Demola: an inside look

The text is dedicated to the Russian sessions of the Demola project. This information should be considered solely as an attempt to transfer personal experience to future participants, so that they know which rake should not be stepped on. In addition, on the official websites some useful little things are not described, so after reading it you may no longer need to write to the organizer.


You can find enough general information on the net, so we won’t discuss it here. The format and purpose of the project is clear after viewing the local and international sites. As a more detailed and vivid acquaintance, it is useful to visit the VKontakte group. So, you looked at it and you see: a party is planned where you choose an application that is interesting to you and suitable for a set of skills, register, come, with a bunch of active and smart co-commanders (well, other people could not come to such a project) You’re doing something cool, and you may be bought from a development or hired.

To begin with, since the article is by no means an anti-advertising project, I’ll note that if you participate to the end and do something within the framework of the task, you are guaranteed to receive:

  • A deeper acquaintance with the area in which you worked (you will most likely be taken even if you, for example, are a system programmer, but you need to work with graphics unfamiliar to you).
  • You gain valuable teamwork.
  • You will surely meet people useful for communication.

But you certainly noticed that the above is far from everything that our first impressions or expectations implied. How much everything will be rosy depends on many circumstances. Now I’ll tell you what problems can arise on the way to achieving the goal “I came, decided, made a prototype, I was satisfied, I got nishtyak”, and how to try to avoid them.


Already at this stage, if you are not lucky, you can draw conclusions about the possible shortcomings of the system. That is, we think that this is only such a mess for now, but, alas, a mess happens later.

I was interested in the prog task, and I thought: yeah, I have a good friend, a mathematics student, programmer and enthusiast, X and another good friend, a student programmer Y, we have a good understanding of each other's skills and capabilities, we work well together . Gather someone else, let's go and drag. 5 days before the application deadline, we climbed to register. It became apparent that the teams were not selected by the students themselves, only after studying the registration form. Opposite the similar case, the suspicious inscription “the case is closed: the team is completed” was already burning.

The next day, all three received a letter stating that the registration for the case where we applied was already closed, and we were asked to choose another case. We consulted and decided that for sure the three of us did not screw up and the registration was open. I have been talking with the organizer for some time, and in response to my next question I received the phrase “If there are a lot of applications for one project, selection is possible”. That is, from the point of view of a sane person, it seems to me that this phrase means "a lot of applications are submitted, and then the procedure for selecting the necessary candidates is somehow carried out." This means that if the registration for the case before the deadline can somehow be closed, then the appropriate selection has already been carried out, that is, a group of people with a set of skills that the company considers ideal has applied. Nothing was written about such a mechanism, to the question “how do I know if we got into the case or not?” they answered me that everyone would find out everything at the Kick-off meeting (the first meeting of all participants). So, this is some kind of misunderstanding and it is worth writing to orgs.

They answered me that it’s kind of really something strange, and you just have to come and see. There were no guarantees that they would not tell us “guys, I'm sorry, there were already a lot of us here, you’re in flight”, they didn’t give us, they just said that you can go to a different case at the meeting. But in general, we were interested in exactly the problem for which we applied. Moreover, it was not guaranteed that we could work together, because it was said that "demonstratively organizing participation in a case with friends is not encouraged according to the Demola rules", which none of the participants saw throughout the project. For some reason, this did not suit us, and as a result, X and Y scored on this strange event.


Kick off

Here it became clear to me why the organizer could not explain anything. But there are simply no clear means of resolving situations when a lot of applications are submitted to places in one case, doesn’t exist or didn’t exist. In addition to “well, this wasn’t enough space - well, go to other teams, maybe someone needs you” and “there are a lot of us here - let's agree who will leave here.” I suppose that those who closed the registration, seeing that a lot of people came running in, simply did not know what to do, and wrote in panic "the team is complete." There were cases when, after such an action, the required number of people did not come to Kick-off, and people had to drag people from other cases or from the air into the case, or even close them.

In particular, this whole parsley with registration creates much more serious problems, which will be clear later. In the meantime, it is appropriate to say that if you understand well where you want it, do not slow down and register as soon as possible.

Acquaintance with the team and the first stages of work


You are introduced to the case, with the terms of reference, then you need to dial yourself an information base and very clearly understand what you have to do and how to do it. After that, it is finally to distribute the work. Finding a solution is a very important stage, and it needs to be given a lot of attention, but, obviously, crank it up as soon as possible. At this stage, you can already clearly say whether you have problems in the team, and which ones. If almost no one wants to get the necessary information or cannot, it’s time to beware and take action before it’s too late.

Let's understand why this or that person is not involved in the initial stage. Alas, the intuitive “it was impossible for anyone to come to such a project except good people with skills x, y and z” turns out to be completely wrong.

  • A man came into the team completely without any skills she needed or with the necessary, but not related to development. Such people are necessary, but their maximum can be two: a designer (and only if the team really needs it) and a marketer (he is also a presenter).
  • Man does not want to do anything.
  • Everything is fine with a person, he knows and knows something, but priorities are very different. What to do with such a comrade is not at all clear and nothing can be advised here. From bitter experience, get ready for the worst.

Yes, it’s worthwhile to send everyone who belongs to the above categories in a good way. After the screening has occurred, if there are not enough developers, you will have to spend time searching for personnel, but you still have it. That is why it is important to conduct a "showdown" immediately.

Of course, the lack of “ballast” or screening does not guarantee you complete success. I know a team that had everything great with the roster, but they ended up developing the prototype somehow at the last moment. But I want to explain why I consider this behavior model to increase the chances of survival. The fact is that for me the idleness of the team and the lack of developers were the main problems during the project. Believe me, this does not allow you to work normally. My team was understaffed, but there weren’t enough progres. Half didn't come at all. We had two people of type 1, the presenter girl was very smart and did everything that depended on her, the other did not do anything. Another type 2 comrade pretended to be types 1 and 3. There was a person of type 3. He was even going to do something, but circumstances and employment did not allow it.

And you will not make them plow, but just spend time trying to start working together, and finish off one and a half able-bodied hands on the nose with a deadline. That is why we should just try to protect ourselves from working with such people. Because almost all conflicts and problems within themselves should be regulated only by the team itself. That is the system. There are organizers, each team has a facilitator (the person responsible for communication with the customer company) and a non-negative number of consultants (people who help to find the information necessary for research). It is not their responsibility to punish or teach anyone how to live. There are no levers of pressure.

On the issue of registration and the absence of a stage for the selection of participants. It is quite obvious that if a selection was made on a competitive basis with a check of basic skills, then most of the problems described would not have arisen, although there would be many drawbacks. Such a procedure is not supposed to change something here is not in our power. What we can do: pick up a team before Kick-off yourself, as I originally tried. Yes, maybe this is against the concept of the project. Well, then show it to everyone and watch strictly for its observance. I know the case in which it was formally violated. It really had no consequences. Having assembled a team of friends or acquaintances, you save yourself from all the troubles described above.

Useful little things

  • Where does the consultant come from who should help you conduct an educational program? I haven’t heard of problems, but I don’t know at all. It is probably worth taking care of this as quickly as possible.
  • Demola provides collaboration space. Coworking in St. Petersburg is light and comfortable. There is, however, one small drawback: there is a night club above it. Starting at eight o'clock, for lovers of heavy music and lovers of distracting noises, it becomes difficult to work there. When they shot it, they didn’t think a bit about the fact that people have a lot of couples, and they can work most often only in the evening. You will have to take this into account and plan the work schedule accordingly.
    They also told me that in the first month of the first session, the promised premises with free access could not be reached. If this is important to you, you should clarify everything.
  • When I talked about what was happening in my team to a good friend, she told me about it . Plus, the possible principle is "do not participate in k sprints in a row - sorry, not a fighter." Maybe this will solve the problem of people dropping out automatically.

And a few words in the end about cases in general. I did not think about this, but the guys noted that the interest and complexity of the cases is very different. There is no comrade to taste and color, but the difficulty is yes, there are routine such, but necessary tasks. So think about what you want from the project. You feel that you don’t have time to make any tombstone that interests you, but you really want a nishtyak - you have to choose: either a tombstone or nishtyak.

Good luck

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