What I did at “Hacker in the Rye” Stripe Hackathon
Last Saturday, I visited Stripe to participate in their “Hacker in the Rye” hackathon. It was pretty awesome: I managed to write some code, met a couple of new folks, and had tasty Thai food for dinner.
Hackathon doesn’t have to be at night!
What I liked most about this hackathon was the timeframe. Instead of having everyone chugging Red Bulls  and pulling off an all-nighter, Stripe opened up their office from 1PM to 10PM. This turned out to be a great idea for a couple of reasons.
It was easier for me to drive up from South Bay. Had the hackathon been an all-nighter, I would have had to drive from San Francisco to Mountain View in a complete state of exhaustion. And we all know drowsiness + driving a car is not a great combination.
- It made the event accessible for a wider audience. Although programming is not my day to day responsibility these days, I am still a huge geek at heart and revel at the idea of hacking all night. But I also know that not everyone is like that and some might find the idea of programming till dawn to be too much commitment. By hosting this hackathon during the day, Stripe did a wonderful job of attracting people who would have not showed up at a traditional hackathon
The event was incredibly lively and collegial. Some people were coding away with headphones on, some huddled over a screen debating the design of a prototype (Stripe opened up their 27-inch Cinema Displays for people to use), and some were making new friends.
What I did: Fluentd + Kafka
In addition to eating food and making a couple of new friends, I ended up coding a bit. Specifically, I prototyped a Kafka plugin for Fluentd.
Fluentd is a lightweight, pluggable logging daemon that we've open-sourced last October . Fluentd's selling point is flexibility. Thanks to 50+ plugins, you can integrate Fluentd with virtually any existing logging system.
Apache Kafka is a new pub-sub system open-sourced and sponsored by LinkedIn. It's considered to be a crowning achievement of LinkedIn's infrastructure team and has been getting some mindshare among backend engineers.
Fluentd prides itself for being a swiss-army knife of logging, yet there was no plugin to talk to Kafka. That had to be fixed.
It was my first plugin, but everything went pretty smoothly thanks to Fluentd's simple plugin structure and @alejandrocrosa's Ruby client for Kafka. The plugin still has many kinks to iron out, but I was happy that I managed to ship something (however small!).
The hackathon was a lot of fun. I am now a big fan of daytime hackathon events and hope to attend them more in the future. Many thanks to Stripe staff for hosting a wonderful event!