Gumtree Internal Hackathon
Last week we hosted an internal hackathon here at Gumtree. We have done a couple before at Gumtree and we love them as they are a perfect way for trying out new ideas, learning new skills or working with people you usually don’t work with.
On Thursday and Friday October 12 & 13 a big part of the Product & Tech team here at Gumtree locked themselves up in a room. The idea was to work for a short but intense period of time to solve a problem, complete a challenge or build something new. At Gumtree we work in cross functional teams and we agreed that this is something we wanted for the hackathon as well. However, we wanted to mix up teams to ensure people work with different team members. Cross functional teams are teams that consist of product managers, designers, frontend, backend developers, business development people, etc. All resources you need from hypotheses creation to getting the MVP live to site.
Themes. We spoke about a theme or inspiration but agreed that we would keep the theme open to spark as many creative ideas as possible. In order to make the hackathon somewhat relevant for Gumtree we created some judging criteria.
During breakfast we announced the teams. We created 6 teams, each of which had all the resources needed to create a demo-able MVP by Friday afternoon.
After the introduction we started with a couple of short talks from Dan Corder (Design Lead), Saulius Zukauskas (Architect) and Morten Skovgaard (Site Ops Mngr) providing some context based on customer input or internal efficiency challenges to plant some seeds before the team started their internal brainstorms. Dan gave an intro on the feedback we collect from our customers, things that confuse them or are not perfect. Saulius spoke about predictive data processing models and Morten spoke about simplifying our internal release procedure. Enough context to help the teams during the idea generation process.
Finally, it was time to start. Teams were getting together in their groups, the first white board drawings we’re coming up and the hackathon survival boxes (full of fruits, candy and red bull) we’re opened. Teams managed to make decisions about what kind of problem to crack relatively fast and went straight to business.
A short overview of the projects in no particular order:
Search powered by Image Recognition: using machine learning to recognise images and search on the platform.
God Mode, easily recreation of test data for various user test cases in our cloud enabled testing environments reducing time for our QA team members on a weekly basis.
GAIL — Gumtree’s Awesome Intelligence Ad Lister: posting a Gumtree advertisement just by speaking
Homepage personalisation: More personalized homepage experience that would increase engagement for first time Gumtree users.
Facebook Messenger search: Searching on Gumtree via Facebook Messenger app
Gumtree Assistant: a voice app experience through AI providing end to end journeys for sellers using Amazon Alexa.
The technology used
During the internal hackathon teams used various innovative technologies in addition to the ones we currently use at Gumtree. Just to name a couple: Chrome speech recognition API and Tensorflow machine learning algorithms for building simplified posting experience. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (Amazon Alexa) for building voice controlled Gumtree experience. The Facebook platform APIs for embedded Facebook experience
All teams used Friday morning to wrap up their projects, preparing their pitch and getting all MVPs ready for the internal hackathon demo scheduled for Friday afternoon. Besides that some people were a little tired, the atmosphere was pretty good, people were very excited and competitive. In the afternoon it was demo time, my personal favorite.
We had an internal jury that picked two winning teams, the overall internal Gumtree hackathon winning team and the team with the innovation award for the team with the most innovative idea. The team that was the overall winner of the internal Gumtree Hackathon wasGAIL — Gumtree’s Awesome Intelligence Ad Lister (posting an ad just by speaking). Main reason that that this technology is available on all devices (smart phones, tablets, etc.) and therefore adoption is going to be easy and fast. The Gumtree Innovation award went to the team who built Gumtree Assistant, the AI voice app experience using smart speakers.
This has been one of our better hackathons; good energy, great ideas but mostly because of the commitment for getting some of these ideas live in production for all our customers soon. George Buckingham, Gumtree’s commercial director being part of the jury said ‘This Hackathon was one of the most impressive displays of innovation, teamwork and smart thinking I have seen in my twenty years career. I have seen many similar type events before but this really was a cut above the rest’.
Of course this hackathon would not have been complete without some hackathon-clichés. Coding went on till pretty late, the smell in the room was a combination of bacon, burritos, curry and red bull. During the hackathon 322 bars of chocolate, 12 kilos of fruit and crisps, 132 red bull cans & 244 soda cans were consumed. And as hacking makes thirsty we ended in a local pub. Big thanks to our Gumtree colleague Helen and of course the eBay Facilities team for looking after the logistics.