ABOUT CREATIVITY: Our First Hackathon

March 31st, 2017 — Devs team up to flex their collective minds and solve interesting problems.

Authors: René Kulik & Katharina Seraphin

We wanted to bring colleagues across different departments together and give them a platform to realize their own fresh ideas. A hackathon was the perfect playground for discovery, where participants had the opportunity to get to know each other better, take on new roles, and break out of their daily rut.

Tired, but smiling, hackathon participants pose for a group photo.

Day 1

After everyone picked up their breakfast from the buffet, project pitches started. Ideas were presented to potential teammates in various levels of detail, but each with the same level of excitement!

The Spread

Decision time: All developers needed to decide on which project they’d commit to over the next two days and grouped up with their respective teams. As planning took place, mind maps and mockups were created, milestones defined, and tasks allocated to individual team members — then it was straight to business.

A team discusses their expense manager concept.

The Projects

Here’s an overview of the topics tackled during the two day sprint. Projects ranged in subjects seriously work related to just for fun. Drum roll please…

  • API Platform: Inspired by PostMan, RocketSurgery is used to define API requests and send via the tool to the API. It can be installed on internal company servers and therefore allows the definition of requests open for every team to simplify communication and implementation without the fear of sharing confidential data with externals.
  • Comment Categorizing: A way to collect comments on our social media posts and analyze them to take a general pulse of our followers.
  • Expense Manager: Pretty straightforward tracking of expenditures. Never have empty pockets again!
  • Image Recognition: Use your favorite fashion piece as a base for your query and find the style you love.
  • IRC on Special Linux Kernel: Chat built using Rust and executed on OpenBSD.
  • Lunch App: Make democratic decisions on group lunch locations. No more beef before the beef.
  • Messenger Bot: A trivia question and answer game that works within Slack.
  • Python and Sockets — a Love Story: A chat application created with python.
  • React Native, First Steps: An app which delivers cat pictures to your phone for that daily dose of cuteness.
Screens from the lunch app MVP
Image Recognition Color Mapping

The Tech

The languages our devs used varied considerably:

  • Java (Android)
  • JavaScript (React Native, Redux)
  • PHP (Lumen)
  • Node.js
  • Python (Django)
  • Rust

It was inspiring to see collaboration between members of all tech teams, following their project’s visions and helping each other out with new technologies and languages.

Teamwork

The circle wouldn’t be complete without developer-clichés: dinner was ordered via a pizza delivery service, coding went on until the early morning, fatboys were used for short naps throughout the night, and Red Bull empties could be stacked to reach the moon.

A full stomach is a necessary base for an all nighter.

Day 2

On the second day, people were even more motivated to finish their projects, or at least get out the best minimum viable product possible. Ideas were explored and developed until the last minute. Around 5pm, presentation of the results began, which drew the attention of our CTO, Sebastian Betz, who was interested to see the progress of the different team’s innovations. The results were stunning — every team produced cool prototypes and some committed to extending their work beyond the Hackathon as private projects.

Project Presentations

Overall, our first ABOUT YOU Hackathon exceeded expectations, and there have already been calls to hold a second one.

We wish to share this experience with all of our ABOUT YOU tech teams, so the results will be presented in an internal Tech Talk, opening the door to further discussion and input.

We are convinced that the first Hackathon will definitely not be the last and we are looking forward to another one in the near future.