Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Coding With The Stars: Our Second Box Hackathon

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Last Thursday, our HQ was home to the second Box hackathon – 16 hours of non-stop coding where our engineers undertook ambitious projects to build the next transformative Box features, all in one sleep-deprived night. Hackathons are a great way to inspire innovations and bring cool new features to our users. Last time around, our engineers introduced some of the HTML5-based features that eventually became an integral part of Box.

This time, our theme was “Coding With The Stars” which gave us an excuse (as if we needed one) to install a sweet disco ball in our lunch room:

Another notable change we made this time: All Boxers were invited to join and cheer on our rockstar engineers throughout the night.

The hackathon began with a team dinner at 8pm, which gave everyone time to strategize and discuss projects with fellow boxers. At the end of our meal, the Box gong was struck to signal the official start of the hackathon, and after a brief sprint to our desks, we were ready to get to work. While some Boxers began coding away, others worked on projects that included translating Box into other languages, learning MySQL and even installing a (somewhat functional) zip line in the office.

Throughout the night, our engineers remained focused on the task at hand, taking occasional breaks to refuel with pizza and caffeine. Other Boxers (myself included) weren’t entirely successful in making it through the 16-hour stretch without a nap or two. At the end of the night, our team was treated to a breakfast of freshly-made crepes, courtesy of our personal chef (and part-time office manager), Brenda. This helped everyone power-through the last few hours of coding before presentations began at lunch.

When Boxers finally unveiled their projects, we were totally blown away what was accomplished in just 16 hours. Some focused on new ways to experience content on Box, while others worked on behind-the-scenes improvements to make Box even better. Our panel of judges looked at 5 separate categories to recognize all of the different accomplishments of the night. Here are the categories along with the respective winners:

Non-engineering project: Winners were Kenny Mendes and Sarah Lovelace, for documenting the night and making an amazing hackathon video (embedded below).
Most Entertaining presentation: Hieu Nguyen and David Tong managed to snag this award – we’ll just say that our favorite mythical creature was featured prominently in their presentation.
Back-end project: James Lyons and Ben Trombley won for their work in dramatically increasing the efficiency of bulk uploading.
Front-end project: This was a tie between our team in Boston and Tomas Barreto. Our Boston Boxers created a really interesting way to edit documents directly from Box, while Tomas took on the daunting task of making Box more accessible – even when offline.
Aaron Levie’s pick: This went to CJ Windisch for his awesome additions to one of our mobile apps – without getting too specific, he made it possible to manipulate documents in real-time while on the go.

A well-deserved congratulations to all of our winners and participants. The team is especially excited about what these projects mean for Box in the next few months – be sure to keep an eye out for some really cool updates and new features.

While the hackathon was a lot of work (especially the staying-up-all-night part) it was also a ton of fun. I’m already looking forward to our next all-nighter.

Post by Mark Saldaña, Community Manager