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snack overflow

by the graze technology teams

Hacker time

Tom Percival on May 21, 2013

Standing on the shoulders of giants

So who knew… it’s all thanks to 3M. In 1948 the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company introduced their 15 percent program in order to fuel the innovation they needed to stay ahead of the competition. This radical program has, over the years, given us PostIt notes, masking tape and cellophane.

Google famously brought the idea into the world’s consciousness with their 20% time and it has been copied around the world. Closer to home, SoundCloud is experimenting with hacker time and has blogged very helpfully about it.

Here at graze we want to learn from what these inspirational employers have trailblazed so we can foster a similar culture of personal development, innovation and self-determination.

How will hacker time work?

We feel strongly that we need to develop our own version of hacker time that suits the culture here at graze but in order to get a pilot concept going as quickly as possible we have borrowed heavily from Soundcloud and we are grateful to them.

  • 10% of time will be set aside for hacker time projects
  • This time accumulates until a meaningful chunk is available to use for a project
  • The scope and deliverables of your hacker time project is agreed with the team
  • Hacker time is booked off, as if you were booking a holiday
  • Project outcomes are presented to the rest of the team

What sorts of projects will we be working on?

We have all agreed the following guidelines. This is a living list, and one of the key outputs from this pilot project will be a refinement of what we should and shouldn’t be working on.

  • Fixes, features or improvements that never seem to bubble up
  • Development of the API or apps based on it
  • Integration of some favourite technology into our stack
  • Contributing to OSS used at graze
  • Writing blog posts

What happens next?

Hopefully we go away and build some amazingly innovative tools and features, increase our contribution to open source projects, pay off lots of tech debt and write great articles about it. In a few months time we’ll summarise how it went and how we’ll implement in the future. This is a very exciting development for us here at graze and we can’t wait to share it with you.