‌Anything Can be a Weekend Hack

On the unforeseeably large gap between demo and production, and the reification of patterns derived from a conviction that anything can, in fact, be a weekend hack—it’s just a matter of perspective, and a matter of what you’re willing to sacrifice (perhaps the integrity of what you’re building itself?).

Everything I have ever built has been a weekend hack.

This is not something I admit lightly, but it is true, in spirit, if not letter—everything of any magnitude that I have ever built has been a weekend hack. (Even this post is a weekend hack!)

When the canvas is blank, even the roughest sketches of bridges appear to have been summoned from some ethereal plane, and even the simplest of scratchwork seems saintly. And those responsible for this mythical wireframe? Magicians.

I’ve always appeared a magician to those who haven’t been under the floorboards with me during that zero to one phase, but those who’ve joined me in excavating the earth beneath our feet know precisely where the still beating heart is hidden.

Many proclaim that ideas are cheap; execution is everything—if this be the case, where do prototypes fall? In the hollow valley between the intention and the realization? I think they are charlatans—those who wish to remind you so.

My fatal flaw is that I’ve never been willing to do the maintenance: consider marines, HALOing in behind enemy lines, not the army, glacial with its rank (and?) gusto. I’ve always been distracted by shiny things, blinding things, that glitter deceptively with false bravado and the promise of triviality. In fact, on Day 1 of my internship after my first year of college, the goals I outlined for myself:

I am very much the lonely astronaut drifting in space, prepared to return home on command—but, what use is there for a moonwalker on Earth?

“Things I want to learn and master” are all things people figure out on Day 2. And yet, even there, I never did get to Day 2. Perhaps it’s telling that both of my inspirations are iconoclasts.

Every weekend hack takes something from me—though in the moment intoxicating, afterwards, I am reminded that sacrificing sleep is the easiest way to visit Death’s other kingdom. If Dracula were to pay me a midnight visit, he should find me clattering away, raging after the dying of the light. Only after sustained periods of deprivation do we realize the value of “great nature’s second course”—unfortunately, I’m running a startup.

My productivity as a function of days.

What I build, too, is damaged by weekend hacks, as the quick and dirty solutions I tell myself I’ll fix, I find months later, reified in code: the source of seconds of latency, memory leaks, or worse. Someone somewhere said “you earn the right to scale,” but if it ever does come time to scale, man, am I going to have one hell of a time.

I will be immortal through my code, if nothing else.

Acknowledgement, however, is seldom extended to those who dwell in the afterglow of creation. The janitors of code, the gardeners of the tech ecosystem—they are the invisible force that keeps the digital world turning. Whether they are patching up security vulnerabilities, taking down redundant code, or optimizing databases, they are the unsung heroes who hold the fort while the magicians move on to their next spectacle.

One day I will learn to do what they do—but I dearly hope that I never have to, for that will be the day that I will have lost my foolish daring; for now, I am content with weekend hacking my way from gleaming tower to tower, building the bridge beneath my feet as I bound unbounded.

Govind Gnanakumar image
Govind Gnanakumar

Hunting Flutter devs through the multiverse