Like a lot of companies, Kickstarter hosts an annual Hack Day. It's a chance for us to experiment — to drop what we're doing and try our hand at projects we've been wanting to undertake but never had the time. As one of our engineers said, "It's like Halloween for nerds."
One of the coolest things about Hack Day is it doesn't have to involve coding. We keep it open, meaning everything from office hacks, to art hacks, to food hacks, to life hacks are encouraged.
For example, while Aaron Suggs worked on creating a location visualization of ~5000 backings to single project (in 71 seconds), Cindy Au made challah bread from scratch. (Someone on Twitter referred to it as "wheathacking.")
Hack Day is all about experimenting. The things we make are built to demo, not necessarily for deploy. While these demos may look good, the actual features are a long way from working well enough to release. In software terms, they're pre-alpha.
Fred Benenson's hack (above) is a good example. Fred spent the day looking at data, and trying to map the connections between backers based on what projects they've backed. Fred's query still needs some tinkering but what he completed in less than 24 hours is pretty cool. It's a good example of something that, with some time and TLC, could one day become part of the profile page.
Mobile developer Brandon Williams used Hack Day to remix an old Hack Day project by Andrew Cornett. Andrew's idea was to celebrate a projects success, by filling the project page with balloons after the project ended. Brandon took Andrew’s idea and ported it over to the Kickstarter App for iPhone. Brandon was so focused on generating "real balloon physics" that he failed to take into account how to remove the balloons from your screen. A few more Hack Days, and who knows, maybe your screen will be covered in balloons.
Not everyone chooses to hack Kickstarter.com, as life hacks have become a big part of Hack Day. Michal Rosenn used Hack Day as a chance to fix a major issue in the office — how do you open the door while holding coffee and a laptop? Michal solved this problem by installing a shelf for you to place your coffee on as you open and close the door.
When your office has a creepy decommissioned elevator shaft, what do you do with it? Shannon Ferguson and Amanda Niu used their interior design skills to swag out the elevator room and transform it into a tropical work environment complete with a lounge chair and astro turf. Office hacks, FTW!
Hacking the office is useful, but so is hacking the applications we use all day. Dan Drabik made a bot that monitors Campfire, a chat client, for some new commands he made. This is very convenient for inserting random .gifs into the conversation. The proof is in the numbers: productivity has slowed by 150% since the bot's introduction.
Zack Sears developed a similar app hack, by building a rails application that took data from Kickstarter and created a leader board that ranked employees by how many projects they backed. There was a clear winner — his name is Tieg Zaharia, and he's backed 1106 projects!
It wouldn't be Hack Day without robots though. Luckily Tieg, Erik Kastner, and Bethany Sumner know a thing or two about building robots, and, well, they built a pair of robots that can draw and paint. If this is the future, we're pretty cool with that!
It wouldn't be hack day if no one made a movie. Thankfully, auteurs-in-residence Cooper Troxell, Niina Pollari and Katherine Pan used Hack Day as a chance to finally create their magnum opus, a film they wrote, shot, edited, and scored in a matter of hours. It's a wild ride, but if you got ten minutes to spare, we invite you to jump into 155 Years, or Klout Atlas.
These are just a few of the projects conceived during the 4th Kickstarter Hack Day. It's amazing to see what people can create in a short period of time. With no rules, the only sure bet is that the results will be interesting. That's what makes Hack Day so great!