3Play Media Strengthens its Engineering Team by Contributing to Open Source and Building Company Side Projects
Updated: February 18, 2020
At 3Play Media, we’re passionate about collaboration and giving back to underserved communities. Through our mission of making audio and video accessible to everyone, we’ve incorporated that mentality into how and why we work.
Since 2009, our company has grown exponentially, expanding to more than 50 employees today. As part of this growth, we’ve begun to more clearly define processes that previously were just unwritten company rituals.
Nearly three years ago, our developers advocated for more time to experiment with new technologies outside of the work we did as part of our typical sprint cadence. Initially, this resulted in a few hours here and there to explore emerging technologies and build cool projects that were interesting, but maybe didn’t provide direct value to anyone.
Over the past year, we’ve formalized this into something we call DevDayz, a series of skill-building Fridays that take place every other week after our sprint ends. A few days before each DevDay, our engineering and R&D teams come together to plan out what we want to build.
Past Projects We’ve Built
In order to get sign on, we had to make sure the projects we worked on would provide some type of direct value back to 3Play. In addition, other criteria for projects included allowing our developers to learn a new technology or skill, and making sure that it was a project that people wanted to work on.
1. Bathroom Bot: We built a Slack command and integrated a light-detecting Arduino to detect if either of the gender-neutral bathrooms were occupied. We found that a lot of people were going up to check and wait for the restrooms, which was both time-consuming and awkward. This Slack integration has helped us learn hardware development, and also was our first Slack bot!
2. Keg Bot: When our beer, kombucha, or cold brew kegs are out, this Slack bot sends out emails so we know to reorder and keep the kegs replenished.
3. Spotify Playlist Generator: As part of our company onboarding process, each employee has to submit their favorite songs to our company playlist. We built a Slack integration and channel to allow employees to collaboratively add songs to the 3Playlist, which we curate and play at company outings.
Internal Company Projects
1. 3Play Email Signature Creator: To make our emails more consistent, we built an email signature creator which generates a consistent (and accessible) email signature that a 3Play employee can copy into their mail client.
2. 3Play Replay: As part of our end-of-year DevDayz project for 2019, members of our design, marketing, and development teams came together to work on a wrap-up page for a few hundred of our most active customers. Within a few days, 3Play was able to launch and send out emails to our customers that redirected them to this highly personalized webpage, which highlighted not only the importance, but also the impact of making content on the web accessible. It also helped engage our customer base by reporting on their usage of our product over the past year.
Open Source Projects
1. DiaperBase: This year’s community project was working on the DiaperBase web application, an open source project for managing diaper banks inventory and making it easier for volunteers to collect, store and distribute free diapers to struggling families. We thought it would be a great way to participate in this year’s Hacktoberfest as it directly contributes to a cause that needs development resources.
1. 3Plympics Scoreboard and App: Each year, 3Play holds its annual tradition known as 3Plympics, an all-day field day in which teams compete against each other for prizes and bragging rights. As part of this past year’s 3Plympics, the engineering team built an interactive real-time scoreboard and minigames (such as Jeopardy, Escape the Room, and Pictionary).
Why We Started DevDayz
Since starting DevDayz, we’ve noticed that briefly stepping away from the full-time work we do for 3Play has had a significant impact on our contribution as developers.
Some of the benefits include:
3Play’s engineering team, like many others, is comfortable working with a particular set of technologies. As a result, our developers don’t get much time to explore other technologies or tools during work. To counteract this, we allow (and even encourage) our developers to try out other technologies to see if they make sense to use as part of our primary development stack.
For example, after several months of experimenting with new front-end frameworks, our team decided to use React as part of our main web application. Some of the benefits include helping our developers spin up user interfaces faster and learn new skills throughout the process. In addition, switching over to an updated technology stack made it easier for our developers to collaborate on code and make our interfaces more accessible, responsive, and usable. In 2019, our team has built several new pages using this new stack, which include 3Playground (3Play’s design system), Downloads, and our File Panel. In 2020, we’ll continue to build on top of these technologies to ensure that we’re providing the best possible experience for both our developers and our customers.
Another benefit of DevDayz is promoting cross-functional collaboration between team members that usually don’t have the opportunity to work together. At 3Play, we split our engineering team into three primary divisions – a web application development team, a design team, and a research team.
Although members from these three teams generally have different skill sets and work on different things, DevDayz breaks down these artificial partitions and promotes cross-functional collaboration through hackathon-like mini-projects. This helps us gain an appreciation and a better understanding of what other teams are responsible for, and how we can work collaboratively to build better experiences for our customers and make the web more accessible and equitable for all.
Giving Back to the Company and Others
3Play’s company culture revolves around giving back and building things that make a difference, whether it be for our employees or for others outside of 3Play. Many of our internal projects are inspired by problems or needs that we’ve noticed – empty kegs, having to wait for the bathroom, or inconsistent email. DevDayz gives us time to create solutions to some of these problems and automate processes that we hate doing, saving us a lot of time and frustration.
Additionally, we want to use our time to give back to others outside of 3Play as well. Working on open-source projects and helping non-profits is rewarding because we know we’re directly giving back to causes that matter. Moving forward, we’ll continue to take on more of these projects, and also use this time to volunteer for organizations in real life as well.
Apply today to make a difference and love where you work!
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