For those not aware, Hacker Dojos are local groups found in high-tech areas that get many people together and have them code–or learn to code–together. The idea is that you describe your strengths and interests, and the organizer pairs people up to work on projects.
The problem is that some people are fundamentally confused about what this means. It does not mean, for example, that non-technical project managers can come in and find people to implement their ideas while they watch and give feedback on how it should be done.
People like this will face a very predictable situation: they’ll get some play from one or two people the first time they come, for a short amount of time each, and once the group figures out what they are they’ll be ostracized.
Let me clarify. If someone is a project manager who’s tired of needing coders and he comes in after studying the basics for a couple of weeks–with the intention of learning how to code his own app–then saddle up: that’s what these dojos are for.
But if that project manager has no interest whatsoever in becoming technical, and thinks he’s going to find some coder there to make his idea work, that’s going to be a, “No.”
Here’s an example: someone walks into the one I went to earlier and the following dialog ensues:
I have an XML template I want to convert to HTML 5.
What do you mean an XML template?
I don’t know. I think it’s Flash or something.
Cool, so do you have a development background at all?
No, I’m actually here from Hollywood and have some ideas that I need to get done by today, so I need to make some progress here.
Meaning, “I thought you’d be done with this by now. Why are we still talking about what I do and don’t know?”
This is not his fault. He wasn’t being malicious. This is on the organizer. The head of these dojos need to make it very clear that novice coders are more than welcome, but you have to be willing learn the basics before coming, and to plan on getting dirty.
Dojos are not places for “idea people” to come and assign work to hackers. If you’re an organizer, please make this distinction clear. And the next time you see this type of thing happening at a Dojo, take the time to educate the person who’s misguided.
Remember, they haven’t done anything wrong. Just make it clear that this is for people who want to spend weeks/months/years learning this beautiful craft, and that if that’s not their thing then they’re going to be better served by eLance.