Review: NorDev Does Just A Minute

just a minute

Following on from the successful Question Time and Room 101-themed events, NorDev held their own technical version of the popular Radio 4 show Just a Minute on 4th June at the King’s Centre. I must admit, I’d never actually listened to the show on the radio before, but I had heard about it and I thought it sounded like an interesting idea for a NorDev event.

Meet the Panel

The panel was chaired by Paul Grenyer and consisted of four contestants: Dom Davis, Sean Clark, Steve Engeldow and Chris Yallop. Vickie Allen and Ben Taylor helped to keep the scores. At the start of the evening, Paul showed us a short YouTube clip of Just a Minute, and then outlined the rules of the game: the four contestants would attempt to speak on a given technical subject for a minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation.

Point Scoring

A contestant could score a point for making a correct challenge against whomever was speaking, while the speaker could gain a point if the challenge was deemed incorrect. However, if a witty interjection amused the audience, even though it was not a correct challenge, both the challenger and speaker could gain a point, at the chairman’s discretion. A player who made a correct challenge could take over the subject for the remainder of the minute, or until he was correctly challenged. The person speaking when the 60 seconds expired also scored a point. An extra point could be awarded whenever a panellist spoke for the entire minute without being challenged, but this did not happen in our case – it was rare for someone to be able to speak for more than 20 seconds or so without being challenged.

Each of the four panellists was given their own buzzer – with its own unique sound effect – that they could use when making a challenge against another speaker.

The proceedings

Dom kicked off the first round with the subject “my favourite programming language” – Java. He was buzzed a few seconds into the talk, and it was then that I realised this game is much more difficult than I expected it to be. Even if just one single word is repeated, you could be buzzed by another player, unless it’s a word that’s on the subject card. So in the first round, for example, it would have been acceptable to say the word “programming” more than once, but not the word “work”.

Each round had its own subject – the other subjects included Twitter, design patterns, my favourite project manager, Linux, why I love my Mac, the tech community in Norwich, what I’d love to see at future NorDev events, why developers suck at sales, and why we need more women in software development.

The most common challenge against a speaker was due to the repetition of a word, and the next most common was for hesitation. Saying “um” or “err” made it very likely that you would be buzzed by another player. Throughout the evening, there was only one buzz for deviation. Dom had a very early lead, and he maintained this to win the game, with 20 points. Sean came second with a score of 14, followed by Steve with 13 points. Chris came last with 6 points.

I found the evening very entertaining. The talks were very interesting so I often felt disappointed when a contestant was buzzed (especially if they were challenged mid-sentence), as it meant we wouldn’t be allowed to hear the rest of what they were planning to say.

The event only lasted about 45 minutes, and the turnout was lower than usual for a NorDev event, but I enjoyed it and it would be good to see another meetup like this sometime in the future.

Words: Victoria Holland

[Photo Credit:  Diamond Geyser]

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