Last week was Verge's second-annual Hack Week, where a few members of our product team invaded the newsroom at higher-than-average levels to collaborate on projects.
Unlike other hackathons that tend to focus on one big project by the end of the week, we shifted ours to be more aligned with the news cycle. We worked on small projects that could be turned around in a day or two. We also put a lot of focus on getting reporters and editors using our suite of interactive tools — from quizzes to image sliders to flowcharts to charts — so we could do hands-on training and identify areas for improvements (bug-fixing!) and small feature requests that benefit all of Vox Media.
Here's a list of the things we did.
Whereabouts Slack bot: This integration for Slack allows users to store their temporary whereabouts and allows other users to retrieve those statuses on demand.
It posts to designated channels as well, providing a live feed of where people are throughout the day. It's basically the away message that Slack is missing. Verge and Recode staff are actively using this bot! We'll be open-sourcing it soon.
Personality quiz: Ok, so we cheated a little on this one because we started it before Hack Week, but we were able to wrap it up and ship it by Day 2. Our personality quiz allows users to choose a series of answers that map to a tailored result.You can see examples of it in the wild on these articles:
- Which RPG should you play this year?
- Choose how you'll die on Mars
- Build your own Google with our interactive Alphabet quiz.
Should I stay through the credits? Find out whether any major movie since 1978 has a post-credits scene.
Quiz (Challenge mode): A timed quiz that pits a Verge staff member against the readers. We've finished making this quiz, but no one has used it yet! Stay tuned to see it in action this week — maybe you'll get to compete against Nilay!
Lana Del Rey lyric connections: This graphic shows the connectivity of common lyrics in Lana Del Rey songs... or something.
Ashley Madison data: An article exploring the data that Ashley Madison collected from its users, following the data dump from the hacked Ashley Madison databases.
Fake birthday generator: The Washington Post analyzed the hacked Ashley Madison data and came to the revelation that one in 12 users had entered their birthday as Jan. 1. The sheer lack of creativity in coming up with a fake birthday prompted us to make a fake birthday generator -- for the next time you create an Ashley Madison account.
Movie script template: This is a features template for scripts. Scripts have a ton of specific, custom formatting. In the future, when we do an article that features a part of a script or if we feature an original script, we'll have a template ready to go.
Best TV Recaps Twitter bot: Engineer Casey Kolderup wanted to collaborate on a Twitter bot with someone who is unable to make one themselves. After landing on the idea of doing something entertainment-related, he paired up with reporter Jamieson Cox to write content about dozens of TV shows that can be used to generate fake TV recap headlines.
Gone fishing: In addition to editors contributing to engineering and design projects, Hack Week is also about engineers and designers writing articles for The Verge. Designer Josh Laincz wrote about the value he's found in disconnecting.
Autotune upgrades: This was a great opportunity to sit next to reporters and editors for a week and watch them use our editorial tools platform, Autotune (it's open-sourced, check it out!). As a result, we were able to file new bugs and dream up workflow improvements with editors. The big things we learned: People don't read instructions, are impatient when it comes to building/previewing a graphic, and save their projects obsessively.
And our reporters used our existing suite of storytelling tools to make a bunch of cool things. For example:
- Randomizer: What amazing feature will the Tesla Model X have?
- Randomizer: Our Alphabet company generator could help you build the next Google
- Flowchart: Which Zayne are you?
- Flowchart: Windows 10 is the end of cloud-free computing
- Image slider: Mars One debates MIT: CEO Bas Lansdorp still doesn’t have a plan to reach the planet
- Randomizer: Can you believe Donald Trump didn't register these scandalous domains?
- Flowchart: Should your company make a smartwatch?
- Randomizer: Meet Project Ara's amazing, top-secret, totally fictitious new phone modules
- Filter chart: Streaming service wars: the battle for original programming, charted
- Quiz: How well do you know Idris Elba?
- Flowchart: How to buy an iPhone in America
- Randomizer: Discover your Star Wars alter-ego in time for The Force Awakens
- Randomizer: What Elon Musk (probably) does on his vacations
- Image slider: How '90s graphics shaped the bleak future of Deus Ex
- Randomizer: If you want to make a meme, you have to break a few journalists
- Flowchart: What song best describes the apocalypse that will kill you?
- Randomizer: A review of every Android phone, past, present and future
- Filter chart: Government secrets, charted
- Multiple choice quiz: Can you ID these wearables?
Any of this sound fun to you? We're hiring for a lot of positions! Apply for one!