Hackathon I: Raiders of the Lost Title

6/10/2013 0 Comments

What happens when you take all the minds that keep M-GO running and combine their brain power to churn out new ideas that foster creativity and innovation? You get our first ever 24-hour hackathon, of course.
Hackathons, where small teams work closely to solve a real world engineering challenge within a company, are a great way to bring people together, break barriers, strengthen teamwork and give flight to unique ideas from across the entire organization­--from the product folks to the accounts payable crew. Properly designed, hackathons can be more than a good exercise; they can help build a culture that embraces communication, seeks out and invites contributions from employees, and believes that good ideas can come from anywhere.
Our new location in Culver City was the site of our inaugural hackathon, and for our challenge this go-round, we decided to focus it around a very real-world obstacle. We've been rapidly adding a ton of titles to M-GO’s ever-growing library of movies and TV shows. How do we make it even easier, effortless--and perhaps even more fun--for people to find all the good stuff to watch on M-GO from literally thousands and thousands of titles?
Loosely styled around the exploits of Indiana Jones, the theme of our hackathon was: “Raiders of the Lost Title.” (Can’t you hear the opening bars of John Williams' score now?) We provided only a few basic constraints: Teams were to self-form, and had only 24 hours to complete their work. Each team needed to include at least two non-technologists. (In my experience, the most diverse teams that included non-developers often won.) At the end of the allotted time, each team presented their ideas to the judges and the entire company.
Only a few resources were provided, such as links to APIs, and--importantly to many employees, it seems--food and drink throughout. Especially drink. (People had to bring their own mattresses or sleeping bags, though, but as one employee’s rally cry noted, “There’s no sleeping in a hackathon!”)
Teams were judged on a handful of factors, including creativity, launch readiness, and the “X-factor,” defined as “anything that got the judges attention.” There was no shortage of great ideas and creative presentations and, yes, a lot of stuff that got our attention. Of course, if you’re an engineer with a boisterous persona and brains to boot AND you’re willing to put on a cape  to “dance” in front of your colleagues while talking about “Euclidean Distance Matrices,” you should earn more than hoots and cheers.
While there was a prize for the winning team, the real rewards are to be found in the improvements to M-GO that everyone who uses our service will soon benefit from as a direct result of this hackathon. I’m sure we’ll see at least a handful of good ideas live on M-GO in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned as I plan to share more with you in my next post!


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