For me, looking back at a difficult project after it’s all over usually results in a light-hearted: ah, it wasn’t so bad! And then I start reminiscing – remember when we were all drinking wine on Tuesday night and thought we could never finish our apps in time? Haha… how funny!
Well, to be perfectly honest – Monday and Tuesday were pretty bad days for me. I had done a ton of planning over the weekend and had consequently built up my expectations of what my wonderful Tic Tac Toe game app would be capable off (without really understanding how to create the actual game logic). Upload and play back your favourite song on your profile! Hahaha! Leave messages for other users on their profile. Baaahaha! What wonderful dreams.
On Monday we were told that we should have written enough code to play the game in the Rails console by Tuesday morning. On Tuesday (I think) we were told that we should start working on the front end… None of this was happening for me. And it made me feel really, really bad.
Talking to the others during our Tuesday night impromptu red wine group therapy session, I realised that I wasn’t the only one feeling down. Others were struggling too. It was like we had accidentally ended up in one of those shows like “I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here”, where people have to overcome insurmountable obstacles and the audience watches to see who breaks down next. The audience in this case were the instructors.
They seemed to give people conflicting advice. They put pressure on us by suggesting deadlines “by Wednesday you should…”. They told us to take a lot of time planning and did not tell us that our expectations were completely unrealistic. They made us do a test run of creating an app from scratch so we could get an idea of how much we could achieve in four hours – a lot if you scaffold a couple of standard models in Rails! (see this post). But if you have to create logic for a game? That’s a whole different story.
When would they release the tarantulas?
Ultimately I think my own expectations of what I would be able to deliver in five days were what crushed me. In hindsight, I should have relaxed about it and just taken it step by step. So what if you can’t play my game in the Rails console on Tuesday? (Turned out that they didn’t actually mean playing the game but just creating instances of models and calling some methods. It lead to a few misunderstandings and one of us even created a perfectly playable game in the Ruby console, which wasn’t necessary… )
So was this all part of the GA schedule? To teach us how it feels when we were failing badly? Michael said that we should be happy to fail. Great. I just couldn’t feel happy about it. I failed at that too.
By Wednesday it got better. Jarkyn, one of our lovely TAs, had helped me a lot with the associations between models and Active Record validations and I really enjoyed working with her and learning from her.
On Thursday lunch time we had a really good speaker, the CTO of Tribesports. He compared learning how to code with learning how to speak a foreign language. When you learn it in school and then go to the foreign country for the first time, you feel like you know nothing and have to start learning all over again. Apparently becoming a web developer is very similar. Weirdly it made me feel a bit better.
And on Thursday I was finally working on the front end of my app and I could see the progress that I was making. Creating a leaderboard of all players and their wins, having a dashboard for each player with current and historical matches – those were the things I felt a lot more comfortable with. And it was more satisfying to create something that the user would actually see rather than a whole lot of backend logic.
Friday was presentation day. We had five minutes to present what we had created and five minutes to answer questions from the audience or from the instructors. The instructors were sitting at desks facing the presenter – again I felt like in a TV show, except this time in a talent show rather than a jungle camp. (I don’t actually watch these shows. Honest!!!)
The presentations were actually good fun. A lot of us have a very entertaining style of presenting and most of us students were careful when asking questions so as not to trip someone up.
We were done in the early afternoon and General Assembly had prepared a few bottles of bubbly for us to toast the end of project week. There was a massive sense of relief amongst all of us. Finally the presentations were over. Time for the pub and our two week Christmas break.
PS: I’m at my parents’ house in Germany now and have been working a little bit on my app. After all the pain I went through, I have come to really like my Tic Tac Toe project now. I created an automated computer player and am now trying to implement a few other things from my optimistic Trello board. And it’s fun!