In this first episode of the monthly Hack Day Review, I’ll give you a background on our Hack Day approach and you’ll get to read about what inspiring things our developers and designers explored on their “paid free time”.
Hack Day - What is it?
It’s our own take on “20% time”, “innovation week”, “personal workshop” and whatever else other companies call it. It’s that marvelous time when the company let us do whatever we want. The time is allocated for a full day and ends with a demo, a day that no-one is allowed to disturb you, you can just turn off e-mail, slack and just get into the zone, focusing on your self and your personal development.
What do people usually do?
The actual work being done on a Hack Day has no real boundaries so people end up doing vastly different things:
- Personal software development projects
- Online courses
- Reading non-fiction books
- POCs of improvements to the MittMedia Platform
- Trying out new and shiny toys
What’s the format?
First we start the day with a morning meeting to check if there are any critical issues that can derail the Hack Day and see if we can handle those later or help out to handle it swiftly together.
- You get all day to do your “hacking”
- You can shut off Instant Messaging, Chats and E-mail for the day
- You can work on anything, not limited to MittMedias products
- At roughly 4pm there is a demo where you outline your learnings and accomplishments during 5 minutes per person or team
- You can work anywhere, coffee shop, train/station or at home, gathering remote people in our Sundsvall main office is encouraged though.
Hack Day Review — February 2017
The field of AI is both deep and broad. To me the core foundation is things we can automate and ways of doing this.
This episode features five AI-related projects:
- Autotagging — One developer tried a brute-force based approach on statistics of our own huge article database and using word stemming to automatically suggest tags to the reporter based on the article text they are writing. It managed to come up with a lot of interesting tags, but sometimes lacking in relevance and specificity. This method in combination with machine learning could probably yield very good results.
- Studying ML — Me myself started a course on Machine Learning to deepen my understanding of my smart colleagues’ work and learn to apply the ML techniques in my day to day job. This in turn caused me to do a small fresh up of my skills in python on codecademy.
- Algorithm hunt — a consultant colleague of ours went on a algorithm hunt for categorization, this also to improve auto-tagging for our news reporters. He ended up trying out k-means, neural networks and decision trees. He suggested to continue trying to combine decision trees and neural networks.
- News Digest — Another of my colleagues worked on his thesis project. A tool for reporters to digest intake of news from different feeds. It’s written partly in Elixir and Ruby. Utilizing the excellent Pheonix and Ruby on Rails frameworks. The tool has a machine learning part where it ranks and hides feeds dependning of how many articles are created from posts or how many irrelevance-marks a feed receives.
MittMedia DMU is participating as a host in this years edition of IGEDay — an effort to stimulate regrowth and diversity in the local tech community — more on this in an upcoming blog post or on the IGEDay site!
- Poster Design, stickers & merch — to get the recruitment posters ready in time two of my colleagues collaborated during Hack Day to finish up a lot of small administrative and creative issues before the rapidly approaching day in april.
- Visualization with D3.js — Two other colleagues worked on understanding and experimenting with the visualization library D3.js.
The critical issues
Sometimes the issues aren’t that critical, but our love for our own products and the pride we put in our performance overweigh the task of thinking about something exciting to hack on.
- IE-bug in the Tipsa service — this is where our love for our products shine. A bug went through the scrutiny applied before release and we wanted to fix it ASAP.
- Broken Harddrive — One of our Jenkins slaves are tasked with building our apps on a Mac Mini, it suffered a harddrive malfunction and needed a new disk and a clean install.
That’s all for this month’s review. Hope you enjoyed this peek into our workday. I’ll be back next month for the next Hack Day Review.