Hack Days – Broaden the Knowledge

I thought I’d write a bit of a different post this time. Rather than looking at a technology in particular, I thought I would write a post on the idea of hack days. Firstly, you might not know what a hack day is. A hack day is a day to just experiment, find a new technology, or a technology you want to learn more about, and just do a mini, day long project, to learn the technology, and what you can do with it. There are a number of places you see hack days. They can either be organised days in your local city, where anyone is welcome, maybe your local society, but what I’d like to talk about is the benefit of hack days in your workplace.

I work for a Business and IT consultancy as a Bespoke Software Consultant. My job is to develop bespoke software solutions for companies. I believe hack days play an important part in a company like this. We need to provide quality solutions in a wide range of businesses. To do this to the best of our ability, we need to stay up to date with advancements in technologies. One of the best ways to do this is to actually use the technologies and discover the advantages of the new technologies, and where they can be used.

In the last few hack days I have had in my work I’ve looked at many different technologies. This includes a single page application, which actually led to the development of my jQuery templating plugin (link to the github repository), looking into SignalR and WebRTC, and most recently looking at MVC5, Bootstrap 3, and MongoDB (a NOSQL Database). My colleagues have also looked into many varying technologies and possibilities, including using real time web to integrate with hardware (musical instruments), technologies to pair mobile and desktop devices via the web, and looking into distributed computing with javascript and a nodejs backend.

It is clear from the examples above, each of these have potential applications within business. This is by no means a restriction of the hack days we run. There are no restrictions on the technology we look into, but there will always be potential business applications come out of it. Perhaps the most important part of the hack day is the feedback session, where everything we have developed is presented to the entire business. This enables everyone to learn about new technology, and also spot potentials uses for our clients.

This is where the extended benefit to the business lies. Obviously there is a great benefit to developers, getting to learn new technologies, and have days to explore development, and help encourage a passion for it. However further to this, the business as a whole can spot opportunities with new technologies, where they can possible be used, and different sectors can benefit from them. Out of hack days, we often get applications that help our business, but also learn enough to produce seminars on some of the new technologies to business, and hopefully be able to produce some new applications taking advantage of this technology. There are many potential benefits to hack days so I would encourage everyone to take part, whether at work, or organised in your local city, to get the opportunity to explore new technologies, and present it is a fabulous experience.

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