Posts Tagged ‘Hack Week’

chartbeat notifier


Hack Weeks at Chartbeat are always a time of joy. A time of joy for trying and learning new things. It’s a great opportunity for everyone at the company to stretch their minds and tackle new challenges they wouldn’t otherwise experience. We get to pair up with people we don’t usually get a chance to work with, and we get to play around, creating things that sometimes become indispensable for our clients.

Two Hack Weeks ago I worked on a project called Chartbeat Notifier.  It was started by our former CTO Allan, and he had already completed a large chunk of it.  However it wasn’t completely finished, nor was it in a state that we could share.  So I finished the Notifier, polishing the parts of the project that needed a little more TLC.

This most recent Hack Week, I pruned off the remaining rough edges and it is with great joy and pride that we are releasing the Chartbeat Notifier project as an open source project!

Chartbeat Notifier is a native Mac application that lives in your menu bar.  For your domain it can show one of two metrics in an always visible location:

 1. the number of concurrent visitors on your domain

2. the average Engaged Time of all the users on the domain

Either number will be always visible in your menu bar, and is continuously updated as the day goes on.

chartbeat notifier


Chartbeat Notifier also serves as a handy way to quickly jump into your dashboard.  Simply click on the Chartbeat menu bar icon and the ‘Open Dashboard’ link and you’ll be taken directly to your dashboard.  Quick and easy, just the way we like to keep things.

There’s only one thing that I love more than Hack Week, and that’s when we are able to share our hacks back to the community.  Click on over to the Chartbeat Notifier project page and click the download link to get started!

PS- To see more of our great hacks in action, visit Chartbeat Labs.

Ever wonder what’s going on with all of the web content across the entire Chartbeat network? We wondered too. Questions like, how many articles are being posted online per day and where is all that awesome traffic coming from, kept running through our heads.

So, this Hack Week we gathered our data scientists and got to the bottom of it because we just couldn’t help ourselves. We weren’t disappointed with what we found and we hope you aren’t either.

Click the infographic to see it in its full glory – and please share it with your friends and fellow data nerds!

chartbeat infographic

Chartbeat Rising

A few weeks ago we launched the new Chartbeat Labs page and with it introduced our latest hack project that’s totally free and open to everyone on the internet, whether you’re a client or not: Chartbeat Rising. Like all of our Labs projects, Rising was conceived in one of our Hack Weeks, where our team gets a week between product development cycles to learn new dev skills and build something awesome with our data.

This one particular Hack Week (way back when), Isaac, one of our data dudes, decided to dive into aggregating topics sites using Chartbeat were writing about. But not just to see what was popular, to see what’s actually keeping people’s attention. Turns out, there’s a huge difference between what people click on and what they spend time reading.

So that data + design + front end genius + TLC from Chartteam all-stars Danny and Meagan gave us the Rising prototype you see today.

Let me give you a quick tour:

1. Bubble Topics

Those sites that allow us to aggregate and anonymize their data are all pulled into a big data pile (that’s the technical term for it), and are sorted by category – news, entertainment, or technology. Then the topics within those categories are ranked by the most popular – those with the most amount of concurrents, or most Engaged Time – those with the highest amount of time people spend actually reading articles about this topic. Click on the toggle on the top right and you’ll usually see a pretty big difference.

2. Wiggly Movements

My favorite part, so I have to cover this, are the bubble movements. As Rising is all about the topics that are rising to the top, the movement shows how the bubbles are interacting with each other – the biggest bubbles with the highest ranks are wiggling their way around the other bubbles to rise to the top.

3. Topic Context

Why the hell is “telekinesis” a top tech story? Fantastic question. Click the bubble and find out. Since all our data is anonymous, these headlines pulled into the call out box aren’t from Chartbeat sites, necessarily, but pulled from a search API to give context to what Rising is presenting as relevant. That may change in the future as we iterate.

Like all our Labs projects, Chartbeat Rising is hacky and will probably break a bit every once in awhile, but it also means there’s so much more we could build onto this guy. In only the first couple of weeks it’s been live, we’ve already had requests to see topics sorted by a single URL or by Geo (Hi, Anjanette!). So I hope you share it around and give us loads of feedback on what you’d want to see it do.


Our guest blogger today is Michael Lovitt, VP of Engineering at Vox Media.

Last month, Vox engineers spent three days at Chartbeat’s NY office hacking on digital ad measurement. I want to share Vox’s take on the current state of online advertising and tell you how and why we’re working with Chartbeat to make things better.

The current state of online advertising

The state of digital advertising — and brand advertising, in particular — is suboptimal. In short, as an industry, we’re showing ads that readers don’t want to see and measuring using techniques that don’t tell us enough about whether ads are successful.

The good news, from our perspective at Vox Media, is that digital advertising has enormous room for improvement. We believe that by designing beautiful ads that delight instead of annoy, elegantly integrating these beautifully-designed ads alongside premium brands and content and for a premium audience, and employing measurement techniques that reveal a complete picture about who viewed an ad and to what degree readers engaged with and were influenced by it, that we can provide an advertising experience that does a better job of pleasing everyone involved: publishers, advertisers, and readers alike.

We’re making progress on all of the above, but solving these problems isn’t easy. It helps to have great partners.

Solving problems with Chartbeat

On measurement in particular, we were excited to work directly with Chartbeat because, like us, they’re convinced that the current state of digital ad measurement is not good enough and are actively working to make it better. Of course, Chartbeat is in the business of knowing how users engage with websites, and they’ve started to put that expertise to work tracking ads. (We had nodded our heads all the way through reading their recent blog post on the superiority of Engaged Time over impressions and clicks and awesome study showing a strong correlation between Engaged Time and brand recall.)

We’re also passionate (OK, addicted) users of Chartbeat’s products. Screenshots of important Vox milestones as visualized by Chartbeat litter our Campfire transcripts. These people do awesome work and it’s fun to hack with folks whose work you admire.

For all of these reasons, when Chartbeat invited us to attend one of their Hack Weeks, we immediately said yes.

Pre-hack planning

The Hack Week invitation was made at an opportune time, as Vox had just released an early alpha version of a new ad product metrics dashboard. The system was still in its early stages, but it was functioning in at least a basic way at every layer, and it served as a foundation for us to hack on.

We arrived at Chartbeat with a mock of a few changes to the dashboard — we knew we wanted to start reporting, for every ad, both the Average and Total Engaged Time. As Chartbeat has shown, Engaged Time correlates well with brand recall, so being able to provide this level of insight to our advertisers and to ourselves would be one important step forward in moving beyond standard clicks and impressions

So we came with one concrete thing that we wanted to accomplish (having validated the idea with Chartbeat beforehand to make sure what we had in mind wasn’t crazy); beyond that, we were ready to play it by ear.

Hack, hack, hack

Here’s a quick rundown of what happened during our three days at Chartbeat:

Trei, Niv, Pablo, Aaron, and I arrived late Wednesday morning and kicked off with a short presentation to the Chartbeat team about Vox, and then settled into Chartbeat’s Stark Tower conference room and got to work.

We sat down with some of the Chartbeat team — Harry, Matt, Wes, Shaun, and Alex — and reviewed the dashboard mock. It turned out that Chartbeat’s existing ad product would be sufficient to record all the data we needed, but that a new API would need to be built to return that data back to us. Vox engineers got to work adding Chartbeat tracking to Vox ads, and Chartbeat engineers started building out the new API.

By the end of the first day, we had a Chartbeat-instrumented Vox ad running in production and a new Chartbeat API running on a laptop and returning data from Chartbeat’s production data store. From there, we could run our metrics dashboard in our dev environment and start to see real data flow in. Hurray!

On the second day, we solidified what we had built the day before. We wrote the front-end code to beautifully display metrics on the dashboard and got the Chartbeat API running on a server on the web so that we could push our metrics dashboard changes live.

Since we were making good progress on our primary goal, we also took some time to hack on Chorus, Vox’s publishing platform. We used an existing production Chartbeat API to integrate real-time Chartbeat metrics into the Chorus layout editor — so that, for example, an editor on Polygon, when deciding what stories should be placed on the home page, can easily see the current visitor count on each currently-placed story.

The morning of the third and final day, we asked ourselves if we could get one more metric, Engaged Concurrents, integrated into the dashboard before the 1pm demo. It seemed feasible so we tried and got it done.

We showed off what we had all built to the Chartbeat team over pizza. After declaring total victory, the Vox crew said goodbye and stopped for celebratory drinks while we waited for our train back to DC.

Closing thoughts

We had a blast hacking with Chartbeat. It’s fun to make things with smart people, especially when they’re focused on the same problems as you are. Beyond ad measurement problem-solving, we enjoyed getting to know the team and talking shop: approaches to team organization, benefits and trade-offs of remote versus centralized workers, respective merits of modern JavaScript frameworks, and on and on.

Finally, we’ve been able to maintain post-hack momentum and have made great progress taking these projects to completion — an important final step in any hackathon, and especially a cross-company hackathon like this one. Chartbeat has already released the APIs they built during our visit into production and we’re working this week at Vox to update the API client code in our metrics dashboard.

Now that we have this ad engagement data, what’s next? To start, we’ll be using this data internally to better understand how well our ads are performing — by feeding it into our ad design process, measuring ad performance, and iterating. We’ll consider this data alongside other metrics that reveal how users are viewing and interacting with our ads. As we continue to take on the hard problem of optimally measuring digital ads, we look forward to having partners like Chartbeat at our side.


PS- Check out Chartbeat CTO Wes Chow’s guest post for the Vox Product blog.

I’m currently a rising senior studying computer science at Brown University and I was introduced to Chartbeat through the NYC Turing Fellowship, for which I was selected as a semifinalist. After a grueling round of interviews with other top startups, I was picked to be a developer intern for Chartbeat this summer.  Here are some things I’ve loved about my experience:

The Stack

Although most of the work I’ve done while at Chartbeat has been backend development, the full stack is open to all who are curious. Even the most hardcore of backend developers (I’m thinking of you, Vadim), freely transition to frontend development, and the reverse happens too. This freedom has been great as an intern since I’ve not had any development experience outside of the classroom. I have visited the depths of C and Lua, written some lines of Bash, and stared at singular lines of Javascript for so long I think I sprouted a few grays.

As my first internship this has definitely been preciously helpful in getting a sense of what it’s like to work at a software company. My courses at Brown have of course been necessary to get where I am now, but it’s refreshing to work on a real product as opposed to the sometimes pedantic projects on which I’ve worked alone.


At least a few people I’ve met who are in-the-know of tech industry have asked me: Does Chartbeat really have a puppytorium?! The answer is yes, but really, the whole office is free range to (well-behaved) furry critters. At 15 I started working for a veterinary hospital back in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona and my own house is filled with cats, puppies, and turtles. College living doesn’t permit pets so I’m happy that even while I’ve been away this summer, home has been brought that much closer.


At Chartbeat, six-week cycles are followed up by a refreshing sabbatical Hack Week. That’s right. Not Hack Day. Not Hack Weekend. Hack Week.

I decided to extend my wings to frontend development by building something fun and useful: a real-time Gaussian heatmap. For the uber geek this could be considered a visual kernel density estimation showing the probability distribution of users’ geographical locations across a website. I had already been working on a project related to geographical information for some up-and-coming Chartbeat features, so I thought this Hack Week endeavor would be a nice transition. Check it out on the Labs page, and let me know what y’all think!

The Product

At the end of the day, Chartbeat makes good products, if I say so myself. Despite the smallish size of our company, Chartbeat is trying to solve some huge – and hugely complicated challenges. That’s probably my bias though. Nonetheless, online publishers are facing major obstacles and are going to have to look for increasingly innovative and technology-driven methods to produce high quality content. Although they have that difficult burden placed on them, I think Chartbeat and companies like it will help them make that happen.


The people make Chartbeat what it is and I’ve been very impressed by the diversity of my coworkers. There is an infectious and almost parental love that the Chartteam holds for the company and product that spreads from developer to marketer alike.

And people are so damn friendly as well. I was also much relieved to see that perhaps unlike other companies there is a considerable amount of mingling amongst the technical and non-technical folks. I love programming as much as the next hacker but variety is the spice of life, after all.

I hope my reasons are enough to encourage you to look into working or interning with Chartbeat – it’s been an incredibly rewarding summer and a great introduction to the world of startups.

Interested in working at Chartbeat? Check current openings here.