InnoJam Israel 2014 – a better’s diary
Monday, March 30.
I’m currently ranked 11 out of 15 in our betting group standing. Idan is making fun of me because of my poor ranking but at least I’m still ahead of Yossi… This group betting is already a tradition for us: for every major soccer event we gather a group of about 20 friends (employees, family etc.) to participate in a group “fantasy” betting game. Each participant pays an entry fee of 100 NIS and then places their bets on the tournament and on each match within the tournament. Each successful bet grants the participant a few points and the points add up throughout the tournament. In the end, the most successful participant (most accurate bets) takes the cash jackpot. This time the group is betting on the UEFA Champions League and the Quarter Finals are about to start.
About a month ago, Yossi came to me saying that the InnoJam session is our chance to finally develop the betting platform that we always talk about. The thing is that the more we participate in these betting competitions, the more we realize that there is no suitable website or application to allow us to manage the group and the betting. So, we’re often left to manage the entire operation with Excels and Google forms, and this is a very time consuming, manual task.
So – we ran a quick design-thinking session to identify the requirements for such a fantasy betting platform. The “quick” design-thinking sessions quickly grew into 4 long sessions but it was a lot of fun: We started with several interviews of potential users of such an application (only to understand that we know better than most of them ;-). We then continued to analyze the requirements from the interviews, by wallpapering our meeting room with a colorful collection of sticky-notes. After that, we defined and collected as many features as possible while allowing our fantasies to flow un-inhibited. In the end, we narrowed it all down to a reasonable feature set and then, thinking on the short scope of the InnoJam we further squeezed it down to a minimal set.
These brainstorming sessions are by far the best part of the software development process; when you feel like you’re working in a start-up where everyone is heard, every voice counts and each member is part of the creation process of something that is truly ours.
Tuesday, April 1.
Barcelona vs Atletico and Man UTD vs Bayern – These are today’s matches. And I have 10 more minutes to place my bets on these matches. I’m sure Bayern will beat Man UTD but the match is played in Manchester, so I’ll go for 2:1 to Bayern. On the other match the odds are even with a slight advantage to Barcelona as the home team, so I’m leaning towards 1:0 to Barca.
I can also bet on the Under/Over – (whether the total number of goals in the match will be over 2.5 or under 2.5) and I can pick the winner in each match (or tie) – these additional bets allow me to spread my chances across different items (e.g. bet that Barca lose despite betting on a score of 1:0 for Barca) – But judging by my poor ranking in the standing table, I have to go “all in”, in hope that my bets succeed and I climb up a few positions.
InnoJam coding sessions kicks off… our team (Yossi, Batya, Liran, Vlad, Walter and myself) started the day with a quick morning meeting to split the coding tasks between us: Batya and me on the back-end. Vlad and Walter on the UI and Yossi and Liran are in charge of loading the data from external sources (Yossi is also in charge of the moral…). We’re all in a good mood although the pressure is already felt, in our hearts, thinking about how on earth are we going to finish it on time?
We spend the first day coding enthusiastically and every now and then we relaxed with a beer or some other refreshment from the InnoJam treats. Developing on HANA proves to be rather quick and straight forward. Despite the many glitches related to the HANA development environment, one can see the good and solid architectural foundations of HANA and the potential of it for the future. On the other hand, SAP UI5 despite offering an impressive and modern, clean UI, proves to be a major challenge with a very slow learning curve and many obstacles that keep us from progressing at a satisfactory pace.
At the end of the first day we have most of the back-end ready and we realize that we have a major problem with the UI.
Wednesday, April 2.
Last night’s bets proved me completely wrong. Both matches ended up in a 1:1 tie. Luckily I managed to grab a measly 4 points for betting on “Under”(2.5 goals) in both matches, thereby preserving my ranking in the standings table. On the other hand Yossi guessed correctly on one of the matches and closed the gap behind me. You can imagine the “warm” welcome greeting I got from him this morning.
For Today’s matches I decide to take a slightly bigger risk betting on 2:0 to PSG on Chelsea and 2:0 to Real Madrid on Dortmund. I spice that up with a bet on “Over” (2.5 goals) in both matches. I’m guessing that most people will take more conservative guess while I have some catching up to do, so I have to take some wild guesses if I want to climb up the standings ladder.
On the second coding day the pressure builds up. Each of us is digging deep into his code, trying to overcome various issues (isn’t it “sweet” that the P4 server crashes down for 3 hours just after you’ve deleted your code and need to re-sync from the P4 repository?). With no proper supervision of a “project manager” (classical start-up mistake..) we find ourselves at the end of the second day with only 1.5 screens out of the 5 that we planned to be ready. We decide to shift Batya and myself to try to work on the UI, even though both of us don’t have any experience in SAP UI5. The stress of not being able to meet the deadline starts to show and we all stay to dry our eyes in front of the monitors till 10PM…
Thursday, April 3.
Yet another disappointing night of betting for me… My so-called risky bets proved even too conservative when both matches ended up with a high score of 3:1 and 3:0. At least I got the winning teams right and I got some points for the “Over” bets. Unfortunately, Yossi welcomed me this morning with a cheerful grin having taken an even bigger risk than me (he had less to lose) and scoring both matches correctly. He’s still far from the top of the standing but the fact that he passed over me in the table was enough to make his day.
On the third coding day we start to think of short-cuts of how we can present the project on the InnoJam competition despite not finishing it. However, we’ve already narrowed the application down to the very basic screens and our commitment to the integrity of “our baby” is still very high… we can’t give up any features. Yet.
We pound the keyboards all day long (out of frustration?) only to find by the end of the day that we haven’t made much progress and we’re only at about 50-60% of the work.
At 10PM we sit for a team talk. Decision time: Are we going for an “all-nighter” plus a potential “Friday at the office” in order to fulfill the project or are we quitting (what a shameful word…)?
In the end it was one factor that convinced us: Our main goal from the beginning was to have fun! To enjoy the creation process of a new project, a project which is ours, a project that we created from zero and that we are fully committed to (who else can convince Walter to stay 3 nights in a row till 10PM??).
And at this point we decided to leave it as is. Perhaps we’ll return to it in next year’s InnoJam. Perhaps some of us will continue working on it in their spare time. Who knows? The important thing is that we enjoyed it.
It was one of the best experiences we had in SAP. See you in InnoJam 2015!
Thursday, May 1.
That’s it. There’s only one game to go – the Champions League Final. Since the Quarter Finals, I’ve gone from bad to worse as I try more and more radical bets in an attempt to beat my friends’ bets and jump up the table. Needless to say – It was futile. Yossi on the other hand gathered a good momentum since he passed over me and has since made it to the top 5 with a small chance of winning if his bets will be accurate on the final match.
We’re now defining the rules of our next betting group towards the 2014 world cup, starting in June in Brazil. This time we want to have many more exciting betting artifacts (How many goals in the entire tournament, which is the worse team, etc.) and yet again we’re looking for a betting platform that will suite our needs but to no avail. We’re forced to retreat to the “good old” excel way of running things. I wonder who will finally pick up the glove and identify this amazing business need… 🙂