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Today started *the* must of the must of the must six days of the year: the six day SAP Developer Challenge 2005 in Palo Alto. Aliza Peleg, Guido Schroeder and their teams organized an event that shall demonstrate that SAP programmers like to be challenged and spend day and night over the upcoming weekend to build the next generation and avant-garde of business applications. So we invited 41 of the best and brightest developers from all the SAP Labs locations world wide.

Alas, we couldn’t get them. Instead we got some other super-hackers and elite-coders here to come to our sunny California. Speaking of which, we were also unfortunate with the latter. It was raining cats and dogs all the day, and nature played its muscles by showing off with rumbling thunderbolts and strong side-winds. Some participants really got wet, many umbrellas were simply hacked to thumb-size debris and we haven’t even told our fellows, that recently there were some mountain lions, rattle-snakes, and from time to time hairy tarantulas seen, running between the buildings to lure unsuspecting victims on their meal plate. That’s also a reason, why we have an odd number of developers participating: one developer is meant as sacrifice for the occasional Palo Altan mountain-lion-casualties.

The super hackers listening to interesting presentations...

But let’s describe the lesser bloody elements of the Developer Challenge. We formed 8 teams and shuffled different skills, nationalities and nose-lengths into the 8 teams. With one exception: Our 7 Indian colleagues did not receive in time visas for God’s own country (no, I do not mean Switzerland) and had to stay at home in their sunny, warm and pleasantly mild summer weather in Bangalore, instead of freezing with us in the stormy rains. Anyway, they will be participating remotely. To even out their unfair advantage of having seven people AND the only woman in their team, we let them attend the sessions via video conference during their night (with 13.5 hours time-difference). That’s how we try to tiring them up, in their &$*%@ sunny, warm and pleasantly mild summer weather in Bangalore (have I already mention that?).

The day started with Aliza and Guido opening the event by laying out the strategy of SAP Labs in Palo Alto, how the Developer Challenge fits into this strategy and why this event was renamed from Hackathon to Developer Challenge. SAP shall be an active and driving part of the innovative Silicon Valley and bring that back to the company. And why not Hackathon? I can mention it right here, before I repeat the lengthy official blah-blah and made-up reasoning. The secret truth is: Hasso Plattner had some concerns. But please don’t tell anybody that I told you, otherwise they move me into a cubicle without windows, but with many rusty chains in the basement.

Aliza and Guido’s speeches were followed by Shai Agassi, talking about his dating experiences, when he was young. Which reminded the 41 guru-hackers, that only one woman had applied for this event. After Aliza greeted this woman-geek with the international sign of female sisterhood – a raised fist with a shrieking five seconds battle-cry -, Shai elaborated, why seemingly bad dates (she basically ditched him) still can turn out to be the best dates ever and how they raise the passion of a born hacker. He could use this unexpectedly free wanna-be dating evening to rest from a busy programming week with a very demanding customer in old Toptier-times, clear his mind and have a brilliant idea in the middle of a dream. This solution, that rescued the extremely important contract, appeared in his sleep and he dreamily called a colleague to write down the solution. Inured from that night, it was only a small step in becoming a (quite demanding, I say) SAP board member.
That’s how bad dates can end up into best dates…

In the afternoon, after some well deserved lunch, the brainstorming sessions started, including difficult tasks like memorizing one’s own name and skills to impress the others in the team. And yes, a not insignificant amount of time was spent for nailing down some hot and sharp development topics. They’ll be bleeding: those tasks will transform into their homework on the coming weekend. Build that and then show that on Monday in the demo jam session. But keep quiet, we haven’t told them yet…

Tomorrow will be another day of warming up, and then the real fun starts … but I’ll keep you updated in the next web logs.

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  1. Nice humorous take on the day’s proceedings.

    “But keep quiet, we haven’t told them yet…” …. sounds omnious


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