Hacks with Friends 2020 Retrospective: A pitch to hitch in 2021

Image of event details: March 5-6, 2020. Hack with Friends. 4 - A Pangeo State of Mind. Developing a Python stack and repository for access, analysis, and management of big data

4 - A Pangeo State of Mind. Developing a Python stack and repository for access, analysis, and management of big data

When the students go on winter break I go to Hacks with Friends (HWF) and highly recommend and encourage everyone who can to participate in HWF 2021.  Not only is it two days of free breakfast, lunch, and snacks at the Ross School of Business, but it’s a chance to work with a diverse cross section of faculty, staff, and students on innovative solutions to complex problems.  

This year there were 19 pitches from which to choose.  I was successful once again in choosing a pitch with a low probability of taking home the Golden Hard Drive and a high probability to crash and burn a.k.a. a project that spends the bulk of the time setting up the development environment.  

This year it was pitch 4 - A Pangeo State of Mind.  It had all the usual trappings; something I don’t know much about, something I think would be interesting, and something that requires installing development tools and software.  In 2019 it was pitch 7 - Mediawiki in the Container Age and in 2017 DevEnvy: Development Environments as Code.

You’d think I would have learned from past experience that eight hours isn’t enough time to start from ground zero and produce a minimal viable product.  Perhaps it is self sabotage, or fear of success, or just simply being impulsive but someone pitched the idea and they think it is possible so it must be possible, right?

Regardless of the fact that the second day of the event was spent putting together a presentation about all the things that went wrong, what we’d do differently, and have very little, if anything, to show for eight times the number of team members worth of work hours I’ll feel it was well worth the time to fail spectacularly because I had fun and learned something new.  

This year’s takeaway is the Jupyter Notebook.  Probably not new to many, but it was new to me, and given that Ruby is just one of the Jupyter kernels I have big plans.  Big big plans and perhaps one day I might actually be the one pitching that seductive developer-centric project.

At the end of the event I always tell myself next year will be different;  I’ll resist the impulse to join the developer-centric project, join a project where I can apply the skills I already have, select a pitch with a high probability of making it to the semifinals, and with a little luck, be on the team that takes home the coveted Gold Hard Drive award.

Yeah, I know, I’m dreaming, but hey, I’ll already be the next year’s winner just by participating.