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IBM Garage - What Could Have Been...

Last month, I had a decision to make: to keep a domain that I wasn't using, or to renew it in hopes that I would - some day - actually use it for the initial intended purpose. I let the domain expire, and with it my hopes for pulling something off that I thought would be one of the most interesting community efforts for any given vendor / platform / technology: IBM Garage (

The idea, which was a take on Discovery Channel's Monster Garage, was to assemble a team of developers and challenge them with a group build-off. Each challenge would follow the essential format of the show: the build team would have 7 days to design, code, and release (to as an open source project) the given build. The entire process, from the initial design to task assignment to coding, would be public and as transparent as possible via livestreamed webinars, various social media posts, and whatever other ways we could come up with to give minute-by-minute updates on where things stood (I liked the idea of "developer diaries", which were ~2 minute vlogs posted throughout the day). The idea here being that other developers could witness the entire lifecycle of the build - which itself would be a huge learning tool for the community!

Successful builds would result in the build team winning (again, like the show) a prize, which is where the sponsors would need to kick in either product or money to support the purchasing of prizes. Failed builds - those not released within the 7 days - would be an important training tool for other developers out there (and, if I know this community, wouldn't stay a "failure" for long as I'd imagine the build team would want to finish what they started).

So why didn't I do it? Simple: Time and availability. In order to make this happen, I'd have to ask each participant to give up a week of their life for the chance to earn... whatever I could put together as a prize to incentivize people beyond "sounds great, I'm in". A week of their life, but it would be a full-time gig for someone to basically produce (and host) the "episodes". I wanted to do one challenge/episode per month, which would mean a potential 12 new projects per year. After a few "seasons", we'd be well on our way to a new Nifty 50!

Few things you might not know about me:

  1. I don't work for IBM, I'm an independent consultant.
  2. If I'm not billing a customer, I'm not making money.
  3. Like Benny from Total Recall...
    No spoilers, please...

If IBM were to hire me to be a full time evangelist, I could pull something like this off... or perhaps not. Perhaps this isn't in line with IBM direction and enterprise sales strategies. Who knows.

All I can tell you is that I had an idea. An idea I shared with a few close friends that thought it was a great idea (and wanted to take part in the builds and/or sponsor the builds), but I just couldn't make it happen.

And every time that domain registration renewed, it was a reminder that I couldn't make it happen.

About the author: Chris Toohey

Thought Leadership, Web & Mobile Application Development, Solutions Integration, Technical Writing & Mentoring

A published developer and webmaster of, Chris Toohey specializes in platform application development, solutions integration, and evangelism of platform capabilities and best practices.

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Except where otherwise noted, by Chris Toohey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.