Although I've been to several hack-a-thon events in the community, I had no idea what to expect for our company's first ShipIt Day. When Abe Music and I laid down the first planning document oh so many months ago, little did we know what would come of it.
The biggest joy of the day was seeing people step out of their comfort zones and offer to take on tasks that they've never done before. Whether it was trying their hand at building a UI, or coding a Java servlet, or working on product marketing, they stepped up and tried new things.
Ideas, ideas everywhere
Abe and I were also pleasantly surprised at the number of ideas that were submitted to the wiki page to work on for ShipIt Day. Honestly we expected 3-5 major projects to emerge, and people would gravitate towards those.
We ended up with 14 high quality ideas!
I mean, every single idea was something that could either transform our core product into something amazing, or help customers use our product in novel ways that no one had thought of before.
The two coolest things I learned about today are matrix factorization and tensor factorization, which our team is trying to use in order to infer information in a large data set. The key idea is inference. We already have the ability to show people the important information that exists in their data, but this is an attempt to get information that emerges from their data.
Meaning that you could, given unlimited time and resources, read all of the text in a colossal data set and, if your memory is staggering, remember all of the facts in your data. But no human could possibly ascertain all the loosely connected, possible behaviors, relationships and beliefs by just reading the text.
Beer and pizza
Continuing to use the ideas that Jesse Gray and Brendan Wovchko documented in the Pinch process, it really helps keep people focused on scaling things down to the least amount of work we can do to have a successful demo for tomorrow afternoon.
Everyone is so passionate and exciting about their ideas, that it's easy to go off the rails and increase the scope of your work.
The best reward a developer could ask for
We're not revealing what the big reward is for the winning team just yet, but all I can say is that it is the biggest source of excitement for me.
I honestly can't wait until the voting is over so we can award the winning team.
I'll be posting the results of the demos and further thoughts on how the logistics all worked out, so that if you are planning on starting a ShipIt Day at your company, we can perhaps help ease the process.