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Adventures in PWA Land Part II: The Back-End

The Triunleasher Tournament

"Eternal glory! That is what awaits the House that wins the Triunleasher Tournament. However, to do this, that House must overcome a number of trials. Trials that demand skill and courage." — Jakubus Dobrandore, introducing the Triunleasher Tournament

A challenge for a fully remote company

When you have a physical office, social interactions are easier. Even if on different projects, (most of the) company members work in one place, often at the same time of the day. Social interactions come naturally.

When you have a virtual office, creating opportunities for social activities becomes a challenge, especially when your team or even the whole company is globally distributed. There is no single time zone you and your colleagues have to stick to, and the 9-5 formula becomes a remnant of the past.

You become the master of your own schedule (to use that freedom, you need to be highly self-disciplined) and can work pretty much whenever you feel most comfortable. Together with your teammates, you progress asynchronously.

That means you not only do not integrate with them in a physical space, very often, there is also a break of several hours, before someone responds to your virtual high five or this hilarious joke you just said.

The freedom that comes with a remote job comes with the risk of developing the "lonely wolf" (sic) feeling.

The fewer people in a project, the greater the chance a member will feel socially neglected.

When that starts to happen amongst your colleagues, what do you do to help them fight it off?

You organize a Tournament.

The Triunleasher Tournament

At X-Team, each developer has a dedicated mentor, who helps them grow professionally and otherwise. We call them Unleashers.

Their Unleasher works with them on a weekly basis to plan goals, further steps, and to motivate and assist them on their path of growth.

Moreover, because developers assigned to each Unleasher very often come from different projects (at X-Team, we build a dedicated, exclusive team of developers for each project), they pretty much make up their own Unleash family...

... or House. Like in Game of Thrones or Harry Potter.

And once every few months, when the stars form an X, the Great Unleash Houses of X-Team stand up for matches.

Give me a challenge, and I will meet it with a pull request

Each House was presented with sets of challenging tasks of diversified difficulty that belonged to various categories, such as Blogging, Crash Courses, Open Source, Community Help, Unleash Paths, etc.

The first House to complete all of them won a $1,000 charity donation and, of course, eternal glory.

The last Tournament had lasted for about two months, and on the day the first House finished their final assignment, the X-Team community had completed 208(!) tasks in total. Not bad for a relatively short period of time and about 50 people engaged in the competition.

Productivity! Productivity everywhere!

Gamification is an important aspect of motivating a community built around growth. If you add a spirit of healthy competition, all of a sudden, you find yourself surrounded by people who not only contribute significant value to regular projects. It turns out that they will also make time and have the will to go an extra mile in the name of self-development... and for the glory of their House.

It is also a fantastic way of not only keeping the morale high but bringing teammates who live on different sides of the planet closer. We have discovered that activities around the Tournament helped to eradicate the "lonely wolf" feeling.

The competition

The rules were simple. Despite the tasks being of varying difficulty, the award for completing each was 10 points. Thanks to such approach, each House had to come up with their own strategy, taking into consideration various skills and talents of its members. One House chose to focus first on tasks that demanded the most time and effort, perhaps to intimidate its opponents with a demonstration of might, while the other team would go for "quick-wins" first, in order to gain a spectacular, leading position on the leaderboard.

Because we use Slack as our virtual office and a place to hang out, each achievement a House would score was announced in the channel dedicated to our Unleash program.

The race was fierce. At the end of almost every week, the leaderboard looked different... A House occupying the 1st position would be knocked off the pedestal, just to win back their place a fortnight later... The whole company was lively involved in the game; even those who chose not to participate were actively cheering on for their favorites.

We did learn a lot about ourselves during that competition — about our strengths and weaknesses; some of us discovered new talents, others got reaffirmed about their old ones. However, first and foremost, we reminded ourselves that in times of dire needs, we always have each other's backs.

The tools

It is not a huge hassle to add bot integrations to your channels if you use Slack, so we have built one with a simple purpose: to count the scores and inform participants about the current state of the leaderboards.

If you want to run a competition in your community, adding a similar piece of software might also turn out to be a good idea; enabling people to compare the scores in real time might trigger additional bits of motivation and a sense of urgency to take action.

The good cause

X-Teamers fought like dev-warriors, but they did not fight only for themselves.

At X-Team, we try to give back. Hence the $1,000 allocated as the prize for the winners has been donated in full to the following charity organizations:

Oh, and since the winners are such nice guys and gals (I am looking at you, House Kubindor (☞゚∀゚)☞ ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ), they have decided to share their reward with the competing Houses! Therefore, even more charities could receive a donation to make our world a better place and help others gain the opportunity to unleash their potential!

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