What do you get when you lock 100+ engineers, product managers, designers and other techies in a building for 2 days and ask them to come up with new and creative ways to “unlock the power of our data”? Well, I could tell you, but then I would have to… yeah that’s top secret awesome product roadmap stuff now. (and even redacted)
As an extension to our BV.IO internal tech conference that I recently blogged about, we held an engineering wide Hackathon for everyone in our technical community to go nuts with our data and try to come up with some of the next big ideas for Bazaarvoice. We had over 100 folks participate, form teams of 3, and after 2 days, we had 31 really cool prototypes that they demo’d to the entire company. It was such a great experience to see so many smart and passionate people singularly focused on innovation and building some cool new ideas and value for Bazaarvoice. Here is a quick summary of how things went down:
Tuesday = BV.IO tech conference & speakers, present Hackathon ideas
Wednesday = Form teams & brainstorm
Thursday = Hackathon & XBOX Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tourney
Friday = Pancake breakfast, Hackathon, Demos, Prizes
Saturday = Sleep
We started the hackathon as a continuation of the BV.IO event at the Alamo Drafthouse, where we had anyone with a proposal come on stage and try and sell the idea. Think about it like trying to sell your idea to a group of engineers to come work with you on your startup idea. After we heard all the interesting ideas, everyone went off and self formed teams, and started brainstorming.
On Thursday, we kicked off the Hackathon, and it was eerily quiet in engineering. Everyone split off into small teams and was heads down coding or held up in a breakout room whiteboarding designs. We had tons of food and snacks brought in for breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep everyone energized, and by the end of the day everyone had made some amazing progress and were ready to blow off some steam…and by “blow off”, I mean blow up, and by “steam”, I mean COD:BO2.
We set up 8 portable flat screen monitors and 8 Xbox 360s, and we got our game on. It was so simple and so much fun, I don’t know why we hadn’t done this earlier. It was a huge hit, and we are thinking about how we can keep that set up all the time. Everyone self rated their skill level, and we balanced teams for a round robin Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tournament.
Friday morning, all the managers got together to show our appreciation for the team with pancakes and bacon. I really think there is no better way to show your appreciation than with bacon.
Coding continued throughout the day, and at 3pm it was pencils down, and time for demos. The company filled the All Hands, and it was rapid fire through 31 demos.
The energy was awesome, the ideas were awesome, and the conversations it inspired across the entire company was awesome. After all the teams had demo’d, the company voted, and winners across several categories were selected. We had a few cool prizes for the winners like iPad Minis, Parrot Drones, Rokus, cash money and of course totally custom Lego trophies.
If you haven’t done a full on Hackathon at your company in a while, I highly recommend it. Every time we do it here, I am amazed by the creativity, the innovative ideas and solutions that are created in such a small time. And the ripple effect that happens from that continues for months as the business internalizes the ideas and roadmaps and direction start to change based on those ideas. The key is to not let the ideas die on the vine. Champion them, advocate them, and push them forward, and you too can change the world one authentic conversation at a time.