I came across this surprising piece of news in ars technica (I always feel a little dirty saying that :-). Surprising, because it's such a good idea. Most surprising?
It happened at Novell.
What idea? Why, to set the Linux engineering team loose for a week to do work on whatever they wanted. Full freedom to hack at will on the open source projects of their choice. Appropriately, they called it "Novell Hack Week."
I like this quote from one of the participants:
So even though we're a big company with lots of customers and product release schedules to satisfy, we're also an open-source company. And the ideas behind ITO and Hack Week are firmly rooted in open-source culture. There are also other software companies who do this kind of thing, though it's rarer than it should be. We want all our developers to have a chance to be creative and to try something new, without having to "find time" or justify it. And as it turns out, amazing things can happen when you set a huge team of great hackers loose.
Indeed. That's the very premise of open source - the most qualified people for a given task, self-select for that task. It's indeed unfortunate that at most companies this self-selection doesn't happen to the degree that it probably could, if we just discarded the shackles of conventional notions of how things ought to be done.
At any rate, kudos to Novell for doing this. I suspect Nat Friedman was behind this somehow, bohemian that he is. :-)