Coding and Red Bull: Facebook holds all-night hacking session

Story highlights

  • At Facebook, all-night hacking will greet initial public offering of stock
  • The company's 31st "hackathon" lets employees work on pet projects
  • Facebook Chat and the "like" button came from earlier hackathons

At some companies, the night before a multibillion-dollar stock offering might come with lavish parties and champagne.

At Facebook, it will be work and Red Bull.

According to a rundown from Facebook about the day leading up to Friday's initial stock offering, staffers will be all-hands-on-deck for the company's 31st "hackathon" -- one of its all-night coding sessions that have become a Facebook tradition since the company's earliest days.

"Although all-nighters have been a Facebook tradition since the beginning, we made hackathons official in 2007," the schedule says. It was provided to media due to intense interest in advance of the Wall Street debut. "They are all-night coding sessions where employees focus on any project they choose, with only one rule: It has to be different from their day job."

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No assignments are handed out, and the prize for participation is a T-shirt. The casual wear (which CEO Mark Zuckerberg still embraces even when meeting with the suits in New York) has become a bit of a status symbol there. If you've collected 31 T-shirts, it means you've been hacking for the company since the old days.

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Facebook Chat, the "like" button and even an early version of Timeline were devised during previous hackathons.

"Of course, no Facebook event would be complete without food, so our culinary team will be providing snacks and meals throughout the night. We'll also have some employees DJing inside and ample Red Bull," the schedule says.

Folks at Facebook's Menlo Park, California, headquarters will meet in "Hacker Square," where the word "HACK" is built into the cement.

Employees at other locations will also be participating.

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The hacker culture has long been engrained at Facebook, a multinational corporation that famously has roots in a Harvard dorm room.

As TechCrunch notes, Zuckerberg even used Wall Streeet filing papers as an opportunity for a sort of pro-hacker manifesto.

"The word 'hacker' has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers," he wrote. "In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done. Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I've met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world."

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We'll withhold judgment until we see what comes out of this 'twas-the-night-before-IPO hackathon. It's clear Facebook wants to stick to its roots, or to seem that way, even in the face of billions of dollars it's likely to make on Friday.