The hack day liveblog

By: Tim Blair


  • hackday
  • liveblog

8:58am: And we're about ready to kick things off. Time to rally the troops and give things a proper beginning. Let the hacking commence!

8:37am: The office is filling up, breakfasts are going in to mouths, and there's a good vibe around the office. The project managers are already getting slightly frustrated at people asking them what on earth they're going to be coding, but I'm sure they'll soon get over it.

9:38am: We're officially 38 minutes into the hack day, and already we're starting to see output. There may have been some "pre-event preparation" going on here...

10:29am: That's an hour and a half down, six more to go before the lightning talks. Strangely, it seems quieter around there than normal: people must be focussed. After all there are some incedible(y naff) prizes to be won at the end of the day. Our technical director has been struggling with getting MySQL installed for the past half-hour. Bless.

10:59am: Furrowed brows and a deathly hush throughout the team as the hacks continue.

12:52pm: With less than 4 hours to go, there's a definitely sense of mild panic going through the department. We've had the usual cases of things not installing, machines crashing, bugs appearing and being difficult to track down, gem dependency problems resulting in Rails app downgrade, and more problems I'm sure. But lunch has arrived now, so maybe that'll help settle everyone down.

We've also had the first piece of code open-sourced from the day: it's an extension to the Airbrake gem to also report exceptions to Esty's Statsd statistics aggregator. Although Jim says "I've not actually used it yet, but there are specs so it should work..."

4:17pm: Less than 15 minutes to go and the last touches are being applied to everyone's hacks. Time to push code live and put our reputations on the line! Good news: Barry is no longer installing MySQL...

4:50pm: 6 lightning talks down, and so far 6 successes, including a live demo including one of our moderation team attempting to fool a system trained on our moderation data from the past 6 months. Looks like the system did it's job and caught the scammy messages! Personally I'm a little concerned about our demo, as we're having trouble connecting to Google at the moment!

5:52pm: And we're done. 29 people, 17 talks, one mad rush through the office to find a USB network adapter because the wifi in the meeting room was on the wrong network, and three prizes given out to some very deserving projects:

  • Innovation Award: Michael Mazour for his machine-learning project to try to sniff out scammer messages based on previous moderation history;
  • Founders' Award: Mat Sadler for his "select an area on a map to search" hack, and the accompanying demo of;
  • People's Choice Award: Kris Rabino for building instant notifications of private messages, profile views and so on into the WLD platform using and Node.js.

It's always amazing what people can produce in just a few hours when they're free to just let their imaginations run wild, and there are definitely some ideas that we're going to look at developing further. All in all, it's been a fantastic day. Let's start the countdown until the next one! Maybe we'll go for a 24-hour event next time...

About the Author

Tim Blair

Tim Blair is the systems architect for Venntro, and holds the coveted position of Committer #1 to our WhiteLabelDating platform. He can often be found chasing pieces of plastic around a field for the GB Ultimate team, or charging around the countryside by foot, bike or boat on an adventure race.