So, we did a hackathon at work this past week, specifically geared towards front-end engineering. It. was. awesome. For one thing, we got lots of free beer from the people over at Hops and Grain Brewery, their Zoe beer was pretty tasty, and kept me riding the Ballmer Peak for the better part of 2 days.
The intent was to give us all some uninterrupted time to focus on battle-testing ideas or general innovation within the company using a variety of available front-end technologies. We split up into groups, chose our names, chose our topics, and went to work. The company sponsored our meals, and our respective managers (as well as those that sit on high from up above) signed off on the loss of 2 days of productivity for their respective products in the hopes that we could gain something for the company as a whole.
My team didn’t win, but I certainly don’t consider what any of us accomplished in those 2 days to be a loss. Management seemed to be happy enough with the results that we may be able to do other hackathons on a semi-regular basis, every 4 months or so. I got some actual testing done of some of my own theories for how to rearchitect our internal Platform widget library, and we got a lot of groundwork laid on some now partially finished projects that will help us better organize and test our code going forward.
Anybody that’s never participated in anything similar, I would highly recommend doing so. If you can’t find an opportunity to participate in one anywhere, try recommending it to your own bosses, wherever you happen to work. You never know when you might get a receptive ear, and the loss of immediate productivity from allocating company resources to something like this can be far outweighed by the longer-term benefits of some of the things that can come out of a well-executed hackathon. It also gives a good opportunity for employees across product teams to be able to come together and work for a change, which can lead to brainstorming and idea generation that might not otherwise ever be conceived.