Hacking At Shutterstock

Posted on 12/3/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

On Monday I mentioned several search innovations that Shutterstock is testing at Shutterstock/Labs. Most of these ideas were developed during company wide hackathons.

Once a year, usually in July, Shutterstock hosts a company wide 24-hour hackathon known as “Hack to the Future.” This event is open to everyone and designed to promote collaboration and communication among colleagues who might not typically work with each other on a daily basis.

Three times a year the company also hosts smaller 24-hour hackathons called CodeRage that are specifically for the engineering, design and product team.

The three guiding principles for these hacks are to build something with contributor impact, customer impact or employee value in mind. Other than that they are largely open events where people come together to bring their ideas to life.

Projects can vary greatly and are not always related to search. Sometimes they can deal with data visualization or new business ideas and marketing campaigns. A good example of a previous “Hack to the Future” winning idea is the Shutterstock Stories Artistic Grant Program of 2013 designed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Shutterstock.

The program showcased inspiring stories of the artists who made the success of Shutterstock's first decade possible. A total of $75,000 in grants were awarded to seven winners. The program was open to all Shutterstock contributing photographers, illustrators, and videographers. To enter they needed to create a video sharing their personal Shutterstock Stories. Submissions came in from 39 countries around the world.

Shutterstock has been hosting hacks for four year. There were 397 participants across 5 offices around the world involved in the 2014 “Hack to the Future.” The skill sets of participants are broad, given that everyone in the company is involved across Tech, Marketing, Product, Content, Sales and Operations. Absolutely everyone is encouraged to identify problem areas, develop ideas and conceptualize either via a prototype or presentation. While teams of 4 to 5 people are recommended, teams can recruit as many people as they like and participants can be on multiple teams. The beauty of the hackathon is having teams with cross-functional expertise, allowing them to build in an agile manner.

In the weeks prior to the hackathon kick-off, Shutterstock employees host a series of “Hackademy” classes for colleagues. These classes are hands on workshops, covering topics such as storyboarding, rapid prototyping and presenting demos with confidence. This is a great way for colleagues to meet others, recruit team members and learn new skills.

The ideas are varied and competition is strong. Guidelines are purposefully loose to allow everyone to really explore ideas outside of what they may typically work on. “Hack to the Future” encourages participants to truly flex their creative strength and pour energy into making Shutterstock better.

After 24 hours, hack teams demo their idea or hack in front of the whole company. A panel of judges ranging from colleagues to contributors, deliberate each demo under the categories of contributor impact, customer impact and employee value.

To be eligible to present and win prizes, teams are asked to include participants from at least 3 departments, and even more are encouraged. The winners of “Hack to the Future” are awarded the opportunity to continue building their project after the event to eventually see it come to life on Shutterstock’s website.

Additional categories for prizes include: Best Overall, Most Humorous, Best Non Code-based hack and People's Choice. The People’s Choice award is based on a survey of the whole company.

Check out this video of the 2013 Hackathon and see this infographic about the 2014 Hackathon.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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