Today, Facebook is holding its 50th Hackathon, and electronics students would do well to uphold some of the events core principles of creativity and practical problem solving.
The Hackathon is a 24-hour event held across Facebook offices in Silicon Valley, London, New York, Seattle, Boston and Tel Aviv. It brings together hundreds of engineers with a brief to tackle problems that are outside of their normal working areas.
Facebook’s owner, Mark Zuckerberg, believes that setting employees free from the restraints of their usual work is very important. Previous Hackathon’s have led to some impressive functions for the dominant social media site.
Facebook employees first developed chat and video functions at Hackathon events. Hackathon’s gave birth to Facebook notes, an early development platform and the first mobile ads. Highly popular features like Instagram’s Hyperlapse and Facebook’s Safety Check also owe their existence to Hackathon events.
Mr Zuckerberg believes in practical problem solving above all else. In a post on his Facebook page, Zuckerberg explains that they have a saying at the company: “Code wins arguments.”
He continues: “The idea is that you can either debate for a long time about whether something is a good idea or not, or you can just code it and see if you can make it work”.
This ‘hacker attitude’ is part of what makes companies like Facebook and Google so creative and dominant in their respective fields. But the concept doesn’t just apply in computing.
A commonly held misconception about ‘hackers’ is that they are all bedroom computer geeks who spend hours trawling through code in a bid to steal information or generally cause mischief.
A better definition of a hacker is somebody who embodies playful cleverness. A creative attitude goes a long way for hackers, and this can be applied to all sorts of fields from electronics to photography to music and even reality.
One of the more unusual hacker collectives is a group who believe in the creative alteration of IKEA products. IKEA hackers take off the shelf products from one of the world’s biggest furniture and remix them into new odd and wonderful things. Sometimes they alter the products so much that they becomes something completely different.
Adopting the ‘hacker attitude’ on your electronics course will not only help you think more creatively about products and problems, but it should give you real practical experience of fixing or altering products.
These practical and creative skills will not only help you come up with a truly unique project proposal, but they are also highly valued by employers for when you finish your studies.