Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hack days

Recently we've been running hack days at Fotango. Every two weeks on a Friday, the entire company "hacks" on new idea or concepts that people are interested in.

The rules are basically :-

  • everyone can be involved who wants to be involved
  • you must have something to show at the end of the day
  • organise yourself how you wish to

The results have been fabulous from new applications (20 questions, mind mapper and others) built in Zimki to gravity games and a guitar hero version of nagios. I'll blog about those on the Fotango and Zimki blog.

Why do this? Well Brendan Dawes gave an excellent talk at Flash on the Beach (FOTB) which incidentally covered the same sort of themes that led us to our conclusion and also one of the reasons behind Zimki.

In order to create you need to take risks with ideas and and you need to experiment. You can only effectively do this within a environment which encourages such experimentation and risk.

We've always encouraged experimentation at Fotango as well as being major supporters of the teams efforts in the open source community.

  • For over four years our systems have used web services at the heart of everything (this started from experimentation)
  • For four years we've been using XP like project methodologies changing them according to our need (this started from experimentation)
  • For around three years our entire intranet has been a wiki (this started from experimentation)

Looking back our use of worth based development, utility charging, virtualised everything, our borg cluster, our build systems and our new product, an entire javascript web application development platform, just to name a few all come from experimentation.

Despite this, until now we have never formalised it as a "core" part of the company - we've understood how essential it is but have always treated this as a peripheral concept.

Not any more.

Innovation comes from experimentation - without it, real innovation doesn't happen.