Netsells: The Hackathon

If you work in tech, you’ll probably be familiar with the term ‘hackathon’ before. You might have even heard its less common variants, like ‘hack day’, ‘hackfest’ or ‘codefest’.

A hackathon is an event (usually 24-48 hours but sometimes longer) dedicated to intense sprints of collaborative computer programming. The term is a portmanteau: hack (high productivity programming) + marathon (a long sprint).

Hackathons started in the open source community and retain that sense of collaboration and learning. Their popularity is down to the feeling of community they create and the intrinisic importance of teamwork.

After the success of previous hackathons, we decided to really go for it this year. Hackathons pare a great opportunity for employee development and team building which is especially important in an industry as fast-paced and progressive as tech. Keeping up to date with technological updates is a constant part of a dev’s job. Through the hackathon, we could facilitate an intense session where everyone could make some rapid progress with tech they were interested in.

Last Saturday, 9 of our developers occupied Suite 2 and began the hackathon. Initial plans to pull together and work on one project were quickly dropped in favour of smaller teams dedicated to projects based off personal interests. The only theme: challenge yourself.

Our teams were:

SharePlay

Sam B - Javascript Developer

James - Laravel Developer

Aim - Create a slackbot that controls the office playlist and allows people to vote on songs.

Netcasts

Alex - Laravel Developer

Adam H - Laravel Developer

Becca - Senior Frontend Engineer

Aim - Develop a mobile/web app that allows Netsells developers to upload, search and stream screencast tutorials.

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Nice One

David - PHP Developer

Aim - Create a slack plugin allowing employees to thank each other formally. The number of thanks sent can be tallied and published at the end of every week/month.

Judd Loves Pie

Judd - Lead Backend Developer

Aim - Create a raspberry pi cluster to show how mongoDB databases can be scaled efficiently.

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Orderify

Craig - Head of Infrastructure

Sam T - Lead Frontend Developer

Aim - Simplify food and drink ordering for large groups (such as ordering a McDonalds in an office environment, or Friday beers). Ability to create menus, add additional charges (such as delivery) and Monzo integration.

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The day went really well and everyone was super focused on their projects. It was clear that everyone had gotten stuck in, operating outside their comfort zones in terms of the tech they were using. It was the perfect opportunity for our junior developers to refine their Laravel skills and for our senior developers to introduce themselves to brand new tech they’d never seen before.

Our team used:

  • MongoDB
  • RaspberryPi’s
  • Laravel
  • GO
  • Nativescript
  • Node
  • AWS

Hackathons are usually held as competitions and we decided to follow in that tradition for some added motivation. The promise of eternal glory clearly worked and everyone produced some amazing results.

There could only be one winning team though. For clarity, we decided to draw up some voting guidelines:

1 - Effort put in by teams and individuals.

2 - Quality of the finished project - was the project in a usable state and did it fulfil its original aim?

3 - Variety of technology used - the aim of the day was to push ourselves and to learn new technology.

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By a small margin, our winner was David with his project ‘Nice One’. James and Sam B came a close second with their slackbot ‘SharePlay’. Both teams were commended for the potential value of their projects to the company and the sheer amount they managed to achieve in the limited amount of time they had.

With our winner crowned and bestowed with his prize (£150 in Amazon vouchers), there was nothing left to do but devour any remaining pizza and head home feeling reinvigorated and full of possibilities.