Let the Hacking continue

Hack days have been a quarterly tradition at Yahoo! for over four years, and the 2010 Summer Hack Day came and went a couple of weeks ago. I was eager to drink in the experience of my first Hack Day. It was Chief Product Officer Blake Irving's first time as a judge at a Hack Day as well, and he was excited enough to tweet about it (@Blakei).

Our internal Hack Days are opportunities for all Yahoos (regardless of title or day job) to build software that can be taken from idea to working prototype in 24 hours. Summer Hack Day saw over 5 dozen hacks registered and demoed at the judging event on Day 2.

Summer Hack 2010 demos and judging

These rapid prototypes often pave the way for bigger and better things. The right hacks make their way into production. For example, the winning Search Slideshows hack from February's Winter Hack Day has been live for several weeks now – you’ve probably seen it in the News slides. A winning hack from Spring Hack Day will be going into final testing soon.

Rules and stuff

Hackers aren't afraid to bend, break, or ignore the rules, bearing in mind the spirit of the event and respect for fellow hackers. So the rules are few and basic:

  • Build something that can be taken from idea to working prototype in one day.
  • Be ready to show off your hacks to your fellow Yahoos and special judges. You only get 90 bleary-eyed seconds before the hackmeisters starts turning up the music!
  • Have Fun. Really! Not having fun is against the rules.

There are judges and awards, but the real rewards are the hacking itself, presenting the results to fellow Yahoos, and getting those hacks to make a difference in our products and our company.

Patents

Quite a few hacks from Hack Day have gone on to become real patented ideas.

Yahoo! has fancy lawyers who do all the complicated paperwork for the hackers, and they attend Hack Day to scout out potential patents.

Share your stories

The enthusiasm and levels of smarts of the presenters, excitement of the audience, and executive support of the Hack Day showed me that hacker culture is alive and well at Yahoo! We encourage all our developers on YDN to share their YDN technology hack stories with us via this blog. Add a comment to this blog, and we'll get the ball rolling.