If there’s one thing we’ve learned about our Hackathons, it’s that each one yields different results—and this, our third one, is no exception.
Our first ‘thon gave us Pollroll, which is, well, rolling along nicely. Our second one gave us one concept that we’re bringing to Twitter, and another that’s already improved our improved our database-query times by 50X.
This time, organizers Nick McCann and Alisa Barnes raised the stakes yet again. For our Summer 2012 Hackathon, our eighty participants not only hacked products, they also explored ways to improve their presentation skills.
To help teams focus their ideas, this ‘thon had a theme: social media. After all, our users and partners continue to use social media tools. As a business, we’re continually looking for ways to incorporate social media in the work we do. Hence, the desire to come up with ideas that build on our existing offerings.
“I’m really excited to see what we get out of this (Hackathon),” Alisa told me. “I’m expecting it to impact our product roadmap significantly.”
The Art of the Pitch
Not everyone is comfortable with presenting in front of a group, so Eve Chaurand-Fraser, our VP of Business Development and General Counsel, offered our hacker teams “pitch workshops” to hone their skills. “We didn’t want great ideas to slip through the cracks based on the presentation alone — not everyone does this sort of thing for their job,” Eve explained. “I wanted to level the playing field.”
Hacking for the Prize
Thursday’s hacking went on behind closed doors and on the occasional cubicle island. Friday began with presentations from all ten teams. With lunch came the judging, and by 1:30 PM, we had our winner: Team OMGCLICK with an idea that involved a content indexing system and an in-house tool that would let Ask Editors assemble hilarious and/or fascinating content into easily shareable (dare we hope “viral?”) galleries and collections. The victors received iPods and Jamboxes — and trophies, of course. But everyone received experience — in pitching, in product creation and in thinking about social media. Believe us; you’ll see more of that from us in the future.
—Ken Grobe, Ask.com