The geek Tri-Nations is a game of two halves

Our man inside the Code Blacks reports from the floor of this year’s FullCodePress

Hadyn Green

Photo by FullCodePress

He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.

At sometime around 5am, there’s a wall. And it’s a big one. Later I discovered that I wasn’t the only one who hit it either. But the Code Blacks were rollin’ and nothing was gonna stop us—especially not some minor inconvenience like no sleep.

FullCodePress hit New Zealand for the first time last weekend. It’s called the ‘Geek Olympics’ by some; I personally find this a rather grandiose title and prefer the ‘Geek Tri-nations’.

I’m not much of an outdoorsy person, so FullCodePress was my marathon, my mountain climb. For me, the experience of FullCodePress was amazing.

And I speak as a real rookie. The website we built for Te Hua Rangatahi Trust was the first site I’ve been involved in building. And I think I’m the first Code Black whose job description is simply ‘writer’. I handled the gentle gibes of my teammates about my black, Windows XP laptop—they with their shiny, metal Macs—and happily took my roles as they were handed out.

But of course we were all rookies in some way—being in the Code Blacks is a one-time deal. There are no veterans, there is no long-term rotation policy, and no training camps. So when Julie, our client, assumed that we all worked together because we all got along so well, it was a real compliment.

One table in the room was covered in food; fruit, chocolate, orange juice, biscuits and the facilities for making Vegemite sandwiches. But in all honesty the thing that kept us going was—and I apologise if this sounds clichéd—the amazing feeling we got from knowing that the Trust was constantly amazed by the site.

At one point Julie was talking to me about photos for the trust’s main information page, Our People. After we had picked a nice black and white photo of some of the young leaders, she turned to me and said “I’m so used to writing theses things for funding that are so formal. It’s really nice to see it written in a less formal way that sounds friendly.” That gave me a real buzz because it was exactly what I was trying to do.

The Trust is primarily for Māori youth and this presented some unique issues. For example I had to suddenly polish my very rusty conversational Māori. For Sam, Matt and Mike, it meant macrons and Māori design elements. Julie herself isn’t a fluent speaker of Māori and so we worked closely with her to make sure the Māori we used for page headings and in descriptions was actually saying what she wanted.

FullCodePress was a competition, but it also felt like a school camp at times. I didn’t see much of the Codaroos , who were pretty hard at it most of the time. Team USA ‘raided’ the Australasians at about 1am with a “USA!” chant. The Code Blacks had an impromptu dance party at about 3am. Then an hour or so later there was an arm wrestling contest; the Americans won that convincingly, causing one spectator to say “He must only code with that hand.”

The Code Blacks had the last hurrah though. At the start Matt Buchanan had secured a large speaker from the organisers and during the 24 hours we were playing soft music through it. But in the final half-hour though, Matt and Mike cranked the volume and blasted an 80s rock montage medley through it. It was like Karate Kid, Rocky and Top Gun all mashed into a half-hour.

Some asked why the Americans couldn’t merely compete from New York. But they had to be here. Even though most people followed the competition online, it felt more real having your competitors in the next room and it was really nice to have spectators come and watch us live. I’m not sure how gripping it was to watch six people hunched over their computers, but we loved the support, appreciated the messages and were blown away by the over 360 people who logged in to watch the prizegiving on UStream.

Congratulations to the Codaroos for taking out the top prize and thanks to our competitors Team USA and my amazing Code Black team mates!

In web design as it is in life: He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata (What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people).

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).