Gengo-dō: Kamakura Hackathon

Every six weeks, members of Gengo’s engineering team take a day off from their usual schedules to work on a project of their choosing away from the office. During these hackathons, we hope that the team will come up with ideas that help shape the future of Gengo.

These events are a chance for everyone to take a step back and think about new ways in which we can make the translation experience better for both customers and translators.


Past venues have included Zen temples and yoga studios but this time we headed to the Zaimokuza coast (材木座), one hour from Tokyo, where we were hosted at Digital Garage’s Open Network Space in Kamakura. Only a minute’s walk from the beach and with beautiful views over Sagami Bay (相模湾) you couldn’t ask for a better spot to be inspired by.


At the end of a long day of hacking away at more than a dozen projects, everyone presented their demos back to the whole team. Prototypes included:

  • Support for the EPUB file format to allow people to translate eBooks via Gengo
  • A leaderboard showing weekly rankings for translators based on word count
  • A recommendation system that uses document clustering to help translators find jobs suitable to their interests
  • An iPhone app that helps people learn languages with the help of Gengo’s API and translators
  • A method of batching together API requests to reduce latency (the time between submitting a request and receiving a response), inspired by Facebook
  • A way for our DevOps team to automatically configure server clusters using Serf and deploy changes dynamically using Chef

In the evening we enjoyed a delicious meal of sukiyaki (Japanese hot pot), washed down by an abundant supply of sake and beer.


Building a coherent product is as much about what you leave out as what you put in, so over the next few months we’ll be carefully reviewing how some of the best ideas can be incorporated into Gengo’s roadmap. Even when a specific project doesn’t make it in, we always learn a lot from trying new technologies and sharing ideas. If your team doesn’t do hackathons right now, why not give it a go?

Let us know in the comments if you have great suggestions for hackathon venues near Tokyo. We’re always up for trying somewhere new.

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David Gilbert

The author

David Gilbert

David is Gengo’s Product Manager. He was born in the United Kingdom and has lived in London, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Tokyo. In his free time he enjoys exploring culture, design and technology in Asia and writing about it on his blog.

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