I arrived at the Financial Times office bright and early. Well, perhaps not so bright (the weather was a little grey!) but certainly early enough. I was greeted, given a visitor’s badge, and without too much delay I was taken up to a conference room on the sixth floor. A number of tables had been set out for groups (and couldn’t be easily moved due to an awfully complicated web of cables along the floor), although many had already arrived and started discussing ideas. It turned out that I had a table all to myself. I was my own group. This wasn’t exactly ideal, so after a welcome speech from Rob Grimshaw (Head of FT.com) I was enveloped by the largest team in attendance – The Reel FT (Members of the Future Technologies team from Pearson).
It transpired that the event was rather larger than I had expected. A team had come from FT Chinese, and yet another from Markit on Demand in Colorado. There were even teams participating via webcam in Bucharest!
The main drive behind the Hackday was to generate ideas that would engage more readers of FT.com, which is to say that they wanted users to visit the site more often, be more inclined to subscribe, and be more likely to renew subscriptions.
A number of ideas had been generated by FT readers to help teams get started, and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) had been provided with which the teams could work. It was also announced that the building would be open 24 hours if anyone wanted to stay overnight, although everyone had left by 11:30PM.
Lunch and dinner were provided on the first day, with the addition of breakfast on the second (along with an earlier start). The food was, as expected, really quite good. I was informed that not all Hackdays provided food and not to the same standard – certainly a good first experience.
“I had an amazing time, there were some really talented people and amazing hacks and it is something I would definitely go to again…My favourite bit was probably the food! No, I’m only joking – My favourite bit was being able to experience how other programmers work and the different languages used for different things but the food was nice as well!” – Richard Phelps
After a couple of days of hard work, everyone was ready to present their hacks. Everyone was aware that it was, in a sense, a competition, but at the same time we all wanted each other’s hack to work and to be excellent. No one was disappointed; the efforts of everyone in the room led to some amazing demonstrations of some fantastic ideas. I have little doubt that the majority of ideas will be working their way into FT.com in the near future.
I have to say that I enjoyed the experience immensely and would love to attend another in the future with a team from Croydon Tech City.