Hackathon is held twice a year at Tagged, with this year’s Spring Hackathon falling on March 14 (Pi Day!).
This Hackathon brought a lot of interesting projects to the table, which engaged a wide range of technologies. Though Hackathons are typically engineer-focused, we had lots of members from Customer Experience, Recruiting and Accounting join in too.
At 6 p.m., everyone gathered for “the pitch.” Each pitcher got some stage time to convince people why they should join his/her group and build excitement for the idea. It was great to see how the groups formed, with people from different departments joining forces to create teams big and small. After the pitches, dinner was served, and the groups began collaboration – Hackathon was in full swing!
We quickly formed a ‘Hackathon 2012′ HipChat room and were able to exchange information and ideas. (On a day-to-day basis, HipChat also offers a way to ask questions, make jokes and coordinate code pushes with the larger team.)
We were off to a great start, and right away people were able to knock out some quick-turnaround projects. One team quickly made huge time-saving improvements to our internal customer management tool before continuing on with other projects.
One great thing about Hackathon is that people get a chance to make tweaks to tools that might not be top priority at other times. This is the spirit of the Hackathon – getting a chance to work on whatever you want. The power lies with the participants. This can be learning a new technology, building a cutting edge tool, or somehow getting convinced to work on things you never thought you would touch.
At 6 a.m. the following morning, Winter Hackathon came to a close, with the true hackers staying ‘til the end and receiving official Hackathon t-shirts at breakfast.
Teams were then given one to two weeks to put the finishing touches on their projects and get ready for demo day. (Finishing touches include minor tweaks to make the project complete, not major project additions.)
For the demo, we invited the whole company to watch presentations on 15 of the amazing projects (more projects were worked on, but presenting is optional).
Once the demo was over, people got to vote on their favorite projects. And what would a Hackathon be without cool prizes? This year winners were awarded Kindles, Beats by Dre or an ipod.
And now for the winners!
The project that received the Technological Achievement award utilized another work-in-progress tool: Stig. Stig is a new, non-relational, distributed-graph database. The winning team of Viktor Stanchev, Gregory Cole, Lucas Thoresen and Daniel Hood completed a project consisting of a node.js module connecting to Stig to simulate Tagged’s Newsfeed feature.
For the Overall Awesomeness award, one of our interns from the University of Waterloo, Kartik Talwar, made an XMPP based chat bot called ‘Ned,’ which gives out various information such as code review diffs, bug information, the weather, the Tagged lunch and dinner menus, and other interesting information. This bot provides much needed efficiencies and is currently in use here at Tagged.
The award for the Best Product Innovation went to a team calling themselves ‘Big Cash Money,’ consisting of Hai Tran, Chris Stelma and Erik Johannessen. This team updated the ‘Buy Gold’ screen seen on Tagged to have several different options that would be AB tested to see how this would affect purchases.
Hackathon projects are sometimes released to production, which is a great feeling for those who can see their project added to Tagged and pushed to millions of users. At Tagged, we make extensive use of AB testing, and there were a few projects this year that got approved, tested and released with this process. If we see decent analytic metrics for features, only then can it be applied to 100 percent of users.
Tagged’s Spring Hackathon was a success. We saw more people participate than ever before, yielding some awesome products that capitalized on previous frameworks developed at Tagged. We can’t wait for our summer event!
More fun photos on Flickr.
Brandon Mangold and Barrett Cook are Tagged’s Hackathon Chairmen.