Here at cloudoki we strongly believe in the added value that comes from giving everybody the tools and means to release their creativity and curiosity, while learning from it. Hacking your way through some idea is a perfect way to pick your brain, in a fast paced chaotic and fun environment.
For these reasons, and much more, the Cloudoki team gets together every Friday and rejoices with it's own HackFriday.
Hack projects can take many shapes and forms, really. Our M.O. regarding ideas is as simple as having a running poll of ideas where anyone, anytime and anywhere can add project ideas. Ideas formed at 4am during the weekend are usually the most interesting ones.
Every HackFriday, teams are built and projects are either assigned or continued, if unfinished.
Like said before, the project ideas spectrum is quite big. From IoT integrations and missile shooting drones to mobile apps to check if the bathroom is taken, anything goes. However, we try to take these aspects into consideration:
Long projects usually don't make good hacking subjects
Sometimes we have a great idea for an app, or a product but we realize it will take quite a few Fridays to implement. Those ideas are usually discarded from the start unless they prove to be incredibly valuable in the end. Why is this? Because one of the core aspects of the HackFridays is it's Hackathon component, the close proximity and involvement in a project one gets out of a coding spree. This tends to fade away if the projects runs for too long. Nothing is new anymore and it feels like everybody is back at a regular day in the office.
Single projects are usually less fun
Sometimes there is no way around it since we have a few running projects with different timelines, and some projects are simply one-man hacks. These can still be quite fun but, ideally, we avoid them. Another one of the core parts of hackathons is it's native team building experience.
Always try to innovate
Hacking something that has already been done is like baking a cake following a very strict recipe. It still counts, it still tastes good, but you will never get that true feeling of accomplishment when you build your own idea.
We know most of the times it's hard to come up with something fun and new at the same time. What we try to do is give some existing idea our own spinoff, thus creating new challenges (being technical or purely conceptual) and branding it with our hacking iron.
Always try to learn something
Fun, team-building and knowledge (and exhaustion) are the materials that make a Hackathon. And we do love that. However, Hackathons can focus 100% on the delivery, sometimes in favor of knowledge. We always avoid that in our HackFridays and we never get hacking unless everyone is learning something out of it. And this is actually the easiest of the steps. It's not that we don't know our stuff, there is just too much other stuff out there.
If you need to build an API for a specific mobile application to track down who has been eating all the cookies out of the company cookie jar, just pick a different programming language or framework to do it. That's it. New walls will popup and you'll feel amazing you climb them.
When building any project, time is of the essence, especially during a HackFriday. To minimize time loss, a battle plan is essential.
Luckily we've covered this whole workflow in a previous article about one of the hackathons we've attended. Checkout it out here.
Keep in mind that during hackathons there may be a slight shift of priorities, namely productivity in favor or knowledge, if we are talking about a hackathon in some sort of competition format.
The Hacking mindset is not something to be taken lightly. It involves a natural aptitude for fast paced development environments, creative thinking and knowing that sweet spot between pragmatism and simply crippling down a feature or product. This mindset kinda comes naturally when you are participating in an event, either kinda or truly competing with fellow hackers. In the everyday office, sometimes it requires for someone to keep reminding people of the correct mindset.
Good news, once you get it, you'll never lose it.
What you get from it
Hacking something, specially if it involves creating your own solution, can always be boiled down to solving a specific problem. This is an awesome skill for your everyday battle against problems without solutions.
Being one with the panic
Knowing how to deal with stress, panic, pressure and still push forward is something short of an art. It will tone everyone's pragmatic approach skills, and harden their shells.
This is, I must say, the most valuable asset you can get out of hacking something, the "I will make it work, somehow" attitude. HackFridays are all about taking challenges and knowing that, in the end, you will succeed. By working with different projects, frameworks and programming languages one gets used to rapidly figuring out what needs to be learnt, what are the problems, and what way one should go to find a solution. This is surprisingly transversal to any challenge we encounter on our working day projects.
To sum it up, HackFridays (and Hackathons) serve it's purpose to level up skills you will need on your daily development job. All of that in a fun and more relaxed environment.