bol.com employees who came into work on Friday, the 24th of October may have noticed something a little odd: the office gym was full of tables and host to some 30 Development and IT-OPS engineers, all peering at their laptop screens. These colleagues were participating in the 2nd bol.com hackathon, an event in which engineers get to spend the day working on any project they choose. A hackathon is an ideal way to take a break from the daily grind and completely focus on a fun challenge. Either you work on a technical, day job-related problem that you never have time to solve (because of said day job), or it can be completely unrelated to work. The “programmer-speak” for these kinds of projects is “scratching your own itch”: tackling a problem that bothers or motivates you. One of the hackathon participants developed a smartphone-controlled PC game, for instance. Another coded an in-browser, command-line interface that simplifies the adjustment of webshop test parameters. And a third person simply spent the day learning a new programming language.
Some hackathon projects might not sound too serious, but every initiative turns out to have some value for the company. Several project from the first edition in January have made it to production on our site and our latest event once again produced several promising initiatives. Even projects that end up going nowhere are of value: the people who worked on them gained inspiration, new skills or explored new technologies, all of which are (indirectly) beneficial to bol.com.
By all accounts the second hackathon was a success: the projects were interesting, the atmosphere was excellent and (perhaps most important of all) everyone had fun. By the time you read this the final presentations of the projects (a vital part of the hackathon) will have taken place as well. The value of this event for bol.com has been proven beyond any doubt and a third edition will be organised in a few months. However, why should we get to have all the fun by ourselves? We would like to include external developers in our next event, but we’re still working out the details as to how to make that happen. In the mean time, if you have any ideas or questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
(a special thanks to Maarten Dirkse; Software Engineer bol.com)