Blitzweekend project: getting real with GoalR

March 1st, 2008 | by ian |

Ever since I attended 37 signals “Getting Real” workshop I’ve want to put some of their design principles to the test. My company is Syntenic, a boutique consulting and services shop primarily focused on web operations, performance optimization via application delivery controllers (load balancing and server offload) and 24×7 high availability geographically distributed architecture. What this means is that we are usually helping enhance the performance and reliability of our customers applications instead of building our own. Recently this has been changing as we increasingly are redesigning or developing applications from scratch for our customers.

Blitzweekend in Montreal has given us the opportunity to give the getting real approach and Ruby on Rails in particular a whirl. Our challenge was to come up with a project idea that was feasible in one weekend including conception and coding. It didn’t take much to convince our web codemonkey extraordinaire Will Stevens to take on the challenge. Lucky for us since he has to do all the real work (including learning rails on the fly)! Alistair Croll joined on as our resident marketing genius. The onus was on me to come up with a simple enough project, which ultimately was inspired by an article I read several years ago about one of Google’s management approaches: employees were asked to list their objectives at the start of every week and report at the end of the week which of their objectives have been obtained. I’m not a fan of task management, listing and tracking to-dos can take more time than getting them done. The big challenge I have from a management perspective is keeping all my objectives or in my sights, the tasks required to complete the higher level goals seem to follow easily as long as I can keep focused on the goal. You don’t become a great goal scorer by looking at the puck, thinking about stick handling or ball dribbling. Great players keep their head up and keep their eyes on where the puck or the ball needs to go.

Aren’t you a little short for a goaltender?
Perhaps the sports analogy isn’t perfect but I’m going to run with it. The application is codenamed “goaltender” shortened to GoalR ( because all the other domains were taken. GoalR e-mails you at the start of the week asking you what your objectives for week are, the goals in question. At the end of the week you are prompted to indicate which goals you managed to “score,” or worse yet admit defeat. We are looking to allow the user to score. If we have time we will introduce the concept of teams and rosters, allow team members to track, encourage even heckle their fellows in pursuit of their goals. We’d love to introduce the concept of assists, if we can figure out how that would work.

First goal of the game…
Alistair’s here, back to work (an no doubt 100 digressions a minute). Our objective, “goal” if you will, is to build a working goal management application (not another task manager!). It needs to be functional and useful by the end of this weekend, despite attending Steph’s 30th birthday party tonight. We’re keeping it real and trying to make management fun. Might be an unrealistic goal but hey, if you don’t take shots you’ll never score a goal.

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