We’re in the midst of the Webmail Hackathon 1.0. So what is a Hackathon, you might ask? Don’t worry, I hadn’t ever heard of one either, until I read a blog post from the CEO of JotSpot and then from the guys at Feedburner. As soon as I saw what they were doing, I immediately knew it would benefit us as well. So onto the answer... a Hackathon is a day long event where all of our developers spend time on a side project that can be coded, tested and placed into beta—all in one day. Here is how the day (Saturday) goes:
9:30 a.m. – Breakfast
10:00 a.m. – Design presentations
11:00 a.m. – Code like crazy
2:00 p.m. – Eat lunch at desk
7:00 p.m. – Demo the new stuff
8:00 p.m. – Dinner and drinks
Next week – Hackathon 1.0 t-shirts arrive
Here is an overview of what we’re building (the developers will be blogging more details about each project later—if you’re a customer, you should subscribe to our company blog):
• Mike is building a task list feature that will integrate with version 1.0 of calendaring
• Vinny is improving our auto-complete feature—when he’s finished, auto-complete options will appear in a drop-down format as opposed to in-line auto-complete (which I hate). We got a head start on this project with help from the folks over at “The Code Project” who have built really nice auto-complete capabilities.
• Jing is implementing the homepage of our new web site—hopefully we’ll be able to launch that in early September—watch out, it’s going to be hot. ;-)
• Ellen is making the folder manager in webmail much faster (it’s really slow right now which causes problems for people with lots of folders).
• Bill, Vinny and Huey are turning our “Report Spam” function into a “Block Sender” function. Once implemented, users will be able to blacklist spammers and users they don’t want to receive email from. They’ll also be able to manage their blacklist from inside the account options section of webmail.
• Steve is Ajaxing the webmail message listing page. He’s making it so users can delete messages and move them into other folders without page refreshes (in other words its going to be much faster).
• Matt is building “sort by size” and “sort by flag” capabilities. Humongous must haves for our customers. He’s also going to add a new message count indicator thingee to the browser title bar, which is a really cool feature to have.
• Brian H. is building a new alias manager inside the control panel. This will be a part of Control Panel Version 2.0—it wasn’t a requirement until just recently when we had a customer “show us the light” with regards to how much better we could implement alias management capabilities. Ben worked hard to grab the customer feedback (he did a lot of listening) and then worked with design and engineering to put the formal requirements together. Thanks to all of those involved (including the customer) for helping to make this happen.
• Wenjie and Tony are building profile editing capabilities (called “My Profile”) into the Company Directory (to be launched in October). The Company Directory gives administrators the ability to populate employee address books with “read-only” employee user data. “My Profile” allows users to edit their respective user data that will then be published within the Company Directory. Administrators will be able to enable/disable this feature in the control panel, as not all will want it turned on.
• Wenjie is also building scheduling capabilities into the vacation message and mail forwarding functions. Don’t you hate when you email someone on a Monday and their vacation message says “I’m out of the office on Friday, August 12, 2005”? This feature was actually requested by a customer more than a year ago—we’ve finally gotten to it Pini, thanks for the input! Likewise, some nights I forward email to my Blackberry but would like it to automatically stop forwarding at midnight (bed-time). Well, soon you’ll be able to do all of this stuff (if you’re a customer).
• Manny is taking care of all the designs needed to implement the above projects.
• Kevin is sitting in his office, making sure I’ve coordinated all of the food for the day—my major Hackathon contribution. ;-)
All Hackathon results will be available in October. If you want to learn more about our roadmap for the rest of 2005, I wrote all about that right here.
It’s only 3:00 p.m. right now, but already I can tell this thing is going to be a success. I think there is a lot of value in stepping away from huge projects every now and again and building some of the smaller things customers are asking for—as well as some things they’re not. I see plenty of Hackathons taking place here in the future and I look forward to the productivity and innovations that result.