Thursday, October 22, 2015

LOA Diaries: Edmodo - The Hackathon

I admit I had no idea what a Hackathon was. I thought a bunch of people sat around eating stale pizza, drinking Red Bull and hacking into other people's software. The term definitely had negative connotations, and after a very unscientific poll, many of my contemporaries have the same impression, but we couldn't be more wrong. "A hackathon is an event where people with diverse skill sets work collaboratively to create solution-oriented technology," writes Claire Shorall, of the Teaching Channel.

Our hackathon started at two o'clock on a Thursday and ended 24 hours later.  It's a 24 hour period when everyone can set aside their usual work and create a passion project. I normally skip the all hands meetings but was intrigued, so I sat through the kick-off, MC-ed by +Allison Laureano . I was interested to hear the wide variety of projects that mostly fit into four categories: features, monetization, culture and fixes. Of course I listened with a teacher's ear and I couldn't help myself but cheer out loud to +Zach Rutta's proposal of giving +Edmodo  users (mostly teachers) the ability to use bold, italics and underline formatting in our posts. It seems like a simple thing but it's funny how much you miss it when you don't have it. And currently Edmodo doesn't have it. Zach's was the project that directly addressed something I as a user want! Between my background in Customer Service and the fact that I am a customer of Edmodo, I felt heard.

Speaking of feeling heard... I've met a few times now with a coworker named +Kul Wadhwa, yes, pronounced cool and he is. He has been asking me what I think about a certain Edmodo product and I have been at times brutally honest with him, and he keeps coming back for more. Teachers are not often asked what they think about products nor given a real voice, outside our classrooms, so it's been refreshing to be asked. After I met with Kul one day, another man came up and asked if I'd be willing to give my input about some changes being made to Edmodo. Of course I said yes, I am always happy to give my opinion. I knew he was some sort of manager but I found out - after we spoke - that he is the General Manager, Manish Kothari. I love how accessible everyone is at Edmodo. There is no overt sense of managerial hierarchy that prevents anyone from talking to anyone else...quite refreshing.  A few minutes later Manish introduced me to CEO Vibhu Mittal and they asked me to be on the Hackathon judges panel, since I was a teacher! Talk about feeling heard!! I was thrilled to accept and rearrange my schedule to be in the office the next day.

Cheers to our hard work!

I'd pretty much already decided I was coming in when my Director, +Kevyn Klein intrigued me with her idea for a project, Humans of Edmodo.The excitement was almost palpable in the office that afternoon. 
Some people work at the office throughout the night. When I left at 6 p.m. to catch my train so I could get home to let the dog out, the GM was pouring people wine and IT was making dinner. We worked on our project well into the late hours, communicating with +HipChat  and I was excited to see what would be accomplished by all the teams overnight!

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