Knowledge sharing!

Back in October 2011, I had a discussion with our MD about how we share knowledge as a company.  Occasionally we used to find that after spending some time writing what we thought was custom code to a project, that someone else in the company had done something very similar in a different project.  Because we’re developers, the tendency is either to 1) write things ourselves, or 2) look on the interwebs to see if someone else has done it.  But we can sometimes ignore the cumulative knowledge that we have as a company full of intelligent people, who have a broad range of skills and experience.  I wanted to harness that knowledge somehow and ensure that things we do are publicised internally, and externally where possible, so that we don’t end up reinventing the wheel.

Along with this, I wanted some kind of platform for people to shout about things they’ve found interesting which relate to our industry.  This could be new technologies they’ve found that could be useful, it could be book reviews about industry-related topics, it could be an example of what they’ve hacked together in their spare time and so on.  All these things help stimulate our minds and perhaps make us consider different approaches to a problem we have either now or in the future.

Finally, I wanted a platform for people to demo recent projects they’ve worked on in the company.  Because of the variety of projects we undertake at White October, it can sometimes be difficult if you’re not on the project to get a handle on what it actually is.  The project then becomes just “a name” that’s bandied around during conversations, but not necessarily explained fully to everyone else.

First Friday!

1F in action

Thus in November 2011 was born “First Friday”, or “1F” for short.  This is a 2 hour slot, on the first Friday of every month, where we down tools at lunchtime to present to each other on various topics.  These topics, as above, can be wide-ranging, but the rule is they should be somehow relevant to the web industry.  Generally we’ll have around 3-4 talks, from around 10-20 minutes long each, with a break in the middle for pizza.

An example of some topics we’ve covered so far have included:

  • Image formats overview
  • GitHub – not just for code
  • Native Android development (vs Phonegap/Cordova)
  • A Javascript implementation of Tron, playable across multiple devices
  • An introduction to using vectors and physics in Javascript with Sylvester
  • Using d3.js and IMDB data to visualise characters who appear across different Joss Whedon series (“The WhedonVerse”).
  • Quick introduction to Nagios for server monitoring

as well as various demos of production projects and technologies/custom components used in these.

This works!

All the talks we’ve had have generated discussion both during and afterwards, so for me the concept adds a massive value to the way in which we collaborate internally. These discussions have been both positive and constructive, resulting in re-use or further development with different perspectives.

It’s important that you continue to collaborate and further each others’ knowledge as a team – not just a per-project team but company-wide where possible – it can only lead to more cohesive development, more re-use and ultimately greater things!

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