After our May meetup of the Charlotte PowerShell Users Group, one of the members offered an exciting idea: run a single Scripting Games-style event at our next script club.  Normally we use our script club meetups to help each other with PowerShell issues, but many of our group members commented on how much they learned by solving those realistic problems during this year’s Scripting Games, so I thought it would be a worthwhile effort. 

And I was right: not only did we have a blast, but everyone walked away learning something.  In fact, it was such a hit that we’ve decided to run another event at next month’s meetup.

Running the Game

The game started with me laying out the rules:

  1. We will run the game “just like” a real Scripting Games event, except the problem will be smaller and you’ll have to solve it faster.
  2. You may work alone or in a group.
  3. Scripts will be judged by two independent PowerShell smartypants on a 5-point scale.
  4. The script with the highest average rating wins a prize.

Then I presented the game parameters; these were proposed by group member Brian Wilhite.  In order to be rated, the script must do the following:

  1. Query the local computer for all installed software from Microsoft.
  2. Export the software Name, Vendor, and Version into a CSV file in the temp directory of the current user.
  3. The CSV file should not contain any extra type information.

Game players had 30 minutes or so to work on the script.  In true Scripting Games fashion, after 15 minutes a few of the more experienced scripters began to offer guidance to those who needed it.  After about 40 minutes total, members presented their solutions to the group for discussion and rating.

Our two judges for the evening – Brian Wilhite and Ed “Scripting Guy” Wilson – rated each script independently.  After everyone presented their scripts, the winner (member Glenn Hurley) was chosen as the script with the highest average rating.  Thanks to our sponsor SAPIEN, Glenn walked away with a license for PowerShell Studio 2012!

All in all the event took about 2.5 hours to run, which left little time for our regular Script Club activities; however no one seemed to mind.  In fact, they got so much out of it they want to do another game at our next meetup.

What Worked

I think the game was a hit because 95% of our members are at the same level of PowerShell experience: little to none.  The problem was scoped correctly for them, and they walked away from the experience knowing a little more about WMI and filtering.  If they had been a more diverse group it would have been difficult to find a problem that would challenge everyone.

I also like the idea of having the members present their own scripts to the group.  Part of the user group experience is flexing those presentation muscles and putting your neck out in front of your peers in a safe and neutral environment.  Everyone seemed comfortable with it, which made me happy.

What Didn’t

A few things I want to change for next month…

I want to make members “submit” their scripts somehow.  It’s just too tempting to listen to all the critique and change your script before you present it.  Of course no one did that – I’m just thinking ahead to keep things fair.  Nothing fancy, even just emailing their script to me and presenting off of my laptop would work.

Instead of having the judges announce their ratings, I’m going to have them record them silently.  Critique will still be offered of course, since that’s why everyone is there.  But keeping the actual ratings a secret until the end builds suspense, and turns the game into a show. 

Which bring me to…

Where I Want This to Go

Other user groups in Corpus Christi and Arizona are asking about the game (which is why I’m writing this post).  I would *love* it if other groups started doing something similar.  If it catches on we can start adding some formality to the events and turn them into Iron Scripter competitions.  I think there is an opportunity there to foster learning and friendly competition year-round, with special Iron Scripter sessions at local SQL/Sharepoint/PowerShell Saturday events with prizes including the opportunity to claim one-of-a-kind titles like: “Iron Scripter – SQL Saturday #321”.

So, whatcha think interweb?