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Facebook Programming

Facebook's Hackathons Get a Rethink 49

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the sleep-deprivation-optional dept.
itwbennett writes "They'll still be all-night coding sessions, but starting with this week's 'Project Mayhem' event, there are a few notable changes. First, they're longer — starting at 11 a.m. Thursday and continuing until 2 p.m. Friday. And coding through the night is optional. 'It's like, "let's take this day off to do this, and then if I need to get more done, we can hang out and finish at night,"' said Facebook engineering manager Pedram Keyani, who organizes the hackathons."
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Facebook's Hackathons Get a Rethink

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  • In other news... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Facebook now gets nothing done, and has fallen the way of Myspace.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the next 2 weeks fixing the bugs caused by being sleep-deprived. Seriously what is the point of this? Are people still mentally in high school and think it's super kewl to stay up all night?

  • hackathon? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @07:07PM (#43637165)

    Is this a "hackathon" or a let's work our employees ragged just before the weekend because we know they have no lives outside of our company? The hackathon is a time-honored tradition amongst hobbyists. When done by professionals, it's not cool, it's exploitative.

    • Re:hackathon? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by multiben (1916126) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @07:31PM (#43637257)
      Could not agree more. Where I work this type of thing comes around from time to time. "Show us how passionate you are about programming! Stay all night! We'll shout you pizzas and coffees!" Sure, that sounds worth it. When you start giving me random increases in pay, I'll start doing random amounts of unpaid overtime.
    • Re:hackathon? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @07:48PM (#43637351) Homepage Journal
      The really weird thing is that they bothered to call it Project Mayhem, when it's well-known that Facebook's codebase is a gigantic messy hairball of bewildering PHP.
      • when it's well-known that Facebook's codebase is a gigantic messy hairball of bewildering PHP.

        If true, that's not surprising given the culture of hackathons and all nighters. As a developer who takes pride in quality work, the whole hackathon phenomenon really bugs me because it idolizes practices which have long been known to produce shitty and unmaintainable code. As others have said, hackathons are fine for hobbyists and those who're just having fun, but this is no way for those who call themselves professionals to be writing code that has even the slightest chance of being taken into production.

        • I'm... too tired and/or lazy right now to dig up a proper citation, but it surfaced over a year ago during a protracted conversation about Facebook's recurring strategy of resetting privacy controls every few months to milk their data-mining clients for the sudden boost in available information. The complexity of their codebase was cited an excuse for these changes being accidental.

          But, y'know, "9.3 million lines of PHP and their own interpreter" is damning enough for most people.

    • Re:hackathon? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 05, 2013 @07:51PM (#43637365)

      Hackathons at Facebook are purely optional. Also, everyone's actually encouraged to not hack on something related to their day-time job. So no, it's not exploitative. Just because your day-time job is related to your hobby, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy that hobby as a professional anymore.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Trepidity (597)

        If it's actually optional, why would you join a hackathon run by your employer, when there are so many other hackathons in the Bay Area? Are you some kind of cultist whose entire life, including their off-work hours, revolves around their employer? Why not go to SuperHappyDevHouse rather than a Facebook hackathon?

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by websitebroke (996163)
      Replying to undo accidentally modding 'redundant'. In fact, I totally agree. It sounds like a way to get people excited that they're doing something for a hip new company, not for some cynical rich guy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 05, 2013 @07:10PM (#43637177)

    I do it very occasionally when I am really in the groove and banging out a lot of code and I don't want to stop. Or once or twice when deadlines loomed and there was no other way (I'm a game developer). But all-nighters really wreck my productivity for 1-2 days afterward. I'll be tired and make more mistakes than usual, or just not have the mental energy to do a proper day's work. On the whole it is always A NET LOSS of productivity.

  • I really hope they pay their employees a lot to make up for this kind of abuse.
    • by Trepidity (597)

      The great thing about only hiring from a very specific demographic (sub-30 male engineers with no families) is that they're masochists, so it doesn't take much convincing for them to put up with the abuse! It's the same kind of culture that leads people to think pulling all-nighters doing your engineering degree is a sign of hardcoreness (as opposed to just poor time management).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes. yes they do. Although I wouldn't call it "abuse", it's just a culture where people are very enthusiastic about what they do and genuinely enjoy their work. I interviewed there and I was impressed by how upbeat everyone was. In the end I decided not to join them because I just didn't feel that excited about their product.
      • Yes. yes they do. Although I wouldn't call it "abuse", it's just a culture where people are very enthusiastic about what they do and genuinely enjoy their work.

        I understand that, and I am glad the employees enjoy it. The trap people get into right out of college is they think their current company is the best ever and they won't enjoy any other company. Employers can then take advantage of the situation by underpaying them.

        That is abuse: underpaying your employees just because they enjoy their work. It's ok to enjoy your work and get paid well, too.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        Yes. yes they do. Although I wouldn't call it "abuse", it's just a culture where people are very enthusiastic about what they do and genuinely enjoy their work. I interviewed there and I was impressed by how upbeat everyone was. In the end I decided not to join them because I just didn't feel that excited about their product.

        ehm.

        the fucking hackathon is in the fucking calendar. if the employees were just randomly doing it because they want.. that's another thing. scheduling a day for doing overtime however is something very different from spontaneously wanting to work on the product some extra.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:00AM (#43639525) Homepage

    Facebook has some big problems:

    Social just isn't that big a business. Facebook made only $53 million in profit last year, on $5 billion in revenue. (Way down due to some dumb acquisitions. They did better in 2011.) Despite all the noise it makes, Facebook is small compared to Dell or Google or Microsoft or HP or Oracle. VMware and Adobe have revenue roughly comparable to Facebook.

    Facebook hasn't had that revenue for long, either. Social networks have a short lifespan. AOL, Geocities, Orkut, Friendster, Myspace... the list of once-big social networks is long. It's hard to make money in "social". Blast out too many ads and users leave. That's what killed Myspace.

    Facebook is desperately trying to develop something that will make them cool again, or some way to get people to swallow more ads. All-night hacking sessions probably won't help. They've been acquiring other companies, but that may not help either. Buying Instagram is where their 2012 profits went. Instagram is cool, but not profitable. This year, they bought Hot Studio, a San Francisco design house whose mantra is "build brand loyalty first and ask for payment later". That's so late-1990s first dot-com boom.

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