A former work colleague of mine, Steve, recently posted on facebook his enthusiasm during a “hack night” at his current company.  Max Guernsey, who I appreciate greatly as a current work colleague and progressive agile thinker, took exception to the phrase. I assume because it means dirty code and non-sustainable pace (working nights).  Here is part of the dialog:

MAX:  There are two words that seem to me like they should never be associated with what we do in a professional capacity…

STEVE:  wrong choice of words…it’s our autonomy day(s)… a time to work in a beneficial/needed/interesting/G5 project outside the scope of our normal areas of responsibility.

MAX: “Autonomy day” sounds as awesome as “hack night” sounds terrifying.

STEVE:  i wouldnt put too much meaning in when people say hack night…i’ve heard the term much more in the open source stack…it doesn’t have the negative connotation that it does in the .Net world. hack usually means (quality) work outside of (quality) day-to-day work.

I actually think that “Hack Night”, with all of it’s negative connotations, is an assertion of People over Processes (Individuals and interactions over processes and tools) from the Agile Manifesto. A hack implies a blatant disregard for process “rules” in order to produce a quick result (“working software”).

It is a heyoka/coyote technique for balancing our discipline of following the processes to which we elect to commit by periodically questioning those commitments and processes.

Think about it.  What or who exactly are you escaping in order to be “autonomous”?  Your own rules?

It also teaches that learning outcomes may not require all of the tools in our toolkit, and our processes are always contextual.