Ever wonder how Facebook comes up with great ideas like Facebook Chat, the Timeline, or even the ‘like’ button? Periodically (every 6-8 weeks), at the Facebook headquarters in Northern California, developers get together and collaborate for 24 hours at an event called the Facebook Hackathon.
With a little help from catered food and a fridge stocked full of Red Bull, great ideas and some not so great ideas are born. Hackathons have become a staple in Facebook’s culture. According to the article by Kate Freeman, “Facebook Hackathon Could Spark The Next Great Idea,” “there have been about 30 hackathons at Facebook. It gives engineers time to take a break from their daily jobs to work on passion projects.” Engineers are also able to work with people they don’t usually get to work with and share ideas.
Without these idea sharing events, Facebook may not be what it is today. You never know, the next major change to your Facebook profile could come about during the next hackathon.
Read an excerpt from the article.
Past hackathons have resulted in some of the most well-known Facebook features — chat and Timeline, for example. Mike Vernal, director of engineering, said one idea the sprang from a past hackathons was something the team called, “friendship pages.” The pages would house all activity between the user and one friend — things they have in common, photos they’re both in and more — essentially telling the story of their friendship. From that idea another team created a project called, “memories.” “Memories” pulled together a summary of each year, highlighting updates and photos that had the most likes. Sound familiar? This idea was the early version of Timeline.
A crowd gathered in a quad to commence the all-night event. In the center of the outdoor space was a yellow construction crane that seemed out-of-place at the crisp, new college-like campus. There’s a story behind the crane, said Michael Kirkland, communications manager at Facebook who was giving me the tour. The crane was in the lobby of their former office and it was somewhat of a go-to meeting spot since it was so easily identifiable. When they began creating the new campus a little more than one year ago, they also brought the yellow crane, and now it’s a fixture in the quad. That’s just one of the quirky details on Facebook’s very large yet cozy campus.