Team Building With the Development Department

September 11th, 2013 by David Fransen

Spider Bat Monster FightOn the night of Monday, September 9th, the Search Influence Development Department had what turned out to be a truly exhilarating team-building experience. It helped us learn to work better together as a group and, through its recounting here, can hopefully help readers and colleagues get to know their fellow SI Developers a little better.

NOTE: Everything that follows is absolutely true, with no usage of metaphor or hyperbole at any point.

As you may or may not be aware, the city of New Orleans has a fundamental propensity toward unprecedented natural disasters, particularly during the summertime. So it came as little surprise that once again this August, we received word of a looming attack by a giant mutant spider/bat hybrid monster. This year’s monster was named Gerald by meteorologists and, after its formation by way of an unfortunate cooking accident in Honduras, forged a devastating path up through the Gulf of Mexico in late August. By the morning of September 9th, it became clear through both science stuff and the monster’s Twitter feed, that it would reach New Orleans by the next morning.

 

Given Gerald’s evident intention to eat and party a lot, it was immediately clear to the SI Development team that this giant and clearly dangerous creature would be heading straight for the Riverbend area of New Orleans, because that’s how we do. Not wishing to frighten or alarm any of their innocent, loving coworkers, the Development team had to hash out their plan of combat in total silence and secrecy. In fact, the rest of the SI staff will likely have had no idea that any of this happened until reading this blog.

The first thing the Developers knew they needed was time, because that’s what the star of a cheesy 90′s action movie would probably say in this situation. Fortunately, Developer Mattie Kenny is extremely active on the local music and cultural scene, always up on the latest action around town. Using her incomparable presence around the city combined with her acute social media skills, she began blasting Gerald with a wealth of event suggestions and hot spot recommendations in an effort to distract the monster from its primary goal of destroying and/or consuming everyone in the fair city of New Orleans.

As Mattie worked her magic, resident Development team bassists and all around cranky music snobs Leigh Aucoin and David Fransen reached the natural conclusion that the one event no human or mutant in the world could ever turn down would be a rooftop one-on-one electric bass battle. Featuring themselves as the primary challengers, Leigh and David knew the monster would eventually find the opportunity to out-jam them on the roof of an abandoned warehouse building utterly irresistible. It was important, however, to schedule this competition the night before Gerald’s imminent destruction of the city and to make this impromptu bass-off appear as legitimate and official as possible.

Enter one of the Search Influence Development team’s newer additions, WordPress Wizard Macario James. Mac was able to throw together an expertly designed 2013 Mutant Rooftop Bass-Off “OFFICIAL” site in practically no time. Mac configured the site to make use of easily editable home page widgets so that whenever Leigh and David decided to waste another 45 minutes agonizing over who would make up their list of most direct musical influences, either one of them could log in and add yet another obscure post-punk band to the needlessly lengthy list with ease.

Crazy Justin's CorndogsAs soon as Mac had the site’s general functionality in place, the team realized that since Gerald was clearly in midflight but still tweeting, the monster was most likely to be viewing any site it visited on a mobile phone of some sort. Fortunately, SI Developer “Crazy” Justin Scott is an expert with responsive design techniques. Within mere hours, Justin had restyled Mac’s basic site so that all menus, links and the on-site sign-up form were all visible and properly sized for the spider/bat monster’s mobile phone (which they assumed had to be an Android, because monsters). Justin was also kind enough to grant sponsorship for the event through his alternate project Crazy Justin’s Corndog & Meatball Emporium, making for an irresistible competition grand prize of a specialty limited edition Mad Crazy Corndog.

Orchestrating a masterful turn, Mattie began targeting the Bass-Off specifically in many of her online interactions with Gerald. By early afternoon on Monday, September 9th, the team was able to confirm that the monster appeared to be taking the bait.

This kicked the Development team’s preemptive strike program into Phase 2. The plan at this point was to lure the creature into a position of exposure at a high altitude, whereupon it could be immobilized and ultimately destroyed. It appeared at this point that the team would have Gerald where they wanted him, but now they needed to work out how to freeze and then destroy him.

In addition to his innumerable web development skills, Developer Andre Eble is an expert builder and woodworker in his spare time. Given his experience constructing shelving units and tables for use at home, it was only logical that Andre be called upon to build a giant stun gun capable of freezing a giant flying bat/spider monster in its place for exactly 5 minutes and 11 seconds on short notice. As Andre began to systematically reconstruct scrap metal and discarded plywood into a super-freeze raygun, Leigh and David began warming of for the evening’s bass-off.

Understanding that there was no margin for error in timing and execution when it comes to killing giant monsters, Lead Developer Luke Ledet and Developer Evan Rinehart determined that it would be best to automate as much of the latter phase of this plan as possible. The conclusion of the bass battle would trigger the firing of Andre’s super stun gun, which would in turn send a signal to Developer Shane Kretzman, who had been placed in command of actually executing Gerald once he had been immobilized.

No one else really understood what Luke and Evan did exactly, but they both put on rollerblades, typed really quickly, each hand on a different keyboard transmitting to 34 different monitors, each displaying a whole lot of numbers and things moving around all fast and weird while intensely pounding techno music played in the background. So obviously, everyone knew that whatever they were doing was going to work out in the end — against all odds — because that’s just how programming goes.

As stupid as that sounds, it turned out to be true, since everything went exactly according to plan. Gerald showed up to the 2013 Mutant Rooftop Bass-Off with a cheesy, custom 5-string metal bass in tow, just as planned. Even though Leigh and David planned to lose the bass battle just to give Gerald a temporarily distracting sense of dominance and the illusion of victory, they were both pretty impressed with Gerald’s performance. Since he could fly, Gerald was able to do that hover-over-the-audience-and-headbang thing like Michael Anthony from Van Halen but without the complexities of a Jack Daniels-fueled pulley system, which is undeniably sweet.

Anyway, as the monster was arrogantly preening and strutting after its bass battle victory, it, of course, took a bite out of its victory corndog. What it couldn’t have known was that Evan’s programming mastery had made him the first person in history to effectively hack a corndog. Gerald’s celebratory bite of a savory Crazy Justin’s Mad Crazy Corndog triggered Andre’s giant stun gun, freezing the monster in place.

Meanwhile, Luke had configured the stun gun to not only hold its victim within its power for exactly 311 seconds, which was exactly the amount of time required for Shane to receive the expertly automated Code Amber alert sent via chat client. At this point, it was all up to Shane.

Shane-on-dragonNow one thing many don’t know about Search Influence’s newest Development team member is that Shane owns 3 pet dragons. And his dragons aren’t cute Epcot Center dragons with paintbrushes and catchy tunes; they are giant, terrifying Manowar album cover dragons that breathe fire and can totally kill a giant mutant bat/spider monster with no difficulty whatsoever. Right on cue, Shane came swooping from the sky atop a giant dragon, which promptly torched Gerald and melted his stupid bass with its totally superfluous fifth string. After forming a circle and high-fiving each other in slow motion while that Simple Minds song played over speakers no one was ever able to locate, the Development team went and ate a lot of pizza together, as coworkers do.

This potentially difficult situation for the Search Influence Development Department couldn’t have gone more smoothly, and it proved to be an invaluable team-building exercise for everyone involved. Every company has its own particular approach to team building, but if your company has the opportunity to defend its home city from a giant mutant bat/spider monster attack, I know 9 members of the SI team who would strongly suggest you take it!