Hack Week Brings the Heat

Keyboards were on fire in July as Rollers competed in our biannual Hack Week event at NextRoll! 

Our engineering and product teams, and any/all other Rollers interested in participating, took time away from their typical work projects to work on various fun projects. Learn more about our Hack Weeks.

“Hack Week is a great way for Rollers from different teams, departments, and locations to work with one another to create interesting projects,” said Chelsea Thiel-Jones, a senior software engineer at NextRoll who helps host the event. “I love that during this time, anyone can take a week to work with new technologies they haven't had the chance to try during their normal day-to-day.”

Hack Week projects don’t have to be related to NextRoll products, although they can if that’s what hackers what to work on. However, working on product-related projects doesn’t mean they’ll be implemented ultimately.

Out of nearly 30 Hack Week projects, four reigned supreme in our judges' eyes. Here’s a quick look into each of the top hacks!

Best Product Award: Sensus

This team of eight sought embarked on a Hack Week adventure to study social media sentiment analysis and apply it to advertising – a huge focus for NextRoll and our AdRoll and RollWorks platforms. 

“Handling sentiment analysis on data extracted from tweets was something I kept on my personal projects list for the past couple of years but never had the time or opportunity to do it,” said Eurico Nicacio, Security Engineer Contractor. “When HackWeek came, I remembered this idea with a special ‘spice’: using all of this sentiment analysis (that’s where the name Sensus came from) on the Advertising context and under an approach aligned to our company’s environment, products, technologies, and goals.”

“Without a doubt, that is exactly the best part of working on this project: being able to dive into a context that I really wanted for so long and under a productive perspective of delivering something that may be useful for our company,” Eurico added.

Accessibility Award: Better Color and Contrast Accessibility in RollWorks

As our RollWorks platform’s customer base continues to grow, this group identified the opportunity to apply new colors with sufficient contrast to improve the readability and usability of the platform. 

The team added contrast in the typography, buttons, badges, checkboxes, and other features over Hack Week, which may become the platform’s default color scheme in the future. 

“I pitched this project in Hack Week to raise awareness of accessibility in the organization,” said Yujie Zhu, a senior product designer. “Hack Week is a super collaborative experience where we can improve our products with great support from engineers and leadership. It’s rewarding and challenging at the same time, but we were able to find many solutions in a short time, which will help us plan for the future.”

CTO Award: Carabiner Sidecar

This project, “Carabiner Sidecar,” created a service security tool inspired by the well-regarded “Linkerd” service mesh. With this security sidecar, our engineering teams could secure services (and service-to-service communication) without locking into a given stack of technologies, language, or framework. The team hoped it would also free up the resources used to maintain the various security solutions our teams built for our supported languages and allow us to implement newer security standards without needing code upgrades to our services in maintenance.

“Momentum is generally a good thing, it allows your projects to get effortlessly off the ground after a little bit of early investment to make it. In Engineering, we make decisions and create tools to get our momentum going,” said Oscar Arbelaez, Senior Software Engineer. “I was interested in seeing if the idea of a sidecar could actually work for our security needs. I’m grateful for Hack Week; besides being a great creative outlet for Engineers and other staff members, we are given the resources and time to invest in projects that could allow us to leverage momentum without falling into the traps of inertia.”

Technical Award: Jupyter Discovery

This team thought out of this world for this project! As our engineering teams share analyses across the company, those analyses are added to Jupyter notebooks (the original web application for creating and sharing computational documents)​​. The problem is that those notebooks cannot be accessed by most companies or transferred into slides or reports. So this team created a way to automatically share, organize, and store their analyses so anyone interested could find them.

“The project's objective was to make the corpus of product analyses accessible and searchable by all, allowing functional teams to do more in-depth, efficient research and preventing technical teams from duplicating prior work,” said Josh Werner, Staff Data Scientist. “Hack Week was the perfect path to the project because there were unknowns that made the outcome somewhat unpredictable, but with a dedicated week of work, we could concentrate fully on removing those unknowns and find the path that led to the most viable, impactful solution to the challenge.”

Rollers submitted so many unique projects during Hack Week, and we’re excited to see what new projects come up at our next Hack Week at the beginning of 2023!

Stay up-to-date with our Engineering team’s latest projects on our Tech Blog.