beginner designs and most recently a few years ago.
Our team was well balanced as we had a project manager, a designer, and eight coders. I started the evening splitting the management role and task delegation with another guy on the team, but after a couple hours it was evident there was more demand for coding skills than my management skills. Because Access Press is a newspaper and desires to create publications almost daily, WordPress was the “almost undisputed” choice as I think we discussed options for a minute. Customizations included a phpbb bulletin board, an events calendar that registered users and enter events and moderators can manage, threaded commenting, article voting like digg.com, integration with a payment gateway for donations via credit card, classified advertising and job postings, a custom search that will search articles and events, custom role management, and many static pages about the non profit. A major feature we wre unsuccessful in was importing their thousands of existing articles into the new website. The existing articles arrived in many different formats and file types. We planned on using PHP to parse the date, author, and article text from each file, but unfortunately that did not work out as the articles were not written in a consistent format.
Time went by quickly for most of the 24 hours as we kept very busy. Personally, I sipped on some caffeinated drinks whenever I felt tired and did pretty well. Derek Fernholz drank somewhere between nine and twelve red bulls to stay awake. There were about 160 people packed in that room for 24hrs and it started to smell ripe after 12 hours or so. My wife said I really stunk afterwards … yeah, it was kinda warm in there. Our team in particular lost power three times, which cost me personally 45 minutes because my dell computer is ass slow to boot. I suppose that’s what happens when your team has a rack server, ten pc’s, five laptop’s, and 16 monitors, and one 20 inch box fan.
Below are links to news coverage of the event and our team.