Hack Day 2010

First, I'll explain the concept of Hack Day for the uninitiated. But I'm far too lazy to do that when I can just cut and paste what is already online at my favorite site to learn stuff, Wikipedia:

... the term became a more generally accepted description of an event where developers, designers and people with ideas gather to build 'cool stuff' ...


The rules and format very depending on taste but for Hack Day at my company, teams have 24 hours (noon to noon) to cobble together working technology and demonstrate its application in 120 seconds. Many will attest that their hack was far easier than presenting it within the two minutes allowed -- leaving little room for system crashes, unrequested system latency, and poor speaking skills.

My team, a melange of awesomeness, steeped deeply in awesome sauce, pulled out all the stops in creating a travel related iPad application. We tied together five, count 'em, five web services using Sinatra, HTTParty, and Hashie in Ruby for every single bit of content in the application. Nothing was hard coded.

I would love to elucidate on just what we created, but after winning the award for 'Most Buzzworthy', we have a nearly 100% chance of seeing some or all of what we built going into production. More to come on that topic later.

I did learn some pretty good lessons and here they are in no particular order:

  • Information Architects MUST be as familiar with all API documentation as your developers. I thought that it was just a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo but if you are counting on content from an API, you must know your source like the back of your Five Finger Death Punch.

  • It is not a great idea to build for a technology or platform you have never developed for when you only have 24 hours. Time time does not allow for both learning curve and development.

  • If you don't have a fairly complete understanding of your concept, you will likely not make it in 24 hours (or any project for that matter).

  • Twenty four hours of diuretics will cause your bladder to hate you.


  • Check out the photo below for what a real all-night design/development party looks like. On second thought, don't look at the photo below. We make all-night Dungeons & Dragons campaigns look cool by comparison.

    The Hive getting its buzz on The Hive getting its buzz on