Early to bed, early to rise makes Facebook hackathon lame in Zuckerberg's eyes

COO Sheryl Sandberg and PR chief-turned-platform politician Eliot Schrage, Facebook's no-fun adults, are fully in charge of Facebook. The latest evidence? Facebook's second annual F8 developers' conference has another "hackathon." But unlike last year's all-night session, it hardly deserves the name. It starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 11 p.m., presumably so Schrage can go home and get a good night's sleep before calling reporters on the East Coast to tell them of Facebook's fabulous new platform achievements. Developers are still raging about the notion that Schrage, a PR guy, is in charge of Facebook's development platform. At a recent party in San Francisco, Ben Ling, the technical guy behind the platform, was spotted rolling his eyes when Schrage's name came up.

No wonder. From a Facebook Developers' blog post

Because we want you to follow a more normal sleep schedule than we Facebook engineers swear by, the Hackathon won't last all night long, and instead will be held from 3pm till 11pm.

According to Sarah Lacy's Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good, those hours means this year's F8 hackathon doesn't deserve the name:

The hackathon is a hallowed tradition at Facebook. It starts when someone in the course of any workday calls for a hackathon. This usually happens about once a month. Anyone except Zuck can call for one. They settle on a night, and over junk food, beer, and Red Bull, Facebook's corps of engineers stays up all night coding. A hackathon has only two rules: the project has to be something cool and it couldn't be something they'd normally work on. Once the sun comes up, they all go to breakfast somwhere together and then they crash the entire next day. All meetings on that day are canceled. [Zuckerberg] knows they could get the same production just working a normal day, and it wouldn't screw up everyone's sleep schedules. But he could never replicate this esprit de corps.

The whole point, in other words, is screwing up people's sleep. But how would you expect an aging flack like Schrage to understand such fine points of hacking?

There may be some wisdom here nonetheless. With animosity brewing between third-party Facebook platform developers and the social network, perhaps trying to create "esprit de corps" between the groups with a groggy all-nighter would have just made things worse. Still, we're sure Zuck is sad to see the F8 hackathon go. The early bedtime means he won't have a chance to replicate last year's "John Hughes moment" with girlfriend Priscilla Chan, also documented by Lacy:

Long after the keynote was done and everyone left was hacking away, Zuck and Priscilla were walking hand in hand, amidst a floor of empty chairs, locked in quiet conversation. The scene was more like a moment from a John Hughes move than the pivotal point that would rock Silicon Valley's startup world. As if they were going to start to slow-dance at any moment.