Coding In The Woods

This summer, the freshly founded Gofore Glub called Wilderness Glub  started its first trek. A group of 10 enthusiastic hikers set the destination to the Southern Konnevesi national park in Central Finland with a plan to make a hike during the day and stay at a lodge overnight. Apart from hiking and exploring the wilderness, there was another goal – to gather the first experiences of “coding in the woods”. The idea of writing code in the wilderness had been evolving for a while among a few colleagues, and now it was time to put it into practice.

At Gofore we like to encourage our team members to follow their passions so we created Gofore Clubs – or Glubs as we call them. These Glubs are supported by Gofore and we have many thriving Gofore Glubs ranging from cooking to coding, from money bags to mountain biking – and now we also have the Wilderness Glub.

So we loaded our backpacks with a small number of necessities, and a laptop preloaded with material to study the basics of the Elixir language and the trek was ready to begin.

Coding in the woods

The jolly group of hikers

After a walking for a few kilometres, it was time to take our first look at the Elixir language – its a type system and IEx REPL. Making a pleasant change from the office, we took a short break at a campfire site by a lake which gave me the chance to go through the introduction to the Elixir language and start running commands in the IEx. The rest of the group checked their gear and enjoyed a small snack. All preparation for coding proved solid as the necessary material was ready and following the list of instructions was easy. After this short introduction, it was time to continue the hike.

Following the trekking route through a swamp and some old pines, we made it to the top of the Kalajanvuori hill where we took the next pause. Giving vistas to the neighbouring valleys and forests it was a worthy place to stay for a while, and again it was time to pull out the laptop. Sitting on a large rock 60 meters above the lake the next Elixir topics to learn were the operators and the pattern matching. 25 minutes was enough time to gain some insight into the language features.

coding in the woods

Coding on the rock

Now it was time to set out on the way to finish the trek and leave the rocks and Elixir data structures behind. Being on foot in the wilderness of central Finland seemed to help to process the new information. There was time to think on the syntax details while picking the next foothold. We had completed the planned route and were ready to prepare supper in our camp. A member of our group managed to catch a pike from the lake which provided us with some fresh supplements.

In the evening we set off on the lake for a combined fishing trip and Elixir workout. We rowed around a few islands where the focus was moved from oars to Elixir streams. The wind had already steadied giving us good conditions for coding as the lake remained calm.

coding in a boat

Coding on the boat

With a completed Elixir topic and a few fish, it was time to return to the camp and call it a day.

Let’s summarize the day from the view of a software designer.

The pros were:

  • The air was fresh and calm, very nice to breathe – this is the best air conditioning you can get.
  • Plenty of sunlight and space around – eyes feeling relaxed after short breaks of staring into the distance. Also, our vitamin D supplies got fully loaded.
  • Encountering new out-of-the-box people – I got new hints on how to propel mosquitoes.
  • Ergonomy – you won’t get fixed to one position. The changing workstation and a plenty of movement are a sweet treat to office worker’s posture. No worry about having tense muscles at the end of the day.
  • Spotted a cuckoo – don’t remember seeing one before.

Followed by the cons:

  • Mosquitoes stinging hard and drawing your attention. With a laptop on your lap, you’re a sitting duck.
  • Bugs trying to crawl into the laptop – they must find the display and the heat attractive.
  • The battery and the Internet connection – you’re on your own, there’s no one to back you up. You need to plan wisely not to get blocked by an empty battery or a missing connection.
  • Weather – you can’t go out when it’s raining or your hardware gets ruined

So the sun did set and the day was through – what was there to learn from the coding trek? Clearly, coding in the woods requires a good amount of planning beforehand and the weather forecast needs to be followed carefully. On the other hand, the day was an intriguing experience. Breaking the normal routines felt refreshing and the actual method turned out to be valid for learning new programming skills. Fundamentally wilderness and coding appear as two very separate areas. Maybe that is not the whole truth – could this be the way of the 21st-century hunter-gatherer?

This field definitely requires more study, let’s see what the next trip reveals.

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