Week 8: Makerthon

Week 8 was unforgettable.

It began with a talk by Charles Davies, CTO of TomTom, who condensed some of his immense experience in the tech sector into manageable drops of wisdom: read a lot, keep it simple, and hire the best even if you can’t afford them. TomTom’s revenue runs close to a billion euros, but they question was still put to him: Why buy the kind of navigation utility that TomTom sell when a modern smartphone can do all the same things and more?

His answer touched on a key concept of this week: user stories. User stories are 3-line narratives used by developers to evaluate whether a proposed feature is worth the time required to implement it. I’ll come back to them in a moment.

Time was precious this week as it was the week of the Makerthon. The Makerthon is a mini-team-based project, a practice run for the final projects. My team’s project, dreamed up by the very talented Jacob Mitchinson, was to create a bot that sits in the Makers Academy slack channel (slack is a messaging program we use to communicate) and answers students’ questions about lecture times, talks, course material, etc., basically anything we could implement in time.

So a real user story from our project was: As a student at Makers, when there is a lunchtime talk, I want to be reminded of it in advance. User stories might seem so short as to be trivial, but their importance is in being public narratives around which to discuss whether a proposed feature satisfied a real need. They’re a working hypothesis rather than a panacea for the problem of making something people want.

The Makerbot ended up doing a lot of things we hadn’t originally planned: it can tell you knock knock jokes, where to go for lunch in Shoreditch , and even the answer to “What is the average flight velocity of an unladen swallow?”. Massive thanks to my team: Jin, Danielle, Clint, and Jacob for making the week so much fun.

Week 8: Makerthon

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