geeks gearing up for website olympics

It\’s not often that the geeks get to represent their country in a team sport. That\’s an honour usually reserved for the rugby types, the netballers, and the all-round action stars.

A Code Black!

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But for seven self-confessed computer nerds, the embarrassment of always being picked last in PE is now a distant memory. This group of hand-picked web professionals is currently planning their team tactics for the 24-hour website building competition, FullCodePress, which is also known as the geek Olympics\’.

It\’s the first year of the competition, so organisers have decided to begin with a trans-Tasman clash on August 18. In 2008 there will be a worldwide challenge- to be held in Wellington New Zealand alongside Webstock- the biennial web standards conference.

The 2007 competition pitches a team from New Zealand in a head-to-head battle with a team from Australia. Each team has just 24 hours to design, develop and build a fully-functioning website from scratch. The teams\’ clients will be two non-profit organisations, whose names will be announced the morning of the competition.

Thomas Scovell (Shift), the team\’s project manager, says ‘It\’s certainly a challenge to build a website in only 24 hours. Most sites take weeks, if not months, to complete. Traditionally a website is built in stages, water-falling through the range of roles we have on our team on its way to completion. For FullCodePress we have to approach the process in a much more agile fashion, we\’ll be collaborating and working on parts of the process simultaneously in order to get the end result. It\’s real team work!’

‘I think it\’s a great idea,’ says Steve Dennis (Enlighten), ‘Not only do we get to test our skills in a high-pressure competitive environment, but a couple of charities get a $25,000 website at the end of it, which is pretty cool. The emphasis is on usability and accessibility, which makes the challenge even more interesting.’

‘Our team name, Code Blacks, follows the grand tradition of the All Blacks, Black Caps and Tall Blacks- while also reflecting the web industry\’s notorious appetite for consuming copious quantities of short blacks, long blacks, and whatever other caffeinated beverage is at hand,’ says Peter Johnston (Sorted), the team\’s writer, ‘and as an added geeky extra, our logo features the hexadecimal code for the colour black, styled as Olympic rings.’

Selected from hundreds of applicants, the team represents some of the best and brightest talent within the New Zealand web industry.

Web professionals from across the country were invited to enter, and applicants were whittled down to a Top Three for each discipline. The final selection was done randomly, by picking a name out of a hat for each position. A seventh team member, the Captain\’s Choice\’ was then chosen by the project manager from a list of the top three all-rounders supplied by the organisers.

The selection process for the team has not been without controversy, however. Code Blacks HTML/CSS coder Jeffrey Wegesin (Xero), who hails from the USA, explains: ‘I\’ve been having a bit of a battle on my blog with someone who thinks only New Zealanders should represent the New Zealand team. I pointed out that Joe Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu, and Irene van Dyk might have an opinion on that.’

With six men on the team and only one woman, Alison Green (Shift), who is the team\’s all-rounder, is feeling somewhat outnumbered. ‘I was a bit dismayed when the first six places were announced, and there wasn\’t a single female amongst them- so I\’m honoured to carry the flag for all the webgrrls out there. The web industry does skew somewhat towards the guys, but it\’s generally not 6: 1,’ she laughs.

The competition has attracted overall sponsorship by Google, and the Australian team is also being sponsored by software giant Adobe. The New Zealand team is hopeful of finding a sponsor of their own, because, as programmer Mark Rickerby (Coretxt) explains, ‘it\’s a bit embarrassing that the Aussie team has one and- as yet- we don\’t!’

The Code Blacks are currently working through a range of web design scenarios, figuring out how they are going to achieve a fully-functional website in only 24 hours, and planning what they hope will be a winning strategy. Information architect Zef Fugaz (Provoke) sums up the team\’s attitude: ‘For us this is like a geek version of The Bledisloe Cup. A winning team takes a strong sense of culture, technical competency and clever design- and we\’ll be ready because we know the Aussies need to fill a few gaping holes in their trophy cabinet!’

Competition location and dates:

  • Sydney, Australia- 18/19 August 2007


  • James McGill –   Google Maps Engineer, Google
  • Gian Sampson-Wild – Manager Usability and Accessibility Services, Monash University – Melbourne, Australia
  • Derek Featherstone – Director, FurtherAhead – Canada
  • Matthew Magain – Technical Editor, SitePoint – Melbourne, Australia
  • Matt Voerman – Senior Consultant, Adobe Systems
  • Natasha Hall – User Experience, Trade Me – Wellington, New Zealand
  • Steve Baty – Director, UX Strategy, Red Square- Sydney, Australia

Useful links:

Dear Readers

When I can find the time I’ll be posting updates and photos to this site over the weekend – including some further insights to my user-centred design process. Thanks to Provoke who are sponsoring my time off work (right in the middle of a major project!) and for supplying me with a laptop.


One response to “geeks gearing up for website olympics”

  1. sue Avatar

    oo glad someone is going to blogging the experience
    hopefully with loads of photos on flickr as well?