For the second year in a row, we had a (mostly) remote Hack Week. Our Google Meet-hosted demos were a great time. There is actually something very fun about the immediate stream of comments in the sidebar which celebrate the ingenuity of the various hacks and their creators. BuzzFeed Tech, as per usual, took a week off from the normal meetings and roadmaps — and hacked some hacks. “Hacked some hacks”: a bit vague you say? Read on for some examples of the cool and (often very useful) byproducts of the week.
🏆 Award: The Enron Memorial Award for Most Creative Theft of Company Time
“It’s BuzzFeed in a Magazine.” Much like vinyl records having their moment, print is having a renaissance. Designers on this project thought about how to bridge the digital-to-analog gap, while retaining the interactivity that is core to BuzzFeed, and how they could communicate that experience through the magazine design. The screenshots below are from the “mocks”. As a result of the excitement surrounding the concept, we decided to actually print them, as another fun keepsake from this Hack Week!
Project Team: Gabe Campo, Judith Leng, Steph Matamoros
CET Event Builder
🏆 Award: The Fanny Pack Award for Most Practical Project
A major undertaking in 2020 at BuzzFeed was implementing CET (BF Tech’s client event tracking library) across all of BuzzFeed’s properties, thus creating a consistent, robust source of data for analytics. But to make this consistent requires work and coordination, and to aid this process Lizzy created the “CET Event Builder”, a Google Sheet tool to make event design a breeze™. Lots of dropdowns, auto-population of feeds, validation, and immediate feedback on these validations! She asked for beta testers to start using and there were many teams that volunteered (myself included). Lizzy really knows Google Sheets now.
Project Team: Lizzy Bradford
Team and User Pages in Rig UI
🏆 Award: The Shinkansen Bullet Train Award for Fastest Time to Production
Rig UI is our internal tool for managing deployments, which, by the way, was also born during a past Hack Week (way back in, checks watch, 2019 — see here). They wanted to introduce the concept of a user as part of this UI. Using GitHub’s API, they were able to centralize a lot of metadata about users AND their teams. Its award is well earned, given it was in production by the end of Hack Week. Rig UI included 14 new API endpoints, 4 to 5 new database tables, and a bunch of new UI. Wow, that was fast!
Project Team: Anitha Dharaneedharan, Thomas Lin, Chino Kim, Ian Feather, Steven Gemmen, Clem Huyghebaert
AI-Generated BuzzFeed Headlines
Ever find yourself lacking inspiration for your next post? Do you also want it to be BuzzFeed-y? AI-Generated BuzzFeed Headlines has you covered. This project involved training an AI to generate our iconic headlines, by creating a custom model that’s fast-trained and trained ONLY on BuzzFeed data. For the textual augmentation portion, according to Max, there was no academic research on it, he kind of YOLO-ed it, and it still works. Huzzah! That’s what we like to hear.
Project Team: Max Woolf
Alcubierre Graviton Drive
Some of us may have missed the reference in the project name, but now we get it! Inspiration for the name comes from one of Dan’s favorite pieces of sci-fi that might actually become real. This project involved running rig¹ on AWS Graviton processors. Among other things, it allowed for a decrease in computing costs and works with all languages! And it was done with no impact on developer workflow. Phew.
Project Team: Dan Meruelo (and the shoulders of former BuzzFeeders Will McCutchen and Andrew Mulholland)
Inspired in name by Professor X’s device, Cerebro was built to access and display more real-time behavioral data on some of our posts, in particular around shopping. Incorporating our existing (anonymized) first-party tracking, this project included building a service that ingests, aggregates, and displays this data much more frequently. And by “more frequently”, they weren’t kidding — it is about 100 times faster than the current system!
Project Team: Rico Moorer
“Shop, connect, repeat.” In an effort to make a shopping experience online more social, this project’s team explored the product and design side of creating “an entertaining and social shopping experience where it is easy to share products with friends.” This includes a more personalized share and the ability to vote. This is designed to easily get opinions from friends (get those hot takes you crave)!
Project Team: Andrew Paulus, Judith Leng
In another shopping-inspired project, some of our SUPERSTAR interns from the summer worked on BuzzFit. People use inspiration to know what to buy. BuzzFit provides it. Put together an outfit? You can do that. Get the costs and links? Yep, it has them. Understand the sustainability of those products? You bet!
Project Team: Elizabeth John, Connie Liu, Nancy Rosa, Nishad Nalgundwar, Sean Yu
That’s all Folks!
The directive of Hack Week has always been quite freeform: it is to build “stuff” and present it (if you want). Hack Week encourages us to try new things, learn, and/or maybe work with people that we don’t normally work with. In all cases, it means ignoring the normal roadmap and clearing the week of nearly all meetings. This past year’s event was no exception. Some of these projects may one day go into production, which we love. Most will likely not (and were not intended to). We also love this. Oh, and there are stickers. Gotta always have the stickers!
 rig is BuzzFeed’s in-house platform and development environment for services
BuzzFeed Tech is hiring! 👋 If you are interested in browsing openings, check out buzzfeed.com/jobs. We’ve gone fully remote, and have roles in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, London, and New York!