In 2011 we started a bit of a tradition at Clearleft: disappearing into the countryside for a week, leaving client work behind, to hack on a brand new project from scratch. We call it Hack Farm. That first Hack Farm resulted in Map Tales, a little service for creating and sharing map-based stories.

We had our second annual Hack Farm a couple of months ago. We absconded to the wilds of Dorset, taking some of the smartest people we know along with us. Because we actually succeeded in shipping something at the Hack Farm the previous year, we agreed to approach this one a bit differently. It would be less about the outcome and more about the process.

It was a lot of fun. Trying to figure out what to make and how to make it was frustrating at times, but very rewarding overall. At the end of the week we didn’t have a finished product, but we did still put something together: a website documenting the process, complete with videos taken along the way. I’ve written a bit more about Hack Farm over on my blog and James wrote about the design approaches we tried out.

I found Hack Farm to be immensely enjoyable and useful. If you have a chance to partake in something similar at your company, go for it. There’s a great balance between have such tight constraints — “We’ve only got a few days: go, go, go!” — and so much freedom to explore — “We’re the client: the sky’s the limit!”

Also, by the end of the week, none of us had resorted to cannibalism. Success!