Hack Week 2021 Round-Up!

Hack Week 2021

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.

BuzzFeed Magazine

🏆 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

Left: a woman holding the BuzzFeed Magazine under her arm, with the cover visible. Right: BuzzFeed Magazine opened to 2 pages displaying a BuzzFeed Quiz called “12 Wedding Moments When People Realized That The Marriage Was Doomed”
Cover and example quiz from buzzmag

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

GIF displaying the Google Sheets layout of CET Event Builder where a user first enter an invalid value, receives “FAIL” visual feedback, and then enters a valid value and receives “PASS” visual feedback
Look at that instant validation feedback!

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

Screenshot of the rig UI display for an individual member, that displays his name, avatar, metadata and credentials
Initial version of fancy new user page (later versions include the team/squad as well!)
Screenshot of the teams page in rig UI that includes a listing of all tech teams (e.g. ads, apps, etc)
Teams in rig UI!

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

A list of 3 AI-generated BuzzFeed headlines: 1 -“15 Reasons Why Monica Lewinsky is Actually Really Big Ol’ Badass Feminist No, Sorry” with a subtitle that says: “Sorry, but there are some heavy Infinity War spoilers ahead”. 2 - “34 Things That’ll Help Make Your Home More Fun Than It Really Is” with a subtitle: “It’s time to clean your house, you can still get these”. 3 - “Build a Fancy Meal And We’ll Tell You Where In The US You Live”.
Example headlines

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)

Left: An illustration for BuzzFeed Rig, which is a wrestler holding a snake that spells out rig. Right: a microchip illustration that has the text AWS Graviton2 in it. In the middle an arrow pointing from the rig illustration to the AWS illustration.
Artist’s rendering


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

Screenshot of Cerebro that has a bar chart at top showing clicks by date and a spreadsheet table at the bottom showing most clicked links over last 15 minutes
Some of those near-real-time insights!

Social Shopping

“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

Left: Phone mock with a modal shown where the user is can share a dress. Right: Phone mock with a modal informing the user they have sent a vote on a product to their friend.
Design prototype of the Social Shopping experience! Shop with Friends!


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

Screenshot of the BuzzFit UI which displays pictures of the various elements along with text display listing the specifics about each element, the cost, and the sustainability
Build your next outfit with BuzzFit!

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!

A display of Hack Week 2021 swag which shows the tote bags, printed BuzzFeed Magazine and stickers
This year’s Hack Week swag

[1] 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!

Hack Week 2021 Round-Up! was originally published in BuzzFeed Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Buzzfeed

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