(Administrivia: this is cross-posted to our new WhitePages.com Developer Blog, focused on a engineering and tech ops-centric view of WP. Check it out!)
Like many small tech companies, our dreams are bigger than our staff: we’re always looking for those holes in the work week to try out new technologies, learn a new skill, or build a great prototype. But there’s always one more feature to write or bug to fix, and it’s hard to find the time.
Last week, we found the time. Jan 14-18 was our inaugural Hack Week, where our engineering, IT operations, data, and product design teams dropped their normal workload to build interesting things. Work began on Monday (or earlier), and we went pencils-down on Friday 2pm, for a series of 5-minute talks on each project, plus beer, carrots (not in the beer), and some weird chip-like things with a sour-cream-heavy dip.
We ended up with 30 projects, teams ranging from 1 to 7 in size, including
- Porting features of the Smalltalk debugger to Perl
- Using our geographic data to draw different kinds of maps – too bad the Zillow neighborhood data didn’t become available until midweek
- Testing managing our code base with Subversion, Fisheye, and Crucible (yes, we’re still a cvs shop…)
- Building bootable Windows CDs with core backup, recovery, and virus scanning tools for our install base (until we get everyone on MacBooks, anyway)
And a host of things we can’t talk about just yet. We have at least three projects which will make it out of Hack Week to the Interwebs – more to come on that later.
We had an esteemed judging panel which chose three winners – one from QA, one from Development, one from IT, so a nice mix – and each one received a chumby. I dropped one of the chumbys – seems like it should keep working, but we gave that one to the IT guy just in case.
The overall feedback was quite positive and we’ll be doing it regularly. One engineer did mention that it was “creativity with a gun to your head:” he’s planning his vacation for the same week. Can’t win ‘em all.