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Vax '14 Day 1: So you want to have a hack week

Trei Brundrett kicking off Vax '14
Trei Brundrett kicking off Vax '14
Lauren Rabaino

Vox Product has shipped a lot of things in recent months. This time last year we were boasting about our 3 awesome verticals — now we're repping 7. We built snazzy features for holiday product coverage; supported editorial staffs at E3 and WWDC; and built beautiful apps for fans to follow the Olympics, the World Cup, and all kinds of playoff action. Eater's making its way over to Chorus. We even made an emotionally challenging chat client migration from Campfire to Slack.

Team Product has been crushing that work from across the country, heads-down in our various teams, chatting and Google Hangouting as necessary. But at least once a year we like to get everyone face to face for some good old-fashioned hacking. This is a group of people who thrive on crazy ideas, moving fast, and leaning on each others' strengths to put out the best products possible. We also like to see each other and hang out. Thus, Vax.

The last time we planned a big group trip we only needed to figure out what to do with about 37 people. Yesterday, 64 of us cruised on planes, trains, and automobiles to lovely Philadelphia for Vax '14. It's going to be bigger and hackier than any Vax before it. We have a bunch of new teammates who are experiencing Vox Media for the first time on this week-long retreat. We've got some bold ideas to work on. And we have a putting green.

We'll be documenting the whole week of internet building adventures, so check back to read about everyone's projects and how Day 1 turns out. We've already had our kickoff talk and split everyone into their teams, and dinner is hours away. So for now it's hack, hack, hack.

And, since we realize not everyone is familiar with Vox Product hack weeks, here's a quick Vaxplainer:

1. What is Vax?
Vax is the Vox Media product team's yearly all-hands hack week.

2. Why is it called Vax?
Vox + Hack = Vax

3. What is a hack week?
A hack week is an event that lasts a week where people collaborate intensively on software. We use these opportunities to bring together people who don't typically have a chance to work together, and to give them the opportunity to work on projects or ideas they don't normally get to tackle in the course of their normal day to day.

4. Is this the first Vox Media hack week?
Nah. We've organized 2 other Vax events (the first was in Austin, the second in our DC office), and more recently a week long crazyfest to build Vox.com.

5. Why Philadelphia?

We value giving ourselves a change of environment and physically removing ourselves from the everyday distractions of the office. Because we're working on projects and ideas that are beyond the scope of our typical work, getting away from our normal comfort zones is important. Philadelphia is a great spot between New York and DC, the travel is affordable (we like to take trains), and we have some really awesome space to use with Benjamin's Desk.

Also, cheese stuff.

6. What is "shipping it"?
After many years of clinging to the rocket ship metaphor of product development, we've moved on to ships. Shipping products, specifically. The phrase is most often used as a response to an opened ended question ("What do you think about my proposals?" "Ship it!") or as a passionate call to building action and speaking inaction ("Shut up and ship it!").