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Yahoo to host hacker festival September 24, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Yahoo.

Computer software wizards from near and far will camp at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Internet search titan Yahoo next week for an overnight “hackathon” in the spirit of innovation.

Yahoo heralded the 24-hour programming free-for-all as its first public “Hack Day” and said it was an extension of no-holds-barred software tinkering events that the company’s engineers take part in internally.

Yahoo network developer director Chad Dickerson says the gathering was meant to inspire new twists on Yahoo services as well as reclaim “hacker” as a name for those adept at manipulating software in creative, not malicious, ways.

“A hacker is someone who really knows how to build things with computers, not destroy things,” Mr Dickerson said.

“Within the Yahoo development community to be called a hacker is a badge of honour.”

Mr Dickerson says Yahoo routinely hosts internal hack days to “share the hacker love”.

He says those that try to break into computer networks, spread malicious software such as viruses or commit other nefarious online deeds are more appropriately referred to as “black hats” instead of “hackers”.

Software developers from Canada and throughout the United States were to pitch tents at the Yahoo campus in Sunnyvale, California, on September 29 and hack away at the company’s programs, which would be provided.

They were free to work in teams or solo with their only obligation being that they demonstrate their creations for the group when the 24 hours expired on Saturday.

“We give them connectivity and a place to sleep on the ground with their tents and some entertainment,” Mr Dickerson said.

“Other than that, there is no structure.”

“We find that the most creative ideas come from hackers who have no previous idea of what to do. It is a surprise even to us what they build.”

Yahoo expected about 500 people to take part in the “hack fest,” which was being organized with a lot of volunteer effort from the company’s own self-described hackers.

“It is very much a boot-strapped grass-roots effort,” Mr Dickerson said. “Controlled chaos from which art emerges.”

Unlike Silicon Valley technology firms that shroud their operations in secrecy, Yahoo wanted to let developers get better acquainted with its operations and its workers.

“Openness is part of the magic for us,” Mr Dickerson said.

“If you go around Silicon Valley there is this whole veneer of privacy.”

“You aren’t greeted with open arms if you knock on the door and say ‘What are you doing?’ With hack day, we are saying we want you to knock on the door and see what we are doing.”

Since beginning internal hack days last year, Yahoo has held them at facilities in India, Europe, Australia and the United States.

“There are some major products coming that were conceived and built at hack days,” Dickerson said. “We can’t wait to tell people.”

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