Hack Week at Insider Inc: The 10 best moments of the week

We just finished our best Hack Week yet at Insider Inc and I want to tell you about the ten best moments. Some of you may be wondering what exactly Hack Week is? I’ll tell you now, Hack Week is when we pause our current initiatives to brainstorm, collaborate, innovate, and learn new things to develop new innovation concepts in just one week.

This go-around we had a theme: Save Seconds. Our goal was simple: everything we worked on for hack week was specifically designed to save time. It could be something that makes creating a Business Insider story faster, or a feature that makes reading an INSIDER story quicker, or solving for something that developers or writers do that takes up more time that it should. The simple focus was learning how to shave more valuable seconds for us, our users and the universe. Beyond that there were no rules.

We produced some great stuff, had a fun time and learned a ton. It was our best Hack Week in my 4 years at Insider Inc. These were my ten best bits from the week:

1. Pitch Day

We kicked things off with a Pitch Day, inviting the entire company to share ideas or pain points which if built or fixed could save seconds. More than 50 pitches were presented, while we chomped down on 96 slices of pizza. There were loads of big and small ideas that had everyone fired up for the week.

The most tantalizing — though ambitious — idea? A delivery drone that would transport Sweetgreen salads from the 8th floor (where the company has an outpost) the 9th floor where the Product and Tech team sits. Why waste time burning calories walking up and down stairs when a robot could bring you a salad?

2. Kick-Off Stand-Up

We kicked off Hack Week with a department wide stand-up. Everyone got together in our biggest conference room and each person or team revealed what they were working on and how their hack would save seconds. This is always one of the most exciting moments of Hack Week. The very last moment before we get to work and start turning the ideas into reality.

3. Collaboration

It was great walking around the office all week and seeing teams huddled together, having intense discussions and working with new stakeholders. Scrum Masters got to be Product Managers, Product Managers got to be Developers, and everyone found a way to look at issues and our product with a fresh perspective.

4. Accountability

During the week we had three production emergencies that were deftly handled by members of our super accountable tech team. It was great to see people step up and take ownership of some major issues whilst allowing everyone else to keep on hacking.

5. Presentation Day

I’m the Product Owner at Insider Inc. My focus is on what we can build with finite time and resources, I spend every day thinking about what we should and should not be working on. So Hack Week presentation day is always extra exciting — and a bit nerve wracking. The team delivered the best work, ideas, and presentations I had ever seen at the near four years I’ve been working here.

6. Popular Vote Winner

Our popular vote winner was Harry Hope, with his invention, Flamewheel. Harry, a senior leadership member of the team who spent much of Hack Week putting out site issues, somehow found time during Hack Week to create Flamewheel!

A challenge we have at Insider Inc. is that we need a simple way to see how well our stories are doing traffic-wise. So Harry created a real-time, accurate, and simple tool where internal users can simply click a Flame button to get instant analytics about their post. It won the most votes within our department.

Although not the popular vote winner, Harry also made some progress on the Sweetgreen Salad Drone. His “Semi autonomous drone” wowed the crowd despite some sceptics saying it was just a toy remote control car with a day old salad taped to it.

See the sweetgreen salad attached to a remote control car in Harry Hope’s hand.

7. Best Presentation

The winner was 6 Peas In a Podcast. We have some great podcasts — like Success How I Did It! and Household Name — which are produced by the audio team at Insider Inc. However, it is not so easy to find these podcasts. So 6 “peaple” from the team banded together to create a super cool podcast hub. A user can get any podcast they want with a live sticky audio player on the page. The team also put on what was considered the best presentation by showing their product to the world with their very own live recorded podcast.

8. Save Seconds Winner

Cathy Dinsmoor created a tool to help our Insider Picks eCommerce writers. Cathy made a Chrome extension to allow editors to enter a Amazon Product and to receive web-scraped data from Amazon to auto-populate product fields. They then have the option to edit that data before saving. It also auto-generates an affiliate URL associated to our InsiderPicks Amazon account and save that with the product. Pretty cool and certainly something that can save seconds and probably hours of time.

9. Every project was great

We saw everything from Machine Learning story summaries to a tiny CMS fix that Editors have been dreaming of. We had Product Managers coding cool features and teams grouping together with stakeholders to create real products in record time.

10. Putting Hack Week work into production

It has been a few weeks since Hack Week now and we already have a handful of ideas generated from Hack Week now live on Business Insider and INSIDER. The work was tidied up, code reviewed and QA’d to our normal high standards and is now delighting our users and clients out in the world.

If you would like to join our next Hack Week. We are hiring for Engineers, Product Managers, Scrum Masters, Designers and Data Scientists. Learn more about open roles here.