Sunday, October 14, 2007
Among the many perks Googlers get, I like the 20% time rule the best. You can spend it on an existing project you'd like to learn more about or especially care about, or you can use it to start a new project. Among other things, Gmail, AdSense, Google News and Google Trends famously started life as 20% projects. But even with 20% time, there are always so many other interesting things to do that it's sometimes hard to focus on this great idea you had the other day at the coffee machine.
I work for the Zurich office, which incidentally was our first engineering office in Europe. As you must know, Switzerland has lots of mountains. Where better to be alone with your thoughts and ideas than the mountains? Well, when I started talking about the idea, a lot of people liked it and wanted to go, too. So never mind being alone with my thoughts: instead, over a four-day weekend, 16 engineers spent most of their waking hours coding up the ideas that had been plaguing us for a while.
In small groups and individually, we looked at things like how we can do a better job at personalization, experimented with different ways to render search results, and since we have quite a few maps engineers in Zurich, tried out some new ideas in that area too. Though we did get some nice demos out, they're not quite ready to launch, but keep an eye out on Google Labs and something will show up soon.
Sadly, we were almost completely oblivious to the extreme natural beauty surrounding our hackathon headquarters at the cube hotel in Savognin. Some of us did go up the mountain for some extra inspiration.
Another interesting accomplishment was the furniture tower we built after a long session of hacking. They had this stackable furniture in the lobby of the hotel and we had a beer or two, and just started to play around. Around 6am just before breakfast we reached the ceiling.
It was really great to see people work all out driven by nothing more than the will to create something new and cool and it was for me a great reminder in so many ways as to why I work for Google. If you want to join us on our next hackathon, you're in luck -- we're hiring in Zurich.