At its San Francisco headquarters, Rdio recently held its first-ever hack day -- a marathon event where coders build stuff that works, fast.
Most hack days, including the one our editor just attended in Sydney, are open to the public and consist of programming wizards getting together over a 24-hour period and building a slew of quick-and-dirty apps (or "hacks" as they're officially known). Rdio's however, was a strictly in-house affair, with engineers from the streaming music service setting aside their regular work to focus on building their "dream features" using Rdio's API.
"We decided to run an internal Rdio hack day to give our developers a bit of a break from the daily grind," Todd Berman, Rdio's vice president of engineering, told Evolver.fm. "We tried to encourage our developers and designers to work together to build features that scratch a personal itch and could be produced and delivered to our users."
It's an interesting strategy, to repurpose the hack day concept internally, to help inspire a company to make things they might not have otherwise -- especially when Rdio is playing catch-up to Spotify in the app arena.
Out of all the hacks to emerge from this experiment, the hack that intrigues us most uses Shazam and Verizon's VCast Song ID to identify songs playing around you and automatically add them to an Rdio playlist. The company's blog points to an interesting use of the hack : You're out at a club with a particularly good DJ and want to be able to take home the playlist, so you tag each song the DJ plays, and voila, the whole thing is waiting for you on Rdio ( sans all the fancy blends and crossfades, of course).
Another highlight: an RSS feed for Rdio search results, eliminating the need to continually check back and see whether an anticipated album has been released for streaming yet. By subscribing to the feed using Google Reader or the RSS reader of your choice, you'll be notified as soon as that record drops.
Berman didn't mention any immediate plans for either hack to go into production, but other products of this hack day will reach users relatively soon. These include a new "artist view" for Rdio's recently-updated interface; a visualizer and graphic equalizer for running Rdio in Chrome; and a Roku screensaver for Rdio-loving users of those set-top boxes. Berman also mentioned a few hacks that the company is keeping "a tighter lid on," which sounds promising. According to him, those will be coming to the service "very shortly."
Berman considers the hack day "enormous success" overall. Rdio plans to run a similar day at least once per quarter.
For more on Rdio, check out our in-depth interview with Todd Berman, in which we discuss the company's push for universal music apps and the future of streaming music.