Hack Days Are Awesome

Earlier this week, we had a “hack day” at work. Or more precisely, two hack days. I think the name is pretty self-explanatory–work on whatever you want, which can be something helpful to or completely unrelated to your currently assigned tasks, as long as it’s something interesting. Now, “hack time” is a pretty established institution in the software world, especially amongst the hip startuppy companies. I’m sure everyone has heard of Google’s “20% time” idea by now, and the story of Microsoft’s Xbox starting as a side-project. Proponents (especially those who are trying to pitch a business case to managers with varying degrees of pointy-haired-ness) cite building camaraderie, stimulating creativity, and increasing morale as some of the biggest benefits.

None of this is news. But I came away this week with a surprising realization. When coding professionally for business use cases, things like resilience and stability are often at the top of the requirement list–Or at least, I’d really hope so. If it’s not, kindly give me the name of your company so I know what stock to not buy ;). To this end, coding is never as simple as just sitting down and banging away at a keyboard. It involves testing, discussions, design, thinking, more testing, more thinking, and so on and so forth.

Don’t get me wrong. These are all very, very good things. But I, at least, was surprised at how nice it was to just sit down and bang away at a keyboard with abandon. It sounds rather obvious in hindsight, but compared to the usual rigorously managed process of software development at work, it’s super liberating to just cowboy out some code with no considerations other than speed and getting the job done. And what’s more, I realized that I had constrained myself to the same careful management in all of my personal projects as well, especially when prototyping out potential MVPs and such. Again–Definitely a good thing, in most cases. But after this week I’m thinking that injecting some “hack day”-ish time into my personal projects is in order, if for no reason other than to let the crazy out.

tl;dr - Hack days are awesome. I should do more of them.