Most developers are curious beings. I believe that this is one of our greatest assets. This curiosity lets us try out things we normally wouldn't. It enables us to get out of our comfort zone and dive into the unexplored.
However, doing full-time consultancy work, and balancing that with a social life, often gets in the way of exploring these new territories. I’ve heard countless developers say things like: “Yeah that looks so cool, wish I had more time to try it out!” or “Yes, that is an excellent idea for a side-project, if only I had a little more spare time.”
So, about a year ago, we introduced “Adventure Time” at Firmhouse. Our version of the 20% percent time policy that many other companies have. Each team member spends twenty percent of his time working on anything that could contribute in any way to Firmhouse. Friday is our adventure-time day. It’s a day where we all work on our side-projects, open-source software or discover new tools/techniques.
Almost daily, we stumble upon cool pieces of tech or think of side-project ideas. Usually these sparks of potentially great stuff would disappear in the big pile of “Things for someday”. Nowadays, this turned into: “YES, this is something we should spend an hour or 2 on this Friday!”.
Many things we learn during adventure time, are things that directly improve the quality of the products we deliver our clients. For example: in the last couple of months, we’ve learned a lot about building hybrid apps with iOS and Android.
Other than learning new things, we also use our adventure time to "scratch our own itches". One of our oldest itches is setting up servers for our Rails apps, so we’ve built intercity-next during adventure time. Another itch for us was having to set up a back-end with admin/e-mails/backups for simple landing pages, this is why we’ve shipped Formbox.
Most recently, we've created a Pokémon Go launch tracker in Adventure Time: IsPokemonGoAvailableYet.com. This project uses both Intercity as Formbox and served over 1.5 million pageviews in the last 7 days! We'll write more about this in our next blog!
In general, our adventure time inspires, motivates and produces. However, we did learn that we need focus to make sure it remains like that. The liberal setup (do anything you like) also makes it easy to plan 100 things and end up doing nothing substantial. We’ve learned to pick a primary goal and try to really achieve something by the end of the day that’s worth sharing with the team.
Also, does this sound like something you’d want to be doing 20% of your time? We’re currently looking for a Front-end developer.