Friday Coffee Hour at Intridea

Every Friday at 4:00 pm, the Intridea team takes pause from the pressing tasks in which we are immersed. For an hour we set aside open tickets, bug fixes, running tests, reading code, and writing emails, except for the most urgent requests. From different parts of the country we pick up the phone and join one another in what we call, “Coffee Hour.”

While not everyone that joins in on the call is necessarily drinking a cup of coffee, the term “coffee hour” embodies the spirit of what happens during that hour. The format is not rigid and no one is mandated to be there. Team members jump in on the call as they can; often times Coffee Hour starts out with only a couple of people and then grows in size throughout the hour, especially if someone is engaging us with an interesting topic of discussion. Flip is usually the one to ping people in Presently throughout the week for topic ideas, and by Friday morning there are generally 2-3 talking points setup for that afternoon’s Coffee Hour.

One of the most popular Coffee Hour sessions was in February when Michael and Potsiadlo shared their techniques for logo creation. Michael created a logo on the fly and talked us through his process for creating it; he covered previewing fonts, how to do font selection for a logo, how to create shapes and modify them, and how to apply subtle effects to enhance an image.

Afterward, Potsiadlo showed us how he designs a logo; he starts off with an idea and branches off of that idea multiple times until the perfect design emerges. When he is finished, you can see the entire ancestry of his design in the same document.

During another Coffee Hour, Flip presented Oria, an open source key-value store that he wrote in Ruby. The following week, Pradeep presented on Apache Camel and Llama, his implementation of Camel in Ruby. The next week Michael presented on NoSQL, Redis, CouchDB, and Cassandra.

We didn’t have anything scheduled for last Friday’s Coffee Hour and only a few people were able to attend. Adam started talking about screen and then showed us how to use it on a remote box using SSH. This got Flip (a Textmate user) asking about Vim so Adam took the opportunity to explain the hype. Adam showed us screen splits, movements, how to navigate through a project, basic usage of ctags, gave a quick demo of the NERD_tree plugin, a demo of NERD_commenter, a demo of fugitive for git, a little rails.vim, block editing, explained tabs and buffers and their differences and gave a rundown of Vim configuration. He pointed us to Derek Wyatt’s site which has awesome tutorial videos on Vim.

While there are usually a couple of topics prepped in advance for the Coffee Hour it’s still a very loose format and people are free to bring up other topics or just use the time to talk about their week, a project they’ve been working on, get advice, or just listen in. It is a small but important bit of time set aside each week for us to gather in the virtual “break room” and talk shop. It is a weekly ritual that brings our voices to each other’s offices and reinforces the humanity of our working relationships while affording us the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience.