If you’re a software developer, few things are more exciting than the opportunity for a good hack (legally, of course!)
What is a “hack?” To an artisan, an expert in her/his craft, a “hack” is a rough cut. In software development, a “hack” is a rough cut of cool functionality created by piecing together bits of hastily written code, integrated with content and functionality from multiple sources, that is far from production-quality. Why is this a good thing? Read on…
In September, a group of Amadeus Boston developers volunteered to collaborate with each other to create a “hack” for the Tnooz THack event in San Francisco. They created an app called “TVote,” which integrated multiple THack API offerings including Amadeus’ Fast Hotel Search, as well publicly available APIs such as Facebook, Google App Engine, Google Web Toolkit, GWT Maps, Yahoo Placefinder, and Geoplugin Currency.
TVote allows a Facebook user to share a list of destinations based on a theme, such as adventure tours, scuba diving, skiing, etc., with a selected group of friends. As each member views the list of possible destinations, the app automatically calculates several flight options from the user’s location to each destination in the list, and selects the same hotel at the destination for all of the friends. Each friend can then vote on their preferred destination(s), and, as the votes are tallied, the app automatically calculates the leading vote-getter. The app also has the capability to select the Fairest Fare (least deviation from the mean) as well as the destination which is most central, based on the points of origin for each interested friend. When the voting period ends, all interested friends receive a notification to accept the winning destination. Once accepted, the users can directly book the trip through the app or can pass it on to travel agents who can then start to get prices for group bookings.
To create TVote, the team worked on their own time, spending 2 consecutive weekends and multiple late week nights in the office designing, coding, and testing feverishly. Why would they do that? Why would they want to be “hackers” for a fortnight?
For the free food? For the fame? Nope.
For the experience… As recapped in some of their own words:
“I got to work with a great group of developers that I don’t normally get to work with. Interesting to work on a different kind of app with different technologies that I wouldn’t necessarily get to use on a day-to-day basis. I thought the App we developed was appropriate for our group as we are all from different countries with friends all over the world. I would do it again.” (John – Java, GWT developer)
“Great experience. Very interesting project… Very professional, responsible, and agile team. Really enjoyed the degree of freedom we were given by the company.” (Kamil – Java, GWT, and mobile app developer)
“As a UX designer, who was invited in the middle of the project development, it was quite a challenge for me to be able to fully understand what we wanted to do in a 20-minute meeting, and to be able to firmly express that my responsibility is NOT just making things prettier. All engineers in this project were very collaborative. They listened to me, and they supported me with their full efforts and compliments. We had a lot of fun working together under such time pressure!” (Rui – UX designer)
“It was an amazing experience to discover new stuff (APIs, dev environments, people)… and great teamwork. The last days generated a lot of adrenaline, thinking of the project day and night. This was a project that I can show to my family, demystifying a bit of my daily work.” (Simon – UI, GWT developer)
“Very interesting and fun experience. Even if it was exhausting to work on weekends, the fact that we were working on a brand new product that we had defined and implemented from scratch was very rewarding. We managed to pull off a functional and very professional-looking prototype of an original idea for something that could very well be a real product.” (Javier – Java developer)
Why would I want a bunch of hackers on my team? What’s in it for my staff? For me? For Amadeus? For our customers?
The infusion of new ideas. The buzz and excitement. The pride. The spirit of innovation. The lessons learned. The energy. The relationships. The new opportunities. The value of stepping outside the box. The benefits of setting the bar high and going above-and-beyond the norm.
I could go on, and on… But let me end by saying “thank you” to the hackers for their herculean efforts and creativity; to the people behind the scenes for their support and teamwork; and to Amadeus for providing the opportunity to participate in these rewarding endeavors. I can’t wait for our next one!