Joe Kraus, FeedBurner, and others have done a good job of demonstrating the effectiveness of periodic hackathons on inspiring creativity. As a fast-growing company with multiple products and international offices, though, one of the biggest barriers we've faced has not been lack of creativity in and of itself--what we've been missing, in part, is channeling that creativity into features that get released in our products.
And in addition, because we consistently have, on average, at least 10 projects going on, there are a number of niggling issues that have always bothered us about all of our products: small features that we and our customers have always wanted to see; small issues that have bothered us and have made the products less pleasant to use; etc.
So we decided to have a one-day hacking session that we called a Scratchathon--as in, scratching an itch. We stopped the usual project work for a day, and engineers on all of our products spent the day working on features like those described above. The focus for this session was on implementing relatively small features and/or fixes that would have a big impact for ourselves, our customers, and our support staff, and the explicit goal was to quickly channel these features into a product release.
Engineers from all three products (TypePad, Movable Type, and LiveJournal) participated in the Scratchathon, and tonight we've released some of the features that the TypePad engineers built. They'll also be telling you about these features in their own words over the next couple of days on Everything TypePad.
As ever, I'm amazed at the creativity and customer focus that everyone at Six Apart has to offer. That sounds like a pat statement, but it really amazes me--having been the lone engineer on our products for so long--what an amazing team we've assembled to design and build our products.
As an engineer (at heart), I can honestly say that there's nothing more exciting than building a feature that will be used by millions of customers--and there's nothing more satisfying than knowing that that feature is something those customers have wanted for a long time. So I'm really happy about this upcoming TypePad release, and I know every TypePad customer will be, as well. Stay tuned to Everything TypePad for more information about the upcoming features.