“Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community, and miracles are bound to happen.” That was the thought process behind National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), according to its website. Starting each year on Nov. 1, NaNoWriMo participants begin the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30.

But why should literary writers have all the fun?

This year, for the first time, writers who prefer to write in code rather than words can participate in a challenge of their own: Progvember.

Andy Still, a computer programmer from the United Kingdom, created Progvember after coming across the NaNoWriMo website.

“What I liked about the NaNoWriMo idea was that it gave me a focus,” he said. “Like a lot of people, I need to have a deadline to work toward, otherwise I never get around to completing things.”

Progvember, like NaNoWriMo, runs from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30. Participants from all around the world can sign up and challenge themselves to create a computer program within a month. It can be an app, a website, a utility, a framework, a programming language or an operating system.

Participants can work alone, collaborate with friends or search the Progvember website for others to work with.

“If you have a project that you need help on, it does aim to provide an environment where you can meet like-minded people looking for a project,” said Still.

The site went live last week and already has more than 70 users registered and more than 50 projects created from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, India, Romania and New Zealand.

Pete Prodoehl, vice president of interactive media for Z2 Marketing in Milwaukee, came across the Progvember challenge through social media.

“I signed up because I like the idea of having a month to focus on one thing,” he said. “It’s a challenge to yourself to push yourself and see what you can do in 30 days.”

Prodoehl plans on working on a project he calls “CameraPi,” a prototype device for an experiment in time-lapse technology (using a Raspberry Pi camera).

“There is a reward in just getting something done in 30 days,” he said. “I believe people get too comfortable in their everyday life; we could all use a challenge now and then.”

And that is exactly the mindset Still had when he created Progvember.  

“I am a strong believer that the entire software development community gets better by individuals learning new technologies and completing new challenges,” he said.

Those interested in Progvember have until the end of the month to register.

On Nov. 30, participants can upload their finished product to the Progvember website and see what other challengers came up with.