Friday morning the office was littered with empty pizza boxes and snoozing Next Big Sounders, exhausted from a long night of hacking.
Yesterday marked the second hackday in our company’s history. The previous took place in Boulder last February, and now that we have finally settled into our New York office it was time to throw another. A hackday, for those of you who are not familiar with the term, is a marathon of coding and a chance for the engineers and data scientists on our team to spend a full day working in teams exploring ideas for software development. The guys hacked through the night on projects that included Twitter rankings, an iPhone app and songclip preview play buttons for our site.
Great ideas are the foundation of any successful hackday. The idea wall has slowly been filling up with brightly colored post-it notes all week. We asked our followers on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for their thoughts, and gathered around the conference table Thursday morning to parse it down to the best ideas and allocate teams.
Chief Technical Officer Samir Rayani, worked with Head of Product David Hoffman and Chief Data Architect Eric Czech on a lab that ranks artists’ Twitter mentions in real-time over several intervals. The mentions are rated according to acceleration, meaning that if one user gets 1 mention the first second, and ten mentions the next second, he will rank higher than Justin Bieber who got 1000 mentions both seconds, because Bieber’s accelaration in this case is zero.
Also looking at Twitter was Data Scientist Victor Hu, who applied an algorithm to a set of tweets that deciphers which topics people are discussing by grouping words that often fall together. By mining through mentions and retweets of artists’ handles in this manner, one can deduce what is happening in the music world. See for instance this overview of a single date in early August, can you guess what “major” event occurred on this day?
Software engineers Buck Heroux and Sam Pucci researched how it might be possible to score artists in the Next Big Sound database, based on their social media presence and streaming counts. Artists are ranked each day by their combined share of the fans, plays, and mentions tracked across selected metrics.
Another one of our engineers, Alec Zopf, worked on a lab that illustrates touring relationships between artists. Displayed as a simulation treating every artist as an object with a spring between them and other artists, the strength of that spring is proportional to the amount of times artists have shared a billing. It allows you to see how artists are grouped in terms of touring, which often correlates to genres. Stay tuned for a link to the lab once it’s ready for the public eye.
There were plenty more ideas and hacks worked on during the course of the night, some more successful than others. None of these projects were intended as anything more than an exploration of what the team can create using their coding skills and our treasure chest of data. A hackday-newb myself, it boggles the mind to see what the team came up with in less than 24 hours.
So if you would like to be part of a team that relishes coding through the night over pizza and beers, taking the occasional break for a round of FIFA, then get in touch. We are always looking for bright, creative minds to join us.
Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, The New York Times Local East Village, Westchester Magazine and more.