Last Updated: July 8, 2019

Quick Assessment Skills Keep Developers Ahead of the Competition

As developers, a fundamental part of our job is constantly assessing new and better tools. We have ones that we’ve used for years, and we’re not going to give those up. But we also have to reassess which additional tools or technologies we need to use for each new project. There might be libraries, frameworks or even new languages that are better suited for what we (as individuals or part of a team) are trying to build.

This “quick assessment ability” is a core skill for every developer.

At TechCrunch DISRUPT Hackathon in San Francisco (Sept 19-20), 600+ developers gathered, formed teams, and tried to build a cool hack within 21 hours. It’s an exciting mix of energy, enthusiasm, and frankly crappy wifi that destroys otherwise good demos.

At its core, though, a hackathon exposes the most important elements of the software development process. With the time constraints and then only one minute up on stage to show what you’ve built, everything is reduced to the barest necessities. Developers have a short amount of time to:

  1. Survey all the available APIs, libraries, and software packages
  2. Come up with a viable idea
  3. Discuss the viability with peers and teammates
  4. Commit to develop

Then there’s the midway point, essentially halfway between committing to a project and delivering a project. At the TechCrunch DISRUPT Hackathon, that basically meant that starting around 11pm, all the hard support questions came in. You might conclude that the hardest part of the hackathon was the midway point.

For individual or enterprise developers, we can learn from the hackathon pattern of development: What’s the most important part of the process? Where did most of the problems occur?

Turns out it’s the up-front effort, more often than not. Sure you’ll run into issues later in the project. And sure the halfway point matters, as you get down to the real nitty-gritty of coding. But the ability to assess what’s available and then come up with a (viable) concept… that’s what makes or breaks a hack.

Komodo IDE prioritizes this quick assessment ability in your workflow. Up front effort matters! We have added Package Management, directly facilitating the process of evaluation. How do you decide which packages are best suited? Can you add or subtract new packages easily? Komodo quickly shows you what packages you have available and helps you make good decisions for the project at hand.

At a hackathon, developers work collaboratively in groups. Enterprise developers also work collaboratively and are borrowing techniques from hackathons to improve the efficiency of their collaboration. Rapidly assessing a number of different packages and setting up collaborative test environments is becoming popular in the enterprise. Komodo supports these needs by seamlessly integrating with other technologies (Docker/Vagrant, etc), customization, and by not including Java dependencies. Combined with its toolkit of debuggers and code intel, Komodo makes it easier for developers to get started right away on their projects.

And, our final observation on the software development process? If you make it to the demo at a hackathon, just make sure you don’t depend on the event wifi, whatever you do.

Tom Radcliffe

Tom Radcliffe

Tom Radcliffe has over 20 years experience in software development, data science, machine learning, and management in both academia and industry. He is a professional engineer (PEO and APEGBC) and holds a PhD in physics from Queen's University at Kingston. Tom brings a passion for quantitative, data-driven processes to ActiveState. He is deeply committed to the ideas of Bayesian probability theory, and assigns a high Bayesian plausibility to the idea that putting the best software tools in the hands of the most creative and capable people will make the world a better place.