6 Things You Can Learn About BuzzFeed Tech From Our Hack Week

A close-up photo of our Hack Week 2019 stickers scattered on a table. Once a year, BuzzFeed Tech is allowed to run rampant in our codebase*, with a simple directive: work on anything except work. The ambitious, scrappy, and — dare I say it — actually functional projects that spring from our Hack Week are a snapshot into the tech […]

A close-up photo of our Hack Week 2019 stickers scattered on a table.

Once a year, BuzzFeed Tech is allowed to run rampant in our codebase*, with a simple directive: work on anything except work. The ambitious, scrappy, and — dare I say it — actually functional projects that spring from our Hack Week are a snapshot into the tech minds that power your daily dose of quizzes and memes. Remember, as you peek through the highlights below, that all of these projects were designed and implemented in under a week, and presented to the company (including our CEO, Jonah Peretti) that Friday!

*In an isolated cluster, for all the SREs who may be concerned.

1. We take fun seriously.

Not working on work means no work, right? Not for our engineering team. Over the course of five days, our team contributed a total of over 150 pull requests and spun up 23 new services to support our Hack Week projects. Not bad for a weeks’ work!

A screenshot of GitHub.com showing the number of pull requests.
Our internal repository pull request count on GitHub from 29 July to 8 August 2019, showing 25 open and 152 closed pull requests.

2. We’re a little obsessed with Tasty.

With absolutely no prompting, five different groups focused their efforts on Tasty, producing:

A screenshot of the Tasty App, showing an example of Tasty & Chill

Tasty & Chill (Tasty Social Engagement)

The Tasty app has already introduced some great new features for users to share their baking and cooking experiences with tips and ratings. Tasty & Chill takes it a step further by introducing user profiles, so you can see the full collection of ratings and reviews a particular user has left. If a particular user always offers great advice, you can follow them within the app to see more of their tips and favorite recipes.

Project Team: Suleiman Shakir, Graham Wood, Randy Karels, Malcom Mitchell, Joshua Walker, Will Kalish, Maria Enderton

Screenshot of the Tasty website search results for the mushroom emoji, with the title “Shiitake Just Got Real”
The food puns were 👌

Tasty Emoji Search

Want to get great Tasty recipes without having to type lots of words? Tasty Emoji Search understands food emoji as well as text, allowing you to save precious seconds when looking for your favorite mushroom recipe. Some emoji also come with punny results page titles as an added bonus!

Project Team: Maria Enderton

Tasty Mealz (The Tasty Meal Planner)

Screenshot of the Tasty Meal Planner, showing a weekly calendar with slots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Screenshot of the tasty meal planner, showing a recipe planner and calorie count for that day’s meals.

Tasty food isn’t just about the taste — it’s about the nutrition! The Tasty meal planner takes recipes a step further than just a single meal by letting users plan out an entire week of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners using Tasty recipes. Nutritional information and macro counts are included to keep track of a users’ specific dietary needs, and a week’s worth of recipes can be easily combined into a shopping list for easy prep.

Project Team: Emily Ji, John Philip

Portion of Loaded Vegetarian Breakfast Spaghetti recipe, listing all some of the ingredients.

Tasty AI

AI is the future of technology, so it was only a matter of time before someone built an AI to write Tasty recipes. The AI was trained with gpt-2-simple, and can take user-input suggestions for title and ingredients to produce new and sometimes… unconventional recipes. This one could probably take a pointer from our Tasty chefs. 😉

Project Team: Max Woolf

Tasty On-Device Translation

Screenshot of the Tasty app showing a Translate With Google selector to toggle the language to Spanish.

One of the top-requested features for the Tasty app is Spanish translation. ¿Por qué no lo haces? This hack uses an ML Kit for Firebase to perform on-device translation (no network required!) for recipes.

Project Team: Sufei Zhao

3. We want to hear what you have to say.

(But not in the creepy, “Big Brother is always watching” way.)


It’s exactly what it sounds like — emoji reactions to individual images/sections of articles on BuzzFeed! Who needs likes when you can have the love llama?

Project Team: Caroline Amaba, Jess Kustra, Angela Medina, Xu Zeng, and Andrew Paulus

Six sample emoji — Me, LOL, Love, I Need, I Need, and Whoa
Some concepts for unique Buzzmojis!


An ephemeral chat format that will appear for a limited period of time on popular posts, so multiple commenters can chat in real-time. Think Snapchat, but less snap and more chat.

Project Team: Clem Huyghebaert, Aaron Goldberg, Ben Stockwell, Allison Krausman, Elaine Dunlap, Chris Johanesen

4. Our tech beauty starts on the inside.

Rig UI

Screenshot of a server status dashboard, showing different boxes of information and a green “OK” at the top.

A one-stop-shop for managing BuzzFeed service deployments, checking statuses, and viewing documentation (we’ve talked about rig before on this blog). It was built as an upgrade to our current deployment service (geared mostly towards engineers and just shipping code) so that the purpose and status of one of our microservices could be understood and managed by anyone, not just the engineers who built it.

Project Team: Ian Feather, Kevin Ushijima, Edgar Sanchez, Artyom Neustroev, Jack Reid, Agata Grdal, Dang Vang


Screenshot of an automated checklist in slack showing steps for an active incident.

When things go wrong at BuzzFeed, we’ve got bots to help get our team on the scene. This project updated our current SlackBots (originally built during a previous Hack Week) that assist with managing incidents and contacting on-call engineers to give it the power to start on-call incidents, create and mark off items on checklists specific to the incident, and clean up lingering/abandoned incident channels.

Project Team: Raymond Wong, Marc McDonnell, Jack Ussher-Smith


Screenshot of BuzzFeed go links web interface, showing “Welcome to BuzzFeed Go Links” and a URL box.
That URL is NOT a typo. Or well, it was a typo at one point in Slack, that evolved into its own inside joke.

Writing docs is great, but who documents the documentation? Go Links is an internal short-linking system that gained popularity at Google and proliferated across many other tech companies. The team used an open-source fork of the project to allow anyone at BuzzFeed to quickly set up short links to important dashboards and files. Not only was this project a great collaboration across multiple BuzzFeed offices, but it also set up a great long-term system to quickly increase discoverability of internal documentation!

Project Team: Arushi Bandi, Edgar Sanchez, Felicia Cippoletti, Kate Zasada, Lauren Zhang, Logan McDonald, Andrew Mulholland, Nicholas Gervais, Sami Simon, Shraya Ramani

5. Our interns are 🔥

Two of the projects presented at our Hack Week Demo Day this year were 100% powered by our tech interns! In addition to the Tasty Meal Planner (see #2 — powered by Emily Ji and John Philip), our UK interns Noshin Begum and Oyindamola Aderinwale built an entire customizable 2D game engine for BuzzFeed posts. Introducing:


Gameplay with pixel versions of Karamo, Tan, and Jonathan from “Queer Eye”

A Queer Eye Themed 2D side scroller game engine that you can build with custom artwork and embed into posts. Select your Fab Five member and background, and you’ve built a game in seconds!

6. We’ve got offline skills, too.

BuzzFeed tech isn’t just about software and websites — we know our hardware as well. A few folks went above and beyond during Hack Week to bring the fun offline:


Left, Desktop computer sitting on a frame of PVC pipe shaped like an arcade cabinet. Right, a computer with 2 joysticks.

Ads engineer David Zhao navigated the perils of Raspberry Pis, romset versions, and getting things delivered to Manhattan in a timely fashion to construct a fully-functional arcade machine (now part of the permanent collection of the BuzzFeed New York office!)

Chocolate Chips & Lockpicks

Core infrastructure engineer Chloe Rota schooled our NYC office engineers on locksport (after making us all promise to never use this knowledge for nefarious purposes). With her detailed instruction, we were picking (very simple) locks in minutes. The class was capped off with Insomnia Cookies, a staple of BuzzFeed NY snack-related events.

Woman standing in a conference room surrounded by other people, laughing.
VP of Engineering Luke Vnenchak, moments before picking his first lock.
Hands holding a lock with a lockpick tool inside.
Practice 2-pin lock.
Two men looking at a small lock
Ads engineers Ted Andricos and Jonathan Ginter contemplating the complexities of a one-pin lock.

Homemade Snack Break

Our Minneapolis office took some time to rest their hacker-typing fingers with some home-baked treats — Lemon Meringue Bars and sugar cookies baked in the shape of Minnesota.

Three pans of baked goods arranged on a kitchen counter
(The sugar cookie recipe is a Tasty recipe, of course. We told you we were a little obsessed.)

What happens to these projects now that the sun has set on Hack Week? Some will rescind back into the void of “If only I had time to work on…” until next year, while others may be coming to a site or app near you. Which projects would you be most excited to see rolled out to production? Comment below to let us know!

You can also find out about some of the new things we’re launching at BuzzFeed Tech by following our twitter, @buzzfeedexp!

Also, BuzzFeed Tech is hiring. If you are interested in browsing openings, check out buzzfeed.com/jobs. We have roles in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, London, and New York!

6 Things You Can Learn About BuzzFeed Tech From Our Hack Week was originally published in BuzzFeed Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Buzzfeed