Sunday, October 1, 2006

Yahoo Open Hack Day: Hell Yes!

Well, that worked. :-)

As has been widely reported around the blogosphere, this weekend we pulled off Yahoo's first Open Hack Day.

The event was successful on so many levels it's hard to convey the way I feel. I will leave it to Chad, who deserves the credit for the event, to offer the official recounting. Beginning to thank people leads down a slippery slope, but I also want to call out Kiersten Hollars. Kiersten is purportedly in PR, but she basically ran point on just about every aspect of this event. Kiersten got almost no time in front of the spotlight, and my guess is that very few hackers who were there would even know who she is... But I assure you that the event could not have happened without her. Anyway, here are a few things that struck me...

  • The Developer Day trainings on Friday were incredible. The fact that Yahoo is offering its services (but in particular the YUI Libraries) to the world and getting our best and brightest on stage to offer their wisdom gratis is so cool. But here's someone who said it better than I possibly could:

    I attended yesterday’s workshops and was really blown away. Yahoo! is the shit. Seriously, where else can you get the downlow on PHP from the guy who wrote it, sit next to the person who started Flickr as you learn how to hack the Flickr API, and get a tutorial on the Yahoo UI platform library from the people who designed them and then rock out to a private Beck concert, replete with a live puppet show? Punk. Rock.

  • The event had the unanticipated but delightful effect of accelerating the release of a flurry of Yahoo API's. In the last week BBAuth, Photos, Flickr, Upcoming, Mail, etc. That is very cool.

  • Crowd at YahooFuckin' Beck! Beck totally got it. As far as I know, Beck isn't really on the "corporate event" circuit (to wit he headlined Shoreline's Download Festival on Saturday) and is probably peaking right now in terms of his popularity. (BTW I love the photo at left that combines the concert/corporate atmosphere.) The fact that he agreed to do this is a testament to the fact that he "gets it". The Beck show itself was filled with hackerly goodness (the meta-brilliance of the puppetshow projected behind the band, the on stage dinner party, etc.) After the show Beck took the time to walk around, check out the Hacks, interact with some hackers, etc. Beck (and his very cool band) were nothing but gracious and engaged. It was perfect.

  • Heather rocks Matt to sleepThe Open Hack Day logo. This was another labor of love, executed under tremendous pressure (t-shirts didn't arrive until the day of the event.) I think it's perfect. A visual pun - hacking code. Beck's folks loved it too and took a bunch. Hope they sport them!

  • Sleeping HackerThe all-night nature of the event was so cool. It was great to see the tents, but also hackers sleeping on couches, in booths, on the floor, etc. I remember so many all-nighters I pulled in my younger days... I remember being so immersed in code, I'd dream code. I remember tag-team coding sessions with Martin (and John Maeda.) I confess I was not able to pull and all-nighter and actually crashed (in a soft bed) between 1am-5am. Folks like Matt Biddulph stayed up all night, despite Heather's efforts to rock him to sleep...

  • The spontaneous teams that developed. People came from all over the country and many with no idea what they'd be building or who they'd be partnering with. And yet, folks found partners... At least one of these impromptu teams actually won an award.

  • Michael ArringtonMichael Arrington. It is friggin' hard to emcee these events. Mike did it with grace, composure, humor, panache... He lent his voice, his endorsement, his goodwill... Mike's involvement was another moving act of generosity and I'm personally grateful to him. Go read TechCrunch.

  • CrackerThe traditional media that covered the event mostly "got it wrong" but in a really endearing, adorable way. I'm referring mostly to the local television affiliates that sent anchor people in suits and ties and who needed explanations regarding the difference between "hackers" and "crackers." Hilarious. The blogosphere got it 99% right, mostly fueled by the bloggers that were onsite at the event. But there have been a tiny few that have speculated that this was a "Career Fair" in disguise, that it was all about Beck, that it was in some way disingenuous, etc. I could attempt to set the record straight but it's not worth wasting the keystrokes. To understand this event, you had to be there. If sadly you weren't, please take the time to talk to people that were rather than speculating. And not just the Yahoos... Talk to the folks who attended from Google, eBay, Microsoft, Adobe, etc., etc., etc.

  • Probably the best part about this is that we (my team) have the unequivocal support of Yahoo, across the org chart. An event like this doesn't fly under the radar. From the many, many (literally 100s) of folks that sacrificed their weekend to deal with countless last minute tasks (think stuffing welcome packets for 500), to the many teams whose toes we occasionally accidentally stepped on (only to have them turn around and offer unqualified assistance), to the huge support of our executives (Filo and Ash outlasted me on Friday night)... It's been an overwhelming show of support. Kris Tate said it best - we're a family. By the way, Kris's post impressed the hell out of me.

    Ash, Filo and BeckChad and I introduced Filo (who introduced Beck) on Friday night. As I said then... "We're literally hacking Yahoo... [crowd cheers] and now the man who is giving us the axe... Yahoo co-founder David Filo!" We couldn't do something like this without Filo's implicit support... (and since I don't work directly with David, "Filo" is a proxy for the "seniormost levels of Yahoo.) It's my boss Ash Patel that is really directly empowering us with the resource and permission to make these things happen. A special shout out to Jeff Weiner too - I wouldn't be at Yahoo but for his vision.

    The only negative Chad and I have been able to conjure: "This is gonna be hard to top." Good problem to have IMHO. We've already got some ideas :-)