BitTorrent Palooza Report: July 2013 (Or, How Stuff Gets Made)
Rex Ren presents his Palooza Demo to the company.

Rex Ren presents his Palooza Demo to his peers at BitTorrent, Inc.

Good ideas can come from anywhere, which is why BitTorrent holds regular hackathons which we here at BitTorrent call a “Palooza.”

The basic idea is that we set aside two work days where anyone within company can form a team to work on a new product, feature, internal tool, or general idea. At the end of the two day period we have a show-and-tell session where each team has five minutes to present and demo their concept, followed by voting and the announcement of winners.

Palooza teams often form across product group or departmental boundaries, so people from different parts of the company get to know each other, and their work, better during the two day period. Teams with multiple disciplines represented (engineer, designer, product owner) often do very well, so it pays to make new contacts.

We take the two day period seriously, and everyone who is working on a Palooza project has full permission to decline meetings and dedicate themselves 100% to the project.

For our most recent Palooza, we chose to explore the power of distributed computing as a way to enable private personal communication and serve the cause of internet freedom. Privacy, and concerns about cloud services, are on many people’s minds these days in the wake of recent disclosures about government surveillance programs. BitTorrent is in a unique position to address these concerns by extending our existing peer-to-peer applications into new spaces.

Some of our best product ideas and internal tools have come out of Paloozas. BitTorrent Surf, BitTorrent Bundles, and BitTorrent Sync are all products that started as Palooza presentations. A Twilio-powered office lights management phone application is a much-used internal tool that also started as a Palooza presentation, as is our streamlined internal human resources application.

This Palooza saw ideas such as realtime and collaborative applications built on top of BitTorrent Sync, a improved uTorrent and BitTorrent installer architecture, a privacy-preserving real-time voice chat application, amongst many other creative ideas that we hope to develop further and introduce in the future.

– Justin

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