Feb. 11, 2014

Signal Hack Week: Episode III

IMG_0235Hack Week at Signal is a crazy, fun week dedicated to creativity, passion and problem-solving. It kicks off with teams of Signal employees brainstorming ideas to make our products even better for our clients and partners, and our workplace even cooler for our team. Overall, the event is jam-packed with collaboration, innovation and, of course, yummy treats.

Last week’s bi-annual Hack Week was our biggest and best yet. Signal team members set a new record by delivering 32 hacks in five days. Impressive! We even put on a potluck lunch and voted for the most outstanding dishes. Winning prizes were awarded to Josh B. for his savory Korean barbecue short ribs and to Renee T. for her delightfully delectable cheesecake. Signal would like to send special thanks to our guest Hack Week speakers, who braved the arctic tundra of Chicago to visit our offices, share their inspirational stories and help keep the creative juices flowing:

  • The crew from Bow Truss Coffee Roasters showed us how to brew better pour-over java.
  • Greg Buttera of the Barrelhouse Flat taught us the nuances of craft cocktails and served us a delicious, spiked hot chocolate.
  • Carol L. Tilley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discussed the glory days of comic books and their fascinating evolution.

Many of the hacks involved product enhancements that will be going into production, so they’re too secret to share at this point :). Meanwhile, read on to learn about some of the other awesome hacks that BrightTaggers delivered, with accompanying photos from our very own David Michaels (view more photos on our Facebook page).

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The Hacks

Signal Orientation “We developed a new orientation program for recent hires across our company. The courses range from the history of Internet advertising to Signal product training to introductory developer courses.” – Clara L., Julie K., Mile M., Richie T., Ryan A., Ryan B., Tomas R.

New Website Design & Homepage Slider “We updated the CSS of Signal.com to enable responsive design for mobile and tablets. We also implemented a new homepage slider that’s both responsive and more visually engaging.” – Josh T., Ryan B.

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Dynamic Currency Conversion Updates “Our team enhanced our currency conversion plug-in to dynamically update currency values through cached access to an exchange rate API. With this update, our clients with global sites can now more easily analyze conversions across all of their international domains in a standardized way.” – Kelly D., Matt K.

More OpenStack Tools “We made it possible for one of our OpenStack data cluster management tools to behave seamlessly between our development and cloud-agnostic production environments.” – Cody R., Josh B.

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Signal Book Club “We launched a group that meets on a monthly basis to discuss a selected text. We also have themed snacks and drinks to honor the book.” EJ G., Jonathan T., Julie K., Renee T., Tiago M.

A More Efficient Cloud “We populated two years’ worth of cloud server performance data into a new internal analytics tool to help us further optimize our elastic infrastructure.” – Josh B., Zach D.

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Zookeeper Explorer “We set up a node.js Web application for monitoring the status of ZooKeeper, which is a centralized service for maintaining configuration information.” – Cody R., Josh B.

BrightFaces “We created an interactive game for strengthening Signal team members knowledge of each other.” – Adam S., Bogdan B., David M., Jake S., Lisa O.

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Song Blamer “Our hack wraps the Web interface of our internal Squeezebox music player in Google OAuth to keep a record of each queue change and who made it.” – Charles F., Zach D.

The X-Files: Anomaly Detection “We took several pieces of bleeding-edge Signal technology and added some fancy math to create a framework for detecting anomalous metrics for arbitrary time-series data in real time.” – Adrian L., Bobby Q., Cody R., Josh B.

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Kitschy “Using our own Signal Fuse technology, we developed a creative method for collecting helpful user data on the office’s food inventory, in order to better understand which snacks people like best, the rate at which those items are being consumed and more. This will enable us to improve how our supply is managed.” – Leif K., Luke J., Todd S.

Signal Programming Puzzles & Learning Club “I formed a group for Signal team members who are interested in learning more about coding. It’s language-agnostic, and we work through various sets of problems from different sources.” – Eric S.

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AMI Building for Great Glory “Using a combination of technical tools like Fabric, Packer, Puppet and Vagrant, I investigated building ‘golden images’ for each release instead of using the instances in production. The motivation for this was to enable auto-scaling. The secondary benefit was standardization and reuse of image templates to achieve development and product parity.” – Cody R.

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Signal Board Games “Thanks to Signal’s new fleet of board games, we can now have more regular game nights at the office!” – Lisa O., Stephen M.

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Clean or Dirty? “I made different improvements to our office kitchen. Now it’s easier to tell if the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty!” – Renee T.

Unit Testing Hibernate “I used an in-memory database to test Hibernate within our data as a service application, tightening up the testing cycle for that application.” – Stephen M.

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Signal Math Club “I created a group for anyone at Signal who’s interested in exploring interesting math and computer science topics such as algorithms, run-time notation, statistics and more.” – Rich V.

We already can’t wait for the next Hack Week! For a look at some of Signal’s past events, check out the following blog posts: “Signal Hack Week 2.0” and “Ho Ho Hacks for the New Year.”

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