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Summary:

Last week, Facebook formally announced “Hackamonth,” an internal initiative that allows some engineers to leave their team to work on a side project of their choosing. The goal is to prevent burnout among the staff and should result in some cool new products.

MarkZuckerberg

Last week, Facebook formally announced “Hackamonth,” an internal initiative that allows some engineers to leave their team to work on a side project of their choosing. The goal is to prevent burnout among the staff and should result in some cool new products.

In fact, it already has. Over the past year, Facebook tested out Hackamonth with 35 engineers who were encouraged to submit project ideas requiring about a month’s worth of work. Each participating engineer then voted to join the project they found the most interesting. The three most popular projects became the first pilot Hackamonths.

The results were impressive: Facebook’s new Deals feature was actually born out of one of the three pilot Hackamonth projects, Facebook spokesman Slater Tow told me this week. Deals started as a Hackamonth pilot led by Facebook engineer Brian Sa and was initially dubbed “Paid Deals.”

Starting this week, Hackamonths are now available to any Facebook engineer who has worked on the same project for more than a year. At the end of a Hackamonth, engineers can choose to either go back to the old project or stay on the new one. According to the company, Facebook hopes to have around 10 percent of its engineers working on a Hackamonth at any given time.

The Hackamonth idea is an extension of Facebook’s longtime tradition of engineering “hackathons,” overnight events complete with beer, food, and DJs. During hackathons, employees must follow just one rule: They can’t work on anything related to their day jobs.

“For engineers, hackathons are opportunities to dive into any other project they’ve had their eye on. It’s a chance to shake things up for a night,” Tow said. “Hackamonth is a way to perpetuate this hackathon mentality into a full month.”

The parallels to other institutionalized burnout prevention tactics, such as Google’s 20 percent time program, are clear. What’s interesting about Facebook’s Hackamonth is that retention initiatives aren’t usually associated with venture-backed companies; the potential for a cash-out from a sale or IPO is usually enough to keep employees around. At nearly seven years after its first round of venture capital investment, Facebook is at an interesting spot that stretches the definition of startup (for reference, Google held its IPO five years after its first venture funding round). The Hackamonth initiative further solidifies Facebook’s status as a more mature company — albeit in a state of protracted adolescence.

  1. When it comes to Facebook coming up with new ideas and ways to get that long $ gUaPeY $, there is no end to the way they operate, because they are competing with alot of other companies. And besides, with all the new online marketers and bloggers getting on Facebook now, there is going to be endless opportunity, as well as more $ gUaP $ for everyone at Facebook, their Facebook engineers, as well as everyone else!

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  2. Great to see and very much like the 20% time over at Google. With the crazy money that all the engineers are getting offered these days it actually probably comes down to job satisfaction and the cool stuff they get to work on rather than purely about the money and equity.

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  3. Why is Facebook so popular nowadays? Luckily I live in China and I cannot use this sh** here. Thank God ;)

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    1. Thisisnotaname Monday, May 9, 2011

      Boy oh boy, you sure are lucky that your government is blocking your access to websites so that you won’t waste your time on something you have never used and are completely convinced is useless crap.

      Unless the wink meant sarcasm. Maybe I just missed the whole point. -_-

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      1. Yeah, it was a kind of sarcasm.

        I said I lived in China, but I did not say I am Chinese, did I? I used to use Facebook when I was living in Europe so I know what I am talking about. First thing I am going to do is to remove my Facebook account (IF it is possible at all..) when I arrive to Europe again. I am totally fed up with emails “You did not visit Facebook for couple of days, there are some invitations waiting for you” – what a crap.
        How can I visit Facebook? I live in f****ng China!! :)

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  4. Gradually facebook will become synonym for internet..

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    1. Bollocks will it…

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  5. Sounds pretty cool.. but can they please fix the broken iPhone client first? Issues such as random logouts, frequent crashes, can’t upload photos, and some message saying “This build for employees only” have made it unusable.

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  6. Sounds good, but how about $1million as bonus to Engineers that make Facebook a better place.

    Regards,

    John Vender

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