The twist was that the dojo was run using Inform 6, which is a domain-specific language for writing text-based adventure games (“You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike…”). this meant that none of the participants were familiar with the language, which forced us to take very small steps rather than quickly hacking together large chunks of code based on experience.
The baby steps thing seemed to work quite well, helped by the strict five minute pair rotations (driver back to audience, navigator to driver, audience member to navigator). Those rotations weren’t quite like the way we used to do it (we never really settled on a fixed policy, and experimented with ping-pong pairing, swapping both people out of the pair at once and increasing timeslots to ten minutes). We also weren’t as strict about banning suggestions and comments from the floor – stopping that seemed to help avoid circular conversations and let the pair get on with coding, although the unusual language may have helped here too. It was very frustrating though when you could see an mistake that was causing compilation errors, but the pair hadn’t seen it yet.
As it turned out we only got about halfway through the tasks we’d been set. It was quite an enjoyable hour and a half, but I’m not sure how much I learned.