Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

Every three months or so, Atlassians go mad. The frenzy lasts 24 hours, and it’s called “FedEx Day”. Up to now, the insanity has affected predominantly the developers. This time the tech writers went bonkers too. I survived to tell the tale, just barely. Here it is.

What is FedEx Day?

Atlassian is the software-development company I work for. FedEx Day lasts from 2pm on a Thursday to 2pm the next day. In those 24 hours, you get to develop anything you like. At 3pm on Friday, the presentations start. You get 3 minutes to present your project to the rest of the company. It’s called FedEx Day because your project must be delivered overnight. The winning project is decided by vote.

It’s a pretty cool idea. You get to try something that you wouldn’t normally do in your day-to-day job. The result just may turn out useful for you, your colleagues and the company. It often does. Some FedEx projects end up as part of Confluence, JIRA or another product.

For the most part, it’s the developers who go nuts. But three FedExes ago, a technical writer won the vote for best FedEx project! That was Ed, our team lead, who wrote a Flash game called Atlassian Invaders.

How did I do?

My report is a mixed bag of nuts. The first part of my FedEx was great. It was so much fun, spending a work day experimenting with something new. I played with some cool technology and managed to get some nice results. I’ll write another blog post soon, about the project itself. Here’s a tantaliser: my project is called,

Atlassian WTF😉

The second part was the presentation. I was really nervous about that, right from the start. And with good cause, as it turns out. FedEx Day presentations are notorious for going wrong. Mine did. The first time I tried it, my demo stopped working each time I plugged the projector cable into the PC. Thank you FedEx gremlin!

Matt, the FedEx Day coordinator, was kind enough to let me have a 2nd attempt. I started up the demo software first, then plugged in the projector.  This worked better, but I ran into more problems later in the demo. And I turned into a wobbly jelly, something I’m apt to do. Ah well, at least I was able to demo the general idea. I needed a good stiff Coca Cola after that!

What about the other technical writers?

They were right there, in the middle of the madness. Giles converted a Confluence user macro (the {expand} macro) into a macro plugin. That’s pretty awesome. Alas, the FedEx gremlin attacked him too. His macro refused to work for his presentation. He later discovered it was because the demo machine was running Safari, while he had been testing in Firefox.

Andrew wrote a specification for automating some of our Confluence documentation release procedures. We’re hoping this will be a useful tactic in persuading a developer to write the code. We’ve offered a chocolate bribe too. Is our optimism all part of the general madness? Watch this space😉

Rosie started writing some sample Confluence content that non-technical evaluators can download and import into their Confluence installation. She tackled a sample intranet site and a documentation space.

Ed created a Flash game, where old-school die-hard anti-code-review developers battle it out against reviewers encroaching upon their code.

It was great to see the varied, interesting and valuable FedEx Day projects the technical writers up with. Go tech writers🙂

The story in pictures

Friday morning, 5 and a half hours to go. Here are a few manic developers, with evidence of a hard night’s work in the foreground:

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx DayTechnical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

It finally happened. We’re going slightly mad. This FedEx Day was the first time that all the technical writers took part. Ed and Giles had done it before, but the rest of us were FedEx virgins. Here we all are, with other cross-product team members, all going just very slightly mad:

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

Half an hour left. The pace is frantic now:

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

Only too soon, the presentations start. We’re one wave short of a shipwreck:

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

We’re simply not in the pink, my dear:

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

Technical writers do Atlassian FedEx Day

There are more photos on Flickr. FedEx Day is fun. The presentation part of it is… nuff said. Maybe better next time. I think I’m a banana tree, and I’ll be there😉

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 16 August 2009, in atlassian, technical writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for posting this excellent blog and it was great to see such a high rate of Tech Writer participation for this FedEx!

    Of course, programming/development work is quite a different kettle of fish to tech writing work. Little did I realise how important the testing process actually was…

    Cheers,
    Giles.

    • Hallo Giles
      LOL yes, testing rules! Though, of course, that agile gremlin can skip past a test and still wreak havoc on the day!

  2. That’s one awesome event and I wish we had something like that (even if it’s maddening). It would be a good break to practice our creativity while working. Sounds like fun, too.

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