Coding in the Clink 9 in the Can, Part I

Well, CITC9 has in a number of ways been unlike any CITC that preceded it.

First, I was approached by Robert C. “Uncle Bob” Martin, of Agile Manifesto and Clean Code fame, about when our next Coding in the Clink and PrizCon events would be.  His schedule didn’t work with PrizCon 2014, but it did work out for CITC9.  He said he wanted to come see what we were doing.  (This didn’t come out of nowhere: the guys inside had already invited him to PrizCon 2013, although as it turned out he couldn’t make it then.)

Less than a month later, it was pretty definitely established that he and his son Micah were going to fly from Chicago IL to Marion OH in Micah’s Piper Archer (low-wing single-engine four-place light plane).

This presented a problem, of course.  How were we to conduct a serious CITC if it became known that Uncle Bob Martin was going to be there?  The place would  be swamped–not with people hoping to pair with prisoners, but with people hoping to pair with the Martins.  That’s not the way CITC is set up.  Outsiders pair with insiders; that’s just the way it is.

So I decided to keep Uncle Bob a secret until we had all the tickets “sold” on the EventBrite site.

This time, we had fifteen prisoners on the roster for CITC, so we needed fifteen outside developers to go in.  I figured I’d add two extra tickets, because we’ve never had too many folks from outside before and I figured probably at least two would cancel at the last minute.  So: seventeen tickets for CITC9.  Or rather, fifteen tickets available on the site, with two secret tickets already “sold” to the Martins.

I was a little surprised at how fast we sold out anyway.  There have been times when we’ve been able to scare up so few outside developers that we’ve had to have all triples instead of pairs: two insiders and one outsider.

But these were the folks who signed up to go.  (They may blog this event, the way I’m doing now. If they do, and I find out about it, I’ll make their names here links to their blog posts.)

  • Chelsey Baker *
  • Tim Butterworth *
  • Amber Conville
  • Michael Cornell
  • Jesse Cox
  • Alyssa Diaz
  • Sherief Gharraph
  • Joel Helbling
  • Jeff Kelley * 
  • Micah Martin
  • Robert Martin
  • Margaret Pearce *
  • Guy Royse
  • Ovi Sofariu
  • Wesley Tarpley
  • George Walters
  • Dan Wiebe

The names in blue are CITC veterans who have been to a number of events.  The name in red is a second-timer who had been to one CITC before.  And the names in orange are brand-new: as far as I knew, these people had never been deeper inside any prison than the visiting room before, and more than likely not even that far.  Names with stars are people I had never heard of before and whom I didn’t solicit, whose names just suddenly showed up on tickets.

As it turned out, three of those starred names–Chelsea, Jeff, and Margaret–were people who were invited by Amber to ride with her down from Michigan.  Tim was invited by Eric Wilson, a CITC veteran who couldn’t make it himself but thought it was worth recommending to one of his coworkers.  So…I invited Amber and Eric, and they invited Chelsea, Tim, Jeff, and Margaret. That makes me feel like some strange kind of a grandfather, or something.  (I’m the regular kind of a grandfather as well, so I know how to recognize the feeling.)

All was well as the day slowly approached, but all began to get a little more dramatic as the arrival became more imminent.

First, the federales decided to apply a federal law to the state of Ohio, which might have the consequence of making it illegal for one of the outside developers, who had himself in the past been a guest of the Governor (so to speak), to go back into prison with us.  Nobody knew for sure how the law was to be interpreted, but outlawing him was certainly one possible interpretation.

Second, Wes, who didn’t have a car, needed a ride to the prison and back, and lived in a part of town that was not geometrically convenient to anyone else who was coming.

Third, Alyssa got the flu and began to wonder whether she’d make it.

Fourth, Guy brought an acute ear infection back from CodeMash.

Fifth, the weather for the weekend of CITC9 began to look uncooperative.  Micah is a VFR pilot, which means that it’s illegal (and unwise and unsafe) for him to fly in clouds, and it was looking like there was a snowstorm shaping up to hit right around the night before (Friday) or the morning of.  The Martins might have to fly commercial instead of private.

And whether they came commercial or private, they’d need transportation, preferably from somebody coming to CITC anyway.  But Port Columbus is some forty miles south of Marion Municipal Airport, so whoever picked them up would need to be flexible.

But things began to work out.

First, the federal law was determined not to apply in this case, so there wasn’t a problem.

Second, Guy almost immediately volunteered to make the geometry work anyway and go get Wes on CITC morning.

Third, Alyssa decided she was getting over the flu and would be able to make an appearance.

Fourth…well, that problem didn’t work out.  The ear infection kept raging.  What if it took Guy out of the game?  Who would go get Wes then?

Fifth, Jesse agreed to sync up with the Martins and make sure they were transported wherever they needed to be transported.

The problems were fewer, but they hadn’t completely disappeared.  Time kept grinding on.

Third, Alyssa decided at the last moment that she wasn’t feeling well enough and didn’t want to infect anybody in a place where as many folks live as closely together as they do in a prison.

Fourth, Ovi agreed to pick Wes up for Guy if Guy’s ear infection kept him out.

Fifth, the Martins decided to take a commercial flight in on Friday night (the weather was horrible, with lots of wind and snow and overcast), and rent a car and drive to Marion to find a hotel rather than make Jesse pick them up, drive them all the way north to Marion, and drive back home again in the blowing snow.

The only fly in this ointment was that the Martins would need to leave the Clink early to be able to catch their return flight back to Chicago.

As things finally worked out, though, Guy defeated the ear infection long enough to bring Wes and come to CITC, Alyssa (hopefully) got enough rest to defeat her flu, and we managed to get the Martins out when they needed to leave, having them miss only one cycle of coding.

Saturday morning was pretty and still, and clear under a high (maybe 8000ft) overcast, and Micah was a little disappointed that he hadn’t waited out the storm in Chicago and flown himself and his father in early Saturday morning, but as it turned out we were beset by another storm as soon as we left the Clink, so his decision was for the best.

I’m fairly sure the leadup to this CITC has been the most dramatic ever, but hopefully we’ve learned some things that will be useful the next time a charter signatory of the Agile Manifesto decides to come.

Here’s Part II.

  1. January 23rd, 2014
  2. August 8th, 2018
  3. December 9th, 2018

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