Inman Connect Create – An Experiment in Endurance

At this year’s Inman Connect (2009), our team of gunslinger developers were extremely privileged to participate in the first “Connect Create”, which we around the office have dubbed “American Idol for Real Estate Developers”. We loved the idea of competing against our peers and competitors in the real estate space. Seeing similar competitions in the technical world, and their success, helped us come to the conclusion that we had to participate.

The scope of the project was admittedly broad, here was our prompt:

  • You or your team have 48 hours to create an interesting real estate application (during the first two days of Real Estate Connect)
  • You demo your application in front of 1,000 of the most important people in real estate during our Friday general session
  • You wow our judges, win our grand prize, and become an instant real estate rock star

We were instructed that we could not write a single line of code, or design any assets, before the start of the 48 hours. However, we were given a few weeks to mull over ideas and sketch basic wire frames. With our thoughts and plans in hand we headed for SFO via SNA at 3:25pm Tuesday August 4th, T-8:35 from competition start.

After having a relaxing meal my two compatriots and I headed to our hotel suite for a quick power-nap before we started our marathon coding session. Before I continue, let me introduce you to the three of us:

  • Andrew Mattie – Programmer extraordinaire, wrangled our data, slaving over the facts and figures for a majority of our time.
  • Jennifer Orser – Our Designer (of awesomeness!), spent her hours designing the site (in a single proof!) and assets.
  • Jonathan Mabe – (me!) I built the UI (html/javascript) and brought what Jennifer and Andrew produced together.

Just after midnight, with our power-nap begrudgingly complete, our illustrious leader Justin kicked down our door to snap us in gear. I have to admit, for the first few hours I didn’t think we’d be able to complete the project enough for the reveal. Staring at mostly stark-white screens without a lick of code or line of pixels is very daunting. Somehow the three of us progressed through the first night, then the next morning, continuing into that afternoon (with a short break to be introduced at Inman), and still into most of Wednesday evening. Until we each, in turn, took roughly three hours of sleep.



With the first 1/2 (24hrs) of the competition under our belt, and a renewed fervor from being introduced on stage, we took some time to discuss the upcoming final 24hr leg. With a little fear, at bit of trepidation, and a lot of resolve, we continued on into the night.

As we had from the beginning of the competition, breaks would commence every 6 to 8 hours, we’d take walks down to Bread and Cocoa, or just around the block. In between our Caffè Americanos (extra shot!) we would fill in the energy gap with a Rockstar or Monster energy drink (sugar free! we can’t forget the Biggest Loser competition back at the office!). This kind of insanely unhealthful activity produced surprisingly stellar results. The three of us would find ourselves in a “zen” like state, for hours on end, with only the music as our muse. Speaking of music, here are a few choice artists that spurred our creativity (streamed mostly via Pandora, our favorite internet radio):

As the hours wound down, the determination grew stronger. We would plan on sleeping “for an hour or so” in “a few hours”, but needing to get done more and more to complete the project, sleep was definitely a crutch we weren’t prepared to lean on. I would like to say we finished early, but we did not. I would like to say we did everything we set out to do, we did not. We did work down to the wire fitting in every bug-smash, or feature-implementation we could manage. And we ended up with, in our humble opinion, an awesome prize-winning application, Agent Scouting Report.. the future?


The full reveal of our “Experiment in Transparency” will come soon, here on the Diverse Solutions Blog. Stay tuned!