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Engineering week 2012 and Hackathon

What do you get when you combine Acquians, BOFs, Drupal, a hackathon, paintball, and bowling? Acquia Engineering week, of course! Two weeks ago, nearly 70 members of the Acquia Engineering, Design, and OCTO teams gathered together for our 3rd annual Engineering week. It"s like an intimate five-day DrupalCon, where many of Acquia"s incredibly talented Drupalists, systems engineers, front-end engineers, automation engineers, writers, designers, and UX specialists gather to learn and have fun together. While the majority of us are based in Acquia"s Burlington, MA headquarters, about a third of us work around the world remotely, from Vancouver to Siberia. Acquia Engineering week is a great way for our distributed teams to meet each other face to face and collaborate in the same physical location. One other side benefit when co-located is it"s possible to hunt all your peeps with toy guns. :) If this sounds like fun, we're hiring!

Acquia Paintball: Try squatting like that for 10 minutes

For engineering week 2012, we had nine all-hands sessions and eighteen BOFs (Birds of Feather sessions) covering a wide range of topics from the Acquia Cloud architecture to learning about the R statistical computation and graphics system to the Graphite monitoring tool. We also had events every night ranging from board games to paintball and a LAN party.


Peter, Gabor, Balazs and Mark plot each other's demise in Saboteur

But the highlight of this awesome week was our first-ever, 24-hour hackathon. We modeled Acquia"s hackathon loosely after Atlassian"s Ship It days to provide an intense 24-hour session of brainstorming, prototyping, time-boxed presentations and demos. Planning for the hackathon started several weeks before the big day, with brainstorming on useful projects that would benefit Acquia, Drupal, or our day to day work. After a bunch of self-organizing, fourteen teams emerged with a problem statement and goal, each between two and five people.
Fourteen hackathon teams, heads down

Here is a few of the hackathon teams and their projects:


Team Arboretum hacks w/Drew, Lisa, Jeff, and Dharmesh (sporting his Engineering week shirt)

On Thursday at 9:00 sharp, we assembled in Acquia"s large training room with our battle plans, and hacked from the morning until the wee hours, fueled by pizza, beer and the buzz of each team"s progress. The next day, when the time was up, each team had three minutes to present 1) The problem they worked on 2) What they achieved, and 3) Next steps to ship the solution.

After each team presented, everyone had a chance to vote for the winning team based on:

  • Usefulness – How much value does this project provide to our customers or to Acquia.
  • "Shippability" – Can we ship this or start using it next week? How much work remains to be done?
  • Technical accomplishment – Did the work address any significant technical problems?
  • Flair – Does the project stand out? Was it presented well?

When the demos were over, it was clear all hackathon participants did breathtaking work and it was going to be hard to choose a winning team. Once real-time voting was complete, the first place prize went to team "Los Javascriptos Gigantes", which included the infamous Owen Loy, Mariano Asselborn, Jesse Beach, James Elliott, and Alejandro Barrios. You can look at the code and try their work in progress by downloading the livefeedback module they posted to Drupal.org.

As you can imagine, the engineering week hackathon was a big hit and we're planning to make this a regular part of Acquia culture. The cross-functional team innovations created were an powerful addition to our regular 'Gardening days' which focus on personal projects that benefit Drupal or Acquia. Of course, most of the time these people are sprinting to build and enhance our products, which make a joy out of building, hosting, and managing Drupal sites. Bottom line: Hackathons and Gardening days provide an outlet and framework for incredible innovations.

BTW, did I mention we're hiring! :)


Irek, Dave, Erica, David, and Andrew witness a spare


Vanessa winds up


The teams survived


Angie takes a break from Paintball domination

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