Seattle Times producers and engineers collaborate at a recent hack day. This team built in the ability to turn on Google's standout tag through the web CMS. (Photo by Eric Ulken)

Hackathon (n.): “an event when programmers meet to do collaborative computer programming.” In a newsroom, the definition is a little different: an event where engineers, designers, editors, reporters and producers combine their various backgrounds to quickly create much-needed story-telling tools.

I would know. I just participated in a hackathon this week at my news organization and it was wildly successful — a quick change of pace for the normally process-heavy development workflow of a newspaper.

Why a hackathon

Newsrooms (most of them, by my count) aren’t agile. They aren’t iterative. They don’t quickly pull things off. They have meetings. And meetings about meetings. They get a lot of people involved and take a long time to make decisions. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when you’re trying to build cool tools on the fly, it’s a bottleneck. Read more