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Posts tagged with ‘hackathon’
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Why We Hack

We’re getting ready for our next Hack Week, where our engineers take a week between sprint cycles to explore ideas, write code and build projects they might not have time to pursue during a product-focused work week.

We’ve been celebrating Hack Week at Bitly for the past three years and each week, it has proven to be a time for exploration and innovation. Many of our Hack Week projects spark ideas for new features that are later incorporated into the Bitly product, or evolve into tools that help our engineers with their day-to-day responsibilities.

Hack Week has become a staple of Bitly engineering. Here are a few more reasons why we love Hack Week:

1) It gives us time to recharge

Hack Week gives our team the chance to take a break from the 150% they give each sprint and allows everyone to work in a more relaxed environment. By slowing down the pace of the work week, we’re able to unwind so that we’re fully focused and recharged before the next product-focused set of sprints.

2) We have an opportunity to be creative

Hack Week gives our team a chance to be creative and raises a question for our engineers; if you have one week to work on whatever you want, how would you use it? Hack Week serves as an outlet for our engineers to explore all of the ideas they think about during their product work. This Hack Week, we’ve seen projects that focus on monitoring site load time, games with gifs and features that track breaking news utilizing the Bitly Story API.

3) We work with new people

This Hack Week, our engineers divided into randomly selected teams of three. Each team was responsible for coming up with an idea that reflected their collective interests and demo it to the company. As we continue to grow our engineering team, Hack Week gives us a chance to get to know our newest hires. It lets each member of our engineering team work with a new group of people instead of the more defined teams they usually work with.

4) We explore new technologies

Our Hack Week teams were made up of engineers from different backgrounds with different skillsets. When they find a project that piques their collective interests, each person can bring forward their individual strengths while exploring new tools and systems they don’t typically interact with. As a company that values learning and growth, we love the learning opportunities that can present themselves through Hack Week projects.

5) We can dedicate time to our community

We’re constantly working to improve our own systems and make those systems available to our community. Hack Week gives our engineers time to build systems they are proud of that can be potentially open sourced and shared. Hack Week provides a break in product updates so our engineers can take time to give back to the community that helped build us, which is a core part of our engineering culture.


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A chat with Bitlyopath, the winners of the bitly hackathon!

A few weekends ago we ‘Hacked to the Future’ during a one-day hackathon at bitly HQ, hosted by bitly and Sociocast.

After several hours hacking away at the Sociocast and bitly APIs, the Winner of Best Overall Project was awarded to the six person team, Bitlyopath. Their hack, which you can check out here, used the bitly and Sociocast APIs to find bursting phrases that were music related and used these searches to call YouTube videos featuring that song or artist.

We were able to sit down with the entire team; Mike Caprio, Jonathan Roberts, Gina Maini, Matthew Zadrozny, Juan Müller, and Maria Mendez to learn more about Bitlyopath, the team behind the hack, and their interest in the bitly API. home page, complete with Gina’s Evil Beethoven illustration.

Tell us more about Bitlyopath and how you used the bitly and sociocast API.

Jonathan: We thought it would be nice to take trending news from bitly and filter that to create a playlist for the news right now. We used the bitly API for bursting and hot links to get an idea of trending topics and the sociocast API to get a deep profile of what each story was about, giving us keywords and categories. The bitly story API gave us phrases to tie to a story, which were passed into the Rovi API to get song recommendations. 

How did you come up with the idea for Bitlyopath?

Gina: I stood up and said I wanted to do something with music and we were all sort of jiving off on that. At some point, Mike said the word playlist and that was something concrete so we thought “we can do this.” That’s when the project became more real.

What were some highlights from the day?

Jonathan: When Gina put together the awesome sketch of Evil Beethoven [for the site homepage] I was thinking yeah that’s good - we can knock this out.

Gina:  I had previously done hackathons as a designer still learning programming. Being in the eye of the storm with all these amazingly talented people around me was awesome. It was a whimsical/hectic last couple of hours.

Juan: It was very refreshing [working with this team], I felt very well taken care of regarding the skills on the table and I knew we didn’t have to stress because something cool was going to happen regardless. The biggest highlight of the whole day was finding out that Jonathan designed the Game of Thrones maps.

Gina: Yes, and how casually it came up. He was like “Oh by the way I’m the cartographer for Game of Thrones.” I took a departure emotionally for about an hour.

bitlyopath group photo at bitly hackathon

Bitlyopath team with the judges and bitly platform manager, Andrew Pinzler. 

What did you take away from the hackathon?

Mike: I’m pretty excited about future uses of the bitly API, I think it’s really exciting that bitly is providing these new tools and insights. I’ve always wondered about bitly’s view on the world in terms of social search and trending topics. I’m anticipating that some really great projects will be built from these APIs.

Jonathan: It’s great to work with a group of people you haven’t met and see the cool tools they use in day to day work. I learned about a new javascript library and a load of things that people use to work on projects with. It’s a great way to pick up new things.

Interested in learning more about the hackathon? Sociocast wrote a great recap post about the entire day, which you can read here.

Interested in playing around with the bitly API on your own? Get started at and check out our quick start guide here. Stay tuned for more data-rich APIs from bitly in the near future!

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“Hack to the Future” on Saturday, June 15th.

Calling all hackers!  We challenge you to use bitly data and APIs about the past and present to predict the FUTURE!

Join us for a one-day hackathon at bitly HQ on Saturday, June 15th, sponsored by bitly and Sociocast.  

Hack to the Future

Leverage the bitly Data API, the Sociocast predictive analytics platform, and any other APIs or data sources you want to build the best prognostication applications. We’ll also be giving a sneak peek of the soon-to-be-released bitly story API!

You can sign up for the event here.

You can also learn more about our Social Data API at and the Sociocast predictive analytics platform at

If you have any questions about the event please email We can’t wait to see what the future holds!

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Astronaut Ron Garan visits bitly!

NASA Astronaut Ron Garan stopped by the bitly HQ on Friday while in NYC for the International Space Apps Challenge, a two-day hackathon where citizens from seven continents, 44 countries and 83 cities came together with the aim of making the world a better place.

Ron’s well-known not only for his work at the International Space Station (he’s traveled there twice, first in 2008 for a two-week construction mission and then again in 2011 for a six-month excursion), but as the astronaut who went viral when he started tweeting from the ISS and later answered questions about his experience as part of a few Reddit AMAs.

Astronaut Ron Garan visits bitly 

Ron chatted with us about the importance of international collaboration, his organizations and of course, what a day is like in space.

On international collaboration

I believe we have all the technology and resources to solve the problems we face. The primary reason why we still face so many problems relies primarily on our inabilities to collaborate on a global scale.

I believe it’s possible to live in a world without poverty, where everyone has access to clean water, where no one goes to bed hungry, where we educate all our children. I believe that the power of collaboration will fuel incredible economic growth. We’re all in this together, so the only way we can solve it is all together.

Every truly great accomplishment didn’t just seem impossible - it seemed crazy. It might seem impossible to lift the entire planet out of poverty, impossible to find cures to diseases but the point is if we can fly to the moon and fly there safely, if 15 nations can come together and build a space station, then we can do anything. Nothing is impossible.

On his projects since coming back to Earth

Fragile Oasis is an initiative that uses this perspective we have on [international collaboration] to inspire others to go out, work together, make a difference and make the world a better place.

I realized that there’s probably a lot of efforts that are trying to build universal collaboration, so the first step to do that is to collaborate with those organizations. That’s where Unity Node comes in, it’s an effort to unify those efforts from around the world. We’re trying to connect existing databases and existing groups to build a global community.

I also believe businesses have a tremendous capability to solve problems. There are a lot of groups that want to accomplish some kind of social good and do that in a financially stable manner, but even when startups get funding they can fail because they don’t have the things they need. is going to be a global community of business development tools that these groups can use.

What is a day like in space?

There are 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets every day. It’s busy - we wake up around 6 a.m. GMT. 80 percent of the day involves picking up with experiments - we do a lot of medical research, try to make new materials, research new medicine, new forms of energy, the list goes on and on. 99.9 percent of what we do is trying to make life better on the planet.

20 percent of the day is maintenance. It does take a lot of work to maintain the space station as well.

Then we have some downtime that we can spend in the cupula taking pictures of the Earth or working out. We have to work out two hours each day to keep bone density and muscle mass, which we do through resistance machines.

Astronaut Ron Garan showed bitly the pictures he tweeted from space

A photo Ron tweeted from space when he was at the International Space Station in 2011.

Can you describe a space walk?

It is an amazing experience. I’ve done four spacewalks and logged around 27 hours total in space. The first time I went to space, I did three space walks. We have a long robotic arm that’s about 100 feet long and it locks in your feet. The first time, the arm carried me across in an arc shape about a hundred feet above the space station.

It took about 35 minutes each way. When I went there, it was nighttime and when I came back, it was day. On the way down, I shut off the lights in my suit and it was like the whole universe opened up, I could see the milky way and everything. On the way back the sun rose.

Half of my brain was saying “wow, this is incredible and beautiful,” and the other half was saying “yeah, but it’s not real.” I had nothing to compare it to, floating inside a space suit with all of infinity out there.

Where was the trade-off when you realized you shouldn’t be doing research in space and instead evangelize people about your causes?

Right now, we fly about three or four Americans a year. You stay at the space station for six months, training is two-and-a-half years, that’s a long time. When you’re done with a six-month mission, you have a six-month debrief and then you get back on line. The line is not moving very fast. The way I looked at it, I’ve flown twice and there are a whole bunch who haven’t gotten to fly once. It didn’t make sense to try and get back on that line.

I looked at it from an impact view - what am I going to do that’s going to make more of an impact? I could get in line and train for another six months in space or I could use the experience I already had to make a difference. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing now.

What was your favorite experiment or research you did while in space?

From a fun point of view, we have these flying robots that were pretty cool. There are two robots that go through the air and maneuver around each other.

From a scientific point of view, we discovered a property in our research that went to be used in the vaccine for salmonella. We also did a lot of energy and combustion research and that research is leading to new ways to eliminate hazardous waste and efficiency.

We were so excited to have Ron visit us last week. If you’re interested in learning more about Ron, his career or his projects, be sure to check out our bundle here.