Dev bevs: ethano-vation in development

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October 22, 2015
4
min read

‘Dev Bevs’: the sacred ritual of the developers come 4 o’clock Friday.As well as a good start to the usual etherised events of the first evening of the weekend – it’s actually incredibly beneficial for Rex. But what are Dev Bevs? And why are they just so, so good for productivity? The best way to explain it is to break it down to its two constituents; Dev and Bev.

Dev

Development (Dev) isn’t a cut and dry process. A lot of people wrongly assume - because it involves a lot of mathematics - that like maths there’s just one answer to any given problem. In reality, a new feature could be built in thousands of different ways. The hard part is finding the best way to do it. Some solutions are fast – others are slow. Some take five hundred lines of code – some take ten. Some are maintainable – others need to be thrown away in the next iteration and written again.Since there are so many different facets of coding – an almost endless supply of different techniques, technologies and information to use – finding the best way to build something can be quite a challenge.To make sure you are building something in the best possible way means keeping up to date with all the new things going on in the industry. You have to keep your development toolkit is up-to-date. But that’s difficult; development, as an industry and art form, is changing faster than ever before. Tech giants such as Facebook and Google are innovating so rapidly that keeping up with them in theory is almost a full-time job in itself. What was revolutionary yesterday probably won’t be tomorrow – but if you’re to stay relevant, you need to keep up. Half of a developer’s job is constantly learning.So, the developers comb the Internet for new and improved methods and practices - but it’s impossible for anyone to really cover everything. There’s just too much to absorb. Besides, you only really want to learn about the cream of the code crop.So we’re starting to see why the developers need their meetings. There’s too much for just one person to learn – but a team of developers? Now that’s a different story.Instead of hoarding all the gold they discover, they can share it with the whole team. Everyone benefits, and Rex is twice as good twice as quickly.

Bev

There’s a well-known psychological relationship between arousal and performance, known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law. Essentially, if you’re interested in something, you’ll pay more attention and find it easier to understand, remember and apply.As we just said; programming is continuous learning. So for maximum effect, you need to be interested. Let’s not beat around the bush here - alcohol is one way to get there. A beer or two generally makes things more exciting.Beverages (Bevs) are what turn a common meeting into a council of war. Things are said when drinking. New ideas are had, and hesitations to put them forward are weakened. Besides, it’s been shown that a blood alcohol concentration of around 0.075% facilitates creative problem solving. But software development? Sure – no-one bats an eyelid when they hear Vincent van Gough’s inner muse can be uncorked by a bottle of absinthe – but coding?Well here’s the interesting part; the Ballmer Peak.Steve Ballmer was the CEO of Microsoft between 2000 and 2014. Thanks to some of his antics the programming edition of the alcohol/problem-solving relationship was named after him. Many developers actually believe that they do, in fact, code and problem-solve better with a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.129% and 0.138% - a phenomenon made famous by this XKCD comic – and it’s become a bit of a cult trend. There’s even a ‘Ballmer Peak-a-thon‘, which is basically just a Hackathon with an open bar. We certainly don’t advocate drinking on the job. Though, we don’t have anything against an hour in the office Friday night talking shop over a beer.

The end result?

There’s no actual coding during Dev Bevs. It’s just a beer and a discussion about what’s been learned and/or done that week – but that beer is still crucial.Before you turn up your nose and pass this off as yet another well-fabricated excuse for us to drink – spare a thought for such towering figures as Aristotle, Plato and Archimedes. We’re simply taking a leaf out of the history book.The Greek philosophers did it first. Rather than sitting alone in front of their computer (or tome, or abacus, or whatever it was they had back then) they would come together, drink wine, and consequently came up with such gems as metaphysics, Pythagoras and logic in general.We’re doing the same. (Arguably to a lesser degree).At its foundations, Dev Bevs is an opportunity to share knowledge. It’s a brainstorming session to drive Rex further. Most importantly, it’s extremely successful. Developers talk, problems get solved, ideas are pooled, combined and refined, and everyone has a great time. Such a great time no-one wants to leave. Dev Bevs almost always go well past 5 o’clock.Some very large technological shifts have been implemented into Rex as result of … hearty… debates during Dev Bevs - shifts that have allowed us to develop higher quality features in less time. We’d never have considered them without waxing lyrical over of a cold brew.I’m still pushing for Blog Grogs.

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