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  • April 11th, 2012 Announcements Hacks Create rich media experiences using timed comments By Johannes Wagener

    In the last weeks we got pretty excited about the idea of using timed comments to create and script rich media experiences. Imagine being able to trigger all kinds of visualizations & interactions for a timed comment while playing a track.

    Timed Comments with Media

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  • March 19th, 2012 Hacks 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!

  • February 14th, 2012 Events Hacks SoundCloud at Music Hack Day SF By paulosman

    This past weekend, hundreds of hackers showed up at the TokBox HQ with a mission to build the future of music. The event started with pitches — giving sponsors a chance to show off their APIs — followed by in-depth workshops where attendees could learn more about each platform and ask questions related to their project. Once the hacking time started, people quickly broke off into groups and got to work.

    Room full of Hackers

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  • January 3rd, 2012 Events Hacks Music Hack Day London 2011 By Roel van der Ven

    Last month we attended Music Hack Day London 2011. A special one, Music Hack Day was born in London 3 years ago and we were happy to attend a hack day again in it’s homeland.

    Picture

    For those who do not know of Music Hack Day, it's a great weekend-long event aimed at music and sound hackers. Anyone can attend the event for free, and their goal is to conceptualize and develop innovative hacks of either software or hardware.

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  • December 9th, 2011 Hacks Open Source Stop! Hacker Time. By Alexander Grosse

    At SoundCloud we like to invent new ideas. But we’re not adverse to implementing really great tried and tested ideas like the 20% time concept made famous by Google.

    We’re calling it Hacker Time. We’re still very much in start-up mode so we’re keen to nurture the spirit of hacking. We’ve been testing out Hacker Time for a few weeks now and we’re excited about its potential, from industry-changing initiatives like “Are we playing yet” to unusual passion projects like the “Owl Octave”.

    Why we’re doing it**

    When I arrived at SoundCloud I gathered all the engineers and developers in a room and asked them what they wanted more of. This was one of the top requests:

    Like every other fast-paced tech company out there, the everyday demands of development leave little time for pet projects or invention outside of the roadmap. But we shouldn’t let great ideas slip away: it’s wasteful of talent and it’s frustrating for developers themselves. Hacker Time is an attempt to keep both the ideas and the employees focused on making the product even better.

    I don’t think there’s a single developer at SoundCloud who isn’t a sound creator. Or at least they quickly become one once they’ve joined. We’re a company of electronic music producers, acoustic musicians, field recordists and social sound fanatics. Of course we’re developing the product for 9 million people, but we’re also developing something we want to use ourselves.

    Ironically we’re not trying to invent anything new by initiating Hacker Time. Aside from Google, we’ve been watching the Atlassian experiment and are taking a similar approach; we’ll start with a simple set of rules and adapt to what works best for us. Like Atlassian, we’ll be blogging about our experiences too.

    Which projects are engineers allowed to work on?

    We’ve compiled a list which is not meant to be restrictive but rather should be a guideline:

    • Pet features/improvements that never made it onto the roadmap
    • Apps based on the Soundcloud API
    • Hack Days
    • Anything for SoundCloudLabs.com
    • “this always annoyed me” bug-fixes or architectural improvements
    • Integration of some technology-du-jour with Soundcloud
    • Contributing to OSS used at Soundcloud
    • Other cool projects using SoundCloud
    • Conferences
    • Writing Blog Posts, Technical Articles

    How will time be allocated?

    The big decision is how to allocate time to these projects. We don’t want to cannibalize valuable product development time but we do want to give people as much freedom as possible,

    There are lots of approaches out there – from reserving one day a week, accumulating time to set aside whole weeks or handling that time like vacation. We’ve decided to put the decision-making in the hands of each team, allowing them to allocate Hacker Time according to each team’s workstyle. It’s an experiment, and something we’ll be reviewing in the early stages.

    Demo it!

    We’re pretty disciplined about demoing work to the whole company. Hacker Time projects will be included in the demos (which happen every 2 weeks at SoundCloud), giving developers a chance to showcase their projects and sparking interest in their hacks from everyone in the organization.

    Watch this blog for further reports!

    Many thanks to

    Atlassian for blogging about their experiences

    Simon Stewart from Google

    Jim Webber from Neo4J

    Jan Lehnhardt from Couchbase

    Stefan Roock from it-agile

    for sharing their experiences with us.