When I worked at Big Nerd Ranch (BNR), they held an annual three-day hackathon first called Clash of the Coders. It was later renamed to Clash to emphasize the fact that it wasn’t just for programmers: BNR’s designers, project strategists, and marketing folks participated on teams too.

Clash was held at BNR’s Atlanta headquarters building; we had a lot of folks who worked remotely, so this was a chance for many of them to travel to Atlanta and meet up in-person. Since I live outside of Atlanta I was able to get into the office every few weeks and see the local folks who come in, but this was a great chance for me to connect with the folks I usually only saw online.

Over the years, the rules for Clash generally worked like so: you formed a team of around 3-6 people, you planned out your idea, but no actual coding or design used in the final project could start until 5 PM on the Wednesday of Clash. The hackathon ran for three days, until 5 PM Saturday. At that point, we would have dinner and everyone would present their finished project (or at “finished” as you could get it!). A panel of judges would decide on the top three projects, which would each get a substantial monetary prize.

My first year at the company, our second child was due to be born around the time of Clash, and I didn’t want to risk having to drop out, so I didn’t join a team. Instead, my wife and I just attended the Saturday evening project presentations. It was her first time meeting any of my coworkers. It turns out she had forgotten what Clash was all about, so after I told her so many times what great work-life balance BNR had, she was surprised to meet stressed people frantically running through the halls on a Saturday evening, as they tried to finish their projects!

From the next year on I participated on a team, but unfortunately my teams never did very well in the competition. It might just be bad luck, but I think I’m not wired for winning hackathons. I’m too interested in boring technology. I started referring to myself as the albatross of Clash teams.

The last three Clashes were during the pandemic. Clash 2020 was held virtually. When we were first getting back together in person in 2021, I wanted to do my part to make sure everyone had a good time. I have a food sensitivity (I can’t eat gluten), so I also wanted to make sure folks with food sensitivities had options. So I sat out joining at team and instead helped organize the food.

The Thursday of Clash in 2021 was a big celebration that we were all back together with no masks after the pandemic. You can probably guess where this is going. That Friday morning was the day the CDC announced that, no, the pandemic is not over, and you should still wear a mask. It was a big disappointment for many of us that we were not really out of the pandemic.

To give a sense of the kinds of projects I actually want to create, in 2022 in between food organization duties I made jessup, a JavaScript and React project scaffolding tool. (“Jessup” = “JS up”.) Not exactly the most cutting edge technology, is it?

BNR was acquired by a larger company in 2020, and the last Clash so far was held in 2022. Sadly, at this point it doesn’t look likely that any more Clashes will be held.