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Big Nerd Ranch Clash of the Coders: Innovation, fun, inspiration


Founded 12 years ago, Atlanta's Big Nerd Ranch is well-known among the Apple developer community as a prime source for corporate and individual training. Created to provide professional services for Apple technologies, its mission has grown to include both contract programming as well as instruction for Android, iOS, HTML 5, Ruby on Rails and Windows 8.

Recently merged with Atlanta's Highgroove Studios, BNR is about to kick off its second Clash of the Coders in-house event. Highgroove was a Ruby-on-Rails studio specializing in building back-ends for apps like Words with Friends.

Clash of the Coders is a private affair, established to allow trainers and developers to take time away from working on other people's solutions and invest in their own creativity.

I was invited to take part in this year's events as an observer and an honorary participant, to explore what goes on behind the doors when Big Nerd shuts down for three days to devote itself to coding mayhem.

It looks like it's going to be a lot of fun, and a lot of hard, intense development. Founder and CEO Aaron Hillegass explains, "We shut the company down and team up so we can do significant amounts of programming in those three days."

For a lot of developers, the ability to work a project from start to end is a precious one. "Programmers who are working for other people can get frustrated when they don't have time to do experiments and push things beyond the demands of the client. We wanted to create space for that deeply satisfying form of creation."

Charles Quinn, Highgroove founder and BNR co-owner adds, "A lot of developers work at being good consultants -- they spend their time doing one part of a system, but there's always a desire there to work on all parts of the system from idea to marketing, seeing that concept all the way through."

"It's really really fun," Hillegass corrects him, "but more importantly we learn a lot. We learn what we're capable of, we learn about these technologies and, most importantly we learn what our employees want to work on."

I'll be checking in throughout this event, to share a little window into the developer world from those who live it.

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