We held a doc sprint and it was awesome

We’ve just held a “doc sprint”. We put twenty developers in a room for three days with some computers. And some chocolate. We didn’t know whether to expect some shiny new tutorials or the complete works of Shakespeare. Or perhaps a new motif for a chocolate wrapper.

So, what did happen? We had a lot of fun and produced 19 awesome tutorials on how to develop gadgets and plugins. A few developers opted to spend the first day of the sprint looking over the existing reference documents and doing a mass update, before starting the tutorials. Some even decided that this was the most valuable exercise for the entire sprint. One person was heard to exclaim, “The biggest sign of victory is how many pages I managed to delete.”

The people

I think that the people are the best part of an event like this. Give people a focus, an opportunity and something to be excited about, and they climb in and do awesome stuff.

Handing out chocolates at the doc sprint

Handing out chocolates at the doc sprint

The sprint had a momentum of its own, especially from the second day when everyone was feeling comfortable about what they were doing. I did wonder if some of the sprinters might get bored or less than enthusiastic about spending so much time on documentation. After all, most of them were developers. But quite the opposite happened. The sprinters became absorbed in developing the best possible tutorials. A number of them said we should hold doc sprints regularly.

At the beginning of the final-day presentations, I overheard this affectionately ironic exchange:

“This is the Doc Sprint presentations, right?”
“Yes, mate. We’re gonna talk about documentation for the next two hours. It’s gonna be awesome!”

Waiting to start the doc sprint presentations

Waiting to start the doc sprint presentations

Hall of Fame

Most of the sprinters were Atlassians, and most were based in Sydney. (Atlassian is the company I work for.) We had two sprinters in the San Francisco office, and a few “remote” sprinters who joined us online.

One of the awesome aspects was that a few sprinters were community and partner developers, who develop plugins and extensions for Atlassian products but are not Atlassian employees. I was totally delighted when these guys said how keen they were to join us and made the time to do so.

The Hall of Fame has photos of the doc sprinters and links to the tutorials each person created. There are also some photos on Flickr.

A hint

If there were just one tip I could give, after organising my first doc sprint, it would be this: Get other people involved early. It’s awesome to see how many ideas bubble up when people get together to plan something new. I’m part of a great team at work, and the doc sprint was very much a team effort. As soon as the idea came up, everyone started chipping in with ideas.

Andrew was the first, with lots of ideas about fun things to do online and in person. I quickly dubbed him fun stuff coordinator. During the sprint, our online chat room resonated with reminders from “FunStuffAndrew” about the chocolate haiku contest, chocolate blind tasting and the chocolate crossword, to name but a few. We’ve invented a whole new vocabulary! Ed tirelessly promoted our cause with the team leaders, set up the Google group and chat room and conducted the daily webinar sessions that glued the event together. Giles’s organisation of the retrospective was just awesome. It was a complicated situation for a retrospective, with sprinters working in different time zones across the world, some of them Atlassian staff members and some not. The resulting feedback was positive and valuable.

Setting up on the first day of the doc sprint

Setting up on the first day of the doc sprint

I’m planning to write another blog post soon, about what went into organising the doc sprint. For now, though, I’m so happy to say it was awesome and thank you to all the sprinters!

And the new motif for a chocolate wrapper? How about, “A chocolate by any other name. …Is this a chocolate I see before me? …Get thee to a chocolatier, go.” 😉

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 7 March 2010, in technical writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. That’s an awesome photo of you guys all around the laptop.
    So when’s the next one? 🙂

  2. Hallo Robyn
    Thanks 🙂 and soon I hope! We’re thinking it would be good to hold a doc sprint every 6 months or so.

  3. Awesome !

    Your awesome Doc Sprint sounded absolutely aweswome, there can be no other word to describe it but awesome !

    I thought the inclusion of chocolate was also an awesome idea.

    Look forward to hearing more awesome events at Atlassian.

    Keep up the awesome work.

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