Hack Day at Yahoo!

Yesterday (with the help and support of all kinds of people across Yahoo!), I organized and ran the first “Hack Day” for the Search and Marketplace group (Jeremy does a good job of capturing the day). A few weeks ago, I put together an all-volunteer advisory team to decide how we should structure the day. The advisory team included engineers, of course, but we also had solid representation from the UED (user experience design) and product management sides. The advisory team did everything from make Costco runs with me to get “portable geek snacks” to making trips to a local trophy shop to help choose prizes. (In one trip, I was briefly lost with a product manager from Yahoo! Maps — we had a good chuckle over that one.) The help of the advisory team and many others made Hack Day a true grassroots effort.

A Hack Day team contemplatesThroughout the planning, we had a lot of discussion about what the “rules” should be, and we essentially settled on what amounted to no rules. I made sure there was plenty of food and drink throughout the day, but the teams ultimately self-organized and procured their own resources to make things happen during the day. Hacking is about code, without a doubt, but I was equally interested in the organizational hacking that took place throughout the day — teams commandeered conference rooms and turned spaces around the company into hacking war rooms. We kept food and drink in a central place and many people worked there. At the end of the day, anyone with something to show did a 2-minute demo in front of their fellow hackers.

Everyone rose to the occasion. I was absolutely blown away by the sheer number and quality of the hacks that emerged at the end of the day and the teams did a great job with the two-minute limit. The crowd at the end of the day was enthusiastic and boisterous. As hack demos were shown, yells of approval filled the standing-room-only room. The range of hacks was truly mind-boggling — I’m still getting my head around everything that people put together yesterday. One of my weekend tasks (and a really fun one) is running through the hacks again to take a deeper look. I don’t know how to describe it except to say that it’s a privilege and honor to experience and catalog such an incredible burst of hacker creativity. Yahoo! hackers — you ROCK!

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