Yahoo Hack Day – a crash course in Product Management

yahoohackday2.jpgNice write up over on TechCrunch on a hack that I worked on with a team of seven other Yahoo’s spread out across the US.

Every couple of months groups of Yahoo’s band together to work on simple prototypes to work out a new concept or feature. Most are simple extensions of existing Yahoo products that extend them in new and original ways, some just use API’s in a way to poke fun and get a laugh, and others are full-blown software or hardware wizadry that blow your mind with their creativity and flash.

The rules were simple. Teams have from noon on Thursday through to noon on Friday to take their project from a concept to a working prototype that can be demoed in front of a panel of judges in 90 seconds or less.

Recruiting for the team took place in the weeks leading up to hack day and as we got closer we had a rough idea of what we wanted to do and emails were traded on how to break up the tasks at hand. We found out that having two members from NYC helped us out b/c the time difference meant that the West Coast team could hand off to them in the early morning and catch some sleep while they carried the torch and picked up where we left off.

I learned many things at Hack Day and am really happy Yahoo gave me the chance to participate. I would argue that I learned almost as much about Product Management in those 24 hours than I did in two years when I was product manager at Factiva.com. 24 hours and a 90 second demo do wonders to focus your attention to the absolute core. What company would give their employees two half days of to scratch an itch and then give you a chance to get in front of folks like the CFO, co-founder, and Head of Product Strategy to let you state your case? What a cool company.

There were lots of highlights, unfortunately I can’t write about most of the hacks themselves but there were some great flashes of personality too. Chad bought a sound level meter to measure the cheers & hoots which were many and supportive. We were all running on fumes so all was forgiven. My favorite demo was the poor man’s karaoke machine (lyrics on the screen set to associated flickr images) which croaked on the flickr image part and just ended up being 90 seconds of Jeffery Bennett singing while he waited for his demo to work. Jeff’s voice is not half bad either!

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