Facebook's new plan to recharge burned-out engineers

By Laurie Segall, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Do you ever get ground down by your job's never-ending to-do list? So do Facebook engineers. The company has a novel plan for re-energizing them: It's started springing developers for month-long stints with new teams working on different projects.

It's like a cultural exchange program with the cube pod next door.

The idea grew out of "hackathons": short-lived, intense (often overnight) sessions where engineers pound out code, consume vast amounts of caffeine and throw together some kind of working prototype or new product. Facebook holds them regularly, and is in the midst of one right now.

But the company isn't asking its engineers to pull 30 straight all-nighters. Instead, its new "Hackamonth" program sends developers who have been plowing away on a specific project for more than a year to work with a new team for a month.

"Ideally, we hoped to have about 10% of our engineers working on a Hackamonth at any given time," Facebook engineering manager Dave Ferguson wrote Wednesday in a blog post about the Hackamonth concept. "This would not only greatly increase the fluidity of our engineering team, but hopefully increase the sharing of knowledge across teams."

Facebook held three pilot Hackamonths over the past year, with 35 developers participating. Ferguson told CNNMoney he's delighted with how they went. Beyond shaking staffers out of their routines, the program helped Facebook staff several high-priority development efforts, including an iPhone app update and enhancements to Facebook's photos feature.

The concept is similar to Google's 20% time program, though which the company encourage engineers to spend 20% of their work time on projects tangential to their day job. Some of those "20% time projects" have turned into full-fledged Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) products, including Gmail, Google News, Google Talk and social network Orkut.

But Ferguson says Facebook's Hackamonth is more targeted. Engineers are given "very clear objectives to get things done in a short period of time," he said.

Facebook plans to kick off its fourth Hackamonth on Monday.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,279.74 13.75 0.08%
Nasdaq 4,579.79 -13.64 -0.30%
S&P 500 2,010.40 -0.96 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.59 -0.04 -1.60%
Data as of 12:34am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Yahoo! Inc 40.93 -1.16 -2.74%
Microsoft Corp 47.52 0.84 1.80%
Bank of America Corp... 16.95 -0.09 -0.53%
Oracle Corp 39.80 -1.75 -4.21%
Facebook Inc 77.91 0.91 1.18%
Data as of Sep 19

Sections

Law enforcement officials say Frank Tamayo was the middleman in a $5.6 million insider trading scheme that involved him eating pieces of paper to cover up the crime. More

Scotland's clear rejection of independence has eased fears that it could suffer the kind of decline seen in Quebec after it failed to break away from Canada. More

It's really good to be Larry Ellison. The Oracle founder is stepping down as CEO, so maybe he'll have more time to enjoy his glamorous life. More

As Occupy Wall Street goes on its debt-abolishing tear, thousands of people across the country are begging them to forgive their loans. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.