Last month, fellow Fool Rick Munarriz suggested that Yahoo!
I don't necessarily disagree, but I see some promise in the company's announcement last week that it will be opening its Sunnyvale headquarters for 24 hours on Sept. 29 to a select group of hackers.
The purpose of the unorthodox event, dubbed Hack Day, is to tap into the intellectual and creative firepower of talented computer programmers and developers from around the world.
Although the event might appear to be just an extension of the Yahoo! Developer Network -- which the company designed to make it easier for developers to build applications and mashups that integrate data sources in new ways -- Hack Day will provide hackers direct access to existing Yahoo! services in order to have a chance to demonstrate how they can improve existing services as well as create entirely new ones.
Yahoo! has held internal "Hack Days" for a couple of years now in order to give individuals and small groups of Yahoo! developers a chance to showcase and demonstrate their own projects and ideas. By all accounts, the events have been very high-energy and have yielded some insightful and productive outcomes.
From the company's perspective, these events are relatively low-risk. In addition to putting in place security safeguards to protect against harmful hacks, the hackers will be invited in on an individual basis and probably given a strict set of guidelines to which they must adhere, in addition to being closely monitored so that the prospects for doing damage will be minimal.
The event also has the benefit of being low-cost. In the case of the upcoming Hack Day, the developers will be invited to camp on the lawn of Yahoo's campus and, after their 24 hours of hacking, will be treated to free music, food, and beer. (As an added enticement, the invitation guarantees hackers that this "won't be your usual corporate-wedding-band leading the crowd through a 2 a.m. group sing-along of 'Brick House.' ")
The music and beer is an expense to be sure, but in exchange for 24 hours of free labor from some of the brightest and most talented people around, it seems like a bargain that could yield some surprising results.
And what the hack -- if it doesn't work, the company isn't out much of anything except a little beer. That seems like a promising proposal to gain some creative knowledge.