Facebook Employees Paint 42' QR Code On Roof

Employees of the social network took to the roof with some tar paint to create a 42-foot-wide QR code that is visible from space.

Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, now includes a 42-foot wide QR code on one of the rooftops.

As their contribution to the “Space Hackathon” initiated by Facebook Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to decorate the new facility, a group of employees took to the roof with some tar paint to create a 42-foot-wide QR code that is visible from space.

The tar painted on the roof, when scanned in by a handheld device running iOs or Android, leads FB QR Code Facebook page, which will host a mishmash of content.

The group was led by Mark Pike, an associate on the user operations, intellectual property team. Here’s what he posted about the adventure on Facebook’s engineering blog:

It started with a comment on Zuck’s post. I wrote, “Hack yeah! I’d like to paint a gigantic QR code somewhere so we can RickRoll online maps, or point people to our careers site, or send them to a ‘Clarissa Explains it All’ GeoCities Page.” By the end of the day, that comment had nearly 50 Likes. I still wasn’t sure if people were seriously interested, so I started a Group. When over 100 people joined, it was game on.

We spent the next few days planning out the logistics of how to put a QR Code on the roof of Facebook’s office. Building materials were debated intensely…

An engineer on the team realized that the shorter the URL stored in a QR code, the less complex the QR code needs to be. We figured that meant (a) less painting, and (b) a better chance that the code could be scanned from space. We went ahead and purchased http://fbco.de and the QR code pixels fell into place from there.

At Hackathon 29, a couple dozen engineers, designers, and members of our operations team climbed up on the roof armed with chalk, twine, paint rollers, a few drums full of black paint, and some cold beer. Some engineers in the crowd determined the optimal orientation of the grid, consulting satellite print-outs and knowledge of local flight paths. Meanwhile, a few of us got to work chalking out a 42′ square with 2′ pixels. After we triple-checked the layout, we started putting down paint and hoping we didn’t mess anything up. I felt like a digital Tom Sawyer convincing folks to come up to the roof to paint this funny project – instead of whitewashing a fence, we were laying down a QR code. Just before midnight, we finished up the last pixel and posed for a group picture. In the dark of the night, we had no way of knowing if we had succeeded.

The next day, one of our resident remote control enthusiasts strapped a Canon SD790IS camera to a tiny quadcopter and headed up to the roof at lunchtime. We were all nervous about whether the code would scan and eagerly awaited for photo evidence to be posted to our Group. We were like NASA mission control, repeatedly refreshing our browsers in nervous anticipation. Then at 2:38pm PT, we finally got the aerial view.

And so we had a QR code that was scannable from space, or at least from a plane. Not only was this Hackathon project a great success, but it was also an awesome example of why I love working here. Even with an idea as crazy as painting a 42′ foot grid on the roof of a building, nobody stopped us. All my co-workers reacted the same way: “What can I do to help?” Whether it was the mobile engineer who worked on the QR code landing site, the application engineer with carpentry skills, the marketing intern who helped brainstorm our launch plan, or the facilities team who pointed us to the ladder, everyone came together for the sake of building something fun.

So the next time you zoom in on Facebook from a satellite map or find yourself flying into SFO, take a close look at our roof. In the meantime, Like the FB QR Code Page for updates. We can’t promise you wont be Rick Rolled, but we can promise something cool.

Readers: Where are the most novel places you’ve seen QR codes?

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.