Princeton Critical Sprint Recap

pwolanin's picture

At the end of January, 2015, sprinters gathered in Princeton, NJ, USA for a focused D8 Accelerate sprint designed to accelerate work on critical and upgrade-path-blocking issues related to menus, menu links, and link generation.

The sprint was coordinated with the 4th annual DrupalCamp NJ. pwolanin, dawehner, kgoel, xjm, Wim Leers, mpdonadio, YesCT, effulgentsia, and tim.plunkett participated onsite. (In addition to the D8 Accelerate Group, local Drupalists davidhernandez, cilefen, crowdcg, wheatpenny, ijf8090, and HumanSky joined the sprint primarily to work on Drupal 8 Twig and theme issues, and EclipseGC and evolvingweb dropped in too.)

The sprint benefitted from pre-sprint planning meetings and discussion with the sprinters and a broader group of contributors (including webchick and catch, as well as amateescu, larowlan, Gábor Hojtsy, Bojhan, and Crell), and daily support from webchick to track, summarize, and unblock progress with issue posts and commits so the sprinters could move on to the next steps.

Thanks to the pre-sprint planning, sprint focus, and the tremendous experience of the participants and their history of working together on hard issues in the past, this sprint achieved a very high level and breadth of success. Sprinters worked on a total of 17 critical issues (14 of which are now fixed) as well as 27 other related bugs and DX fixes. All the issues opened or worked on during the sprint can bee seen under the tag D8 Accelerate NJ.

Take-away lessons

Identifying key issues in advance made the sprint more productive, as did meeting via video chat and in IRC to discuss possible solutions ahead of time. The pending deadline of the sprint helped push contributors to forge consensus and begin work on the issues before the event even happened. Never underestimate the value of a hard deadline!

As always, having the group in the same room (and timezone) with a whiteboard allowed resolution of discussions that would have taken weeks via issue comments and online meetings. We also were able to scale our progress with occasional pair programming and pair code review - very effective for ramping up skilled sprinters to unfamiliar and difficult problem spaces.

In addition, while the sprint was happening at the same time as DrupalCamp NJ activities (and for 2 days in the same building), the sprinters deliberately avoided the presentations or general Drupal mentoring they might have done in other circumstances. This relative lack of distractions was part of what we learned made the prior Ghent sprint a success and it helped maintain the focus at this sprint as well.

The sprinters stayed in 2 adjoining hotels, which made coordination easy.

Changing the sprint room each day initially seemed like it might be a drawback, but instead seemed to keep things a bit fresher. Note, however, that every room had windows and natural light - especially important the first days as people were dealing with jet lag.

It's off-season for New Jersey in January, so the low flight costs that allowed us to fund many more people to come and also accommodated people who made travel plans as late as a week prior to the event. This allowed us to recruit more participants even with a very short time frame to plan. (When the sprint was first given the D8 Accelerate Grant at the end of December, we had only 3 confirmed attendees and just a rough idea of the issues and goals to be addressed.)


The sprint was sponsored by a Drupal Association grant and by Princeton University Web Development Services providing space and logistical support.

In addition, Black Mesh sponsored all travel costs for YesCT, Forum One provided time off for kgoel, Night Kitchen Interactive provided time off for mpdonadio, and Acquia provided several employees' time (pwolanin, effulgentsia, xjm, tim.plunkett, and Wim Leers).

Daily sprint updates from webchick

These daily issue summaries were originally provided by webchick on [meta] Finalize the menu links system.

January 27

A very hyped snow storm leads to the cancelation of all 3 flights coming from Europe - but the snow fell further North and East, so all 3 participants were able to reschedule for the next day.

January 28

Most participants arrived in Princeton and settled in.

January 29

Day one of the sprint! Occupying the lounge at the NE corner of 701 Carnegie, part of the facilities of Princeton University.

Dinner plans were inspired by the DrupalCamp NJ theme for 2015 - a New Jersey diner! Just reading the menu was an exotic treat for the Europeans.

January 30

Occupying a multi-purpose room at the SE Corner of 701 Carnegie.

At the same time, about 70 people participated in 4 Drupal training courses in other rooms on the ground floor.

Thanks to the prompting of Tim Plunkett, dinner was real New Jersey pizza at Nino's Pizza Star in Princeton (a local favorite among the Central NJ Drupal meetup regulars). EclipseGC even treated the group to a Nutella pizza for dessert!

January 31

Occupying room 111 at the Friend Engineering Center, on the campus of Princeton University. In the neighboring rooms the sessions and BoFs were happening for the 4th annual DrupalCamp NJ. The sprinters were counted among the 257 registered attendees.

February 1

Occupying a (paid) meeting room at the hotel where most sprinters were staying.

Apparently there was some football game going on too.

While most people are headed home tomorrow, there are a few stalwart hangers-on who are staying through to Tuesday.

February 2

People worked together at the hotel or remotely. A Farewell lunch in Princeton was followed by a brief look at the Princeton University campus as a scenic amount of snow fell again.

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