SoundCloud for Developers

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Backstage Blog March 19th, 2012 Hacker Time Hacker Time – the first 3 months By Alexander Grosse

Over 3 months ago we started the “Hacker Time” initiative (see here) and now it is time for a recap what’s happened so far. From the outset, people outside of the engineering department were very forthcoming in suggesting ideas for Hacker Time projects. While it was great to see so much interest, the essence of Hacker Time is that engineers create the projects that they’re personally motivated to develop. (It’s absolutely key to keep things separate from the general backlog!). Once that clicked, our engineers started initiating and working on their passion projects. Hacker Time has found momentum; currently around 50% of our engineers (who have been in the company longer than 6 months) have a project they are currently working on. These projects range from doing remote online courses to participating in competitions to cool hacks (which sometimes start at “Hack Days” and are then continued within Hacker Time). Some of the highlights are:

  • Instasound lets you record your sounds, apply a range of filters in real time, and instantly share to SoundCloud – video
  • Large Hadron Migrator – a tool to migrate database tables online without downtime
  • HyperSpec – HyperSpec provides a Ruby DSL for testing HTTP APIs from the “outside”
  • Story Wheel lets you record a story around your Instagram pictures and share it on the web as a nostalgic slideshow.
  • Massive Site Map – a ruby gem to build painfree google sitemaps for webpages with millions of pages. Differential updates keep generation time short and reduces load on DB.
  • KDD Cup 2012 – a team of 5 SoundCloud engineers is participating
  • Some engineers are taking online courses from Stanford, e.g. the machine learning online course

We’ve decided not to track the aggregate hours spent on Hacker Time projects, but to leave it to the teams to organize. It’s an approach that’s working well, because it reinforces the spontaneity and informality that this kind of initiative needs in order to be credible.

So what about the 50% of engineers that haven’t yet worked on their own Hacker Time project? Well, no big surprises here, there are two main reasons: Either they feel they have don’t have enough time or they haven’t found a topic yet.

Overall we’ve seen the initial concept successfully initiated and it’s begun to get into full swing. We’re really pleased with the output so far and will have more updates soon – some engineers will present their projects in more detail!