September 24, 2013

I'm On A Boat: A Weekend of Code on the USS Hornet

Helix Swarm

After our fantastic internal hackathon in March in support of Swarm's initial launch, we were psyched to do it again. With Javascript and CSS being ubiqutous these days, the barrier to modifying Swarm is extemely low and so we thought we'd invite the developer community at large to join us for 24 hours to see what they could do with Swarm. Given that we are based in Alameda and given the name of the product, there was only one logical place to hold the hackathon; the Essex class aircraft carrier the USS Hornet based here in Alameda. So this last weekend more than 30 of us piled in to the CPO Ward Room for an evening of code and fun.

Friday started off with the sterotypical food of coder champions; pizza and beer. After an hour of kibtzing on the fantail overlooking San Francisco we went below decks to get to work. For the event we had put together a development environment that was as close to 'just add water' as you can get for a web application with multiple dependecies. Within about an hour all of coders were up and running with their own local Swarm installations. If you want to take a crack at modifying Swarm you will definitely want to grab a copy of it for your own work.

People worked though the night, with the Swarm developers milling about helping people realize their visions. Being a company that is famous for its parties we relied on those skills to keep the energy up as the night wore on. We had headphones for people to use with 3 different stations to choose from, stout and rootbeer floats at midnight on the fantail to get folks up and moving, and when sleep was finally too much there were 30+ sailor bunks to crash out on.

The fruits of our labor were on display on Satuday as an intense storm rolled across the San Francisco bay and over the Hornet. People's modifications ranged from practical to performance art and everything in between. Our parters over at ElectricCloud demoed a seamless integration between their build management tool ElectricCommander and Swarm. Our lead developer from the Office merge tool team built a static analyzer for C++ that pointed out less than optimal code with comments from Chuck Norris. Modifications such as user customizable Javascript/CSS and an image diffing and commenting system were things I immediately wanted to have in the product.

I want to thank everyone who came out and made the event a success and I hope the next time we do this even more of you can join us. If you have thoughts on hackathon themes that would be interesting to you please drop us a line at [email protected] or catch me on Twitter. I'll also be giving a talk online on October 15th on how to modify Swarm and P4V for your needs, and will be lilkely demoing some of these tools. Stay tuned!