In Josh Coates’ Instructurecon 2016 Keynote, you might recall him referencing the Feature Idea forum as a gold mine. In this robust repository of intellectual gold, you’ll find requests ranging from a simple tweak (‘flake’) to huge tasks (‘nuggets’) that would require a lot of work. And, each of these ideas carry a vote count that represents community priority.
Why is Instructure suddenly sprinkling gold flakes?
In upcoming releases, you may start seeing the results of Instructure’s quarterly tradition—an event called Hack Week, where our engineers get dedicated time to work (or play) on a passion project.
Why does Instructure promote passion projects?
The old proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, translated in modern terms, may read
more like All work and no play burns Jack out. Burnout has compounding consequences mentally, physically, and emotionally. None of us want to see Instructure engineers looking like the working dead, which is why once a quarter they are given a week to select any bite-sized Canvas-related project and play!
Play, you may ask? Yes, Play! Play, which is how many engineers view tackling and testing new code and techniques, is a known generator of freeing the mind of mental block, increasing motivation and productivity, and spiking innovation. This isn’t a new concept—you may be familiar with Google’s ‘20 percent time’, which has sparked an educational movement known as ‘Genius Hour’. Instructure’s Hack Week is just a different flavor of the same strategy!
What about current projects?
Hack Week is factored into the development schedule when projects are initially scoped. Of course, if a project is behind or bugs need immediate attention, those tasks take priority. After a week, engineers resume their current projects where they left off—and hopefully, with fresh eyes, clear minds, and new approaches in their skillset!
Engineers share the same ‘gold mine’ perspective as Josh, and they love to align their passions with our community. And as a result, don’t be surprised to see a few feature flakes (and sometimes nuggets) that wouldn’t otherwise be completed had they not taken the time for play.
Check out these past examples:
- Show percentages in gradebook with % symbol
- Broken / orphaned links report
- Allow user to set their course calendar colors
- Ability to change a user’s role without deleting the user.
So, if you’re perusing the release notes over the next few releases and notice a feature that just doesn’t quite fit (having low votes or not quite aligned with larger general projects), that feature just may be an example of an engineer’s passion project aligning with the passions of community members!