Knowledge is the cornerstone of a technically oriented organisation like Procurios. Knowledge concerning the latests trends in PHP-land, responsive design, cluster file-systems and loadbalancing: they all play an important role in the development of our webapplications and the infrastructure these applications are running on. Since knowledge is so important it would be unwise and perhaps even threathening to the business to center knowledge around single persons or small groups of persons. Procurios recognises this and therefore we apply a couple of methods to share knowledge.
The most frequent method of sharing knowledge are department-wide lightningtalk sessions. Our development department has a weekly session where up to four lightningtalks are given. A lightningtalk is a very short presentation on a specific topic you like, want to discuss, get inspired from, etc. Topics are mostly techincally oriented but this is no requirement. We use a format where the presentation has a time-limit of 5 minutes. Afterwards we have the same amount of time for discussion.
Topics that deserve further talk/investigation are handed over to a couple of developers who can come up with a plan or conclusion outside of the lightning talks. Since time is limited, prepared presentations with slides (or speaker-notes) are encouraged to ensure structure and thus a more efficient presentation. Everyone is allowed to simply wing a presentation or rant for 5 minutes if they deem it necessary however. A showcase of topics that passed recently:
- OAuth2 sucks
- We should do (more) open source
- Client side storage
- Lambda calculus
- Smaller modules please
- Symmetrics - an aspect of neat code
- Stack vs. Heap in PHP
- Starcraft 2 is a brilliant game (there is always room for fun :) )
As you can see this is a diverse list of topics and I didn't even cheat to obtain an interesting list ;)
Sometimes you want to share something that simply does not fit into a 5-minute time slot. We also have somewhat regular knowledge nights where anyone who wants to is able to deliver a longer presentation with a maximum of an hour. These are mostly company wide so less technically oriented, but we also have had a couple of development specific knowledge nights. A couple of topics that passed (or will pass):
- How we deliver a customer training
- Scrum (a couple of times, we did a full transition to Scrum in 2012)
- A view on sales
- Lightningtalks (10 talks, no discussion)
- Photoshop and illustrator
- Probase Cluster (our software is called ProBase and operations is slowly migrating this to our own server cluster)
Some things deserve attention. I am a member of our operations team and as written above we're migrating to our own server cluster currently. To share knowledge on the architecture and workings of this cluster we re-built the cluster on smaller scale with the whole operations team present.
All in all I feel that sharing knowledge is extremely important and that the combinations of short, bite-sized inspiration from lightingtalks and time to elaborately talk about a single topic during a longer evening make sharing knowledge fun and successful.