Currently, even the federal government is holding hackathons, keyword #WirVsVirus. Are hackathons a good crisis management tool?
Yes, they’re perfect! What makes crisis hackathons special is that participants know the importance of the goal. You’re not working just for fun but producing something meaningful that can solve pressing problems and have an impact.
How do hackathons function?
Small teams have a short time period to work on a solution, from idea to implementation. The goal is to create a prototype that clarifies the idea and serves as conceptual proof of a thesis. The teams bring together experts from different areas, such as frontend, backend, mobile, or even content, design, and UX/UI. There are two approaches: either to start with a concrete problem, or to give the teams the freedom to identify and solve a problem themselves.
How can hackathons help companies in the current crisis?
We have to find a solution for every problem that is arising during the crisis. This may be a remote working method for some; for others it may be secure and fast crisis communication, employee coordination, resource planning, delivery optimisation or online socialising. Hackathons help teams find innovative, creative, and surprising solutions. At the same time, three or four ideas are tested and the one that fits best is implemented. For example, a new web application, a function for an online store, a microsite or a small mobile app can be created in a few days.
In times of social distancing, hackathon teams cannot meet in one place. How can they be done virtually?
Just as easily. There are many practical tools for digital teamwork that make hackathons easy to conduct across multiple locations. Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts for communication and coordination with each other. Teams or Google Drive for document management. Virtual whiteboards like Mural or Miro for brainstorming. Workflows and to dos can be organised well with Kanban Boards like Trello. It’s the mixture that does it. In the end, the team decides on the setup that best suits its needs.
You’ve already participated in a few hackathons yourself and are now organising the Ray Sono hackathons. How do you do this?
I didn’t realise that there is so much to think about in terms of organisation. For example, the development environment. Since the hackathon was only organised for our own developers, we provided them with the Kubernetes Cluster open-source system. The teams could deploy the projects productively and not just show them on the laptop.
My co-organiser Jan and I not only provided technical support during the hackathon, but also developed a small project. It’s called Raymoji and was used in the final presentation. A camera analysed the facial expressions of the jury and calculated how often they were happy, sad, angry, or tense. In the end, Raymoji’s results and the jury’s evaluations were practically the same. We did emotion recognition with Amazon Web Services, but now that Ray Sono is moving towards machine learning and AI, we don’t need that service and can build our own proprietary solution.
Which project won the hackathon?
The project “Happy Ray”. The team measured the “Happiness Level” at the company and analysed whether air quality, weather or time of day have an influence on mood. The idea of a “happiness measurement” was completely new and the project covered the complete range of technology: mobile, frontend, backend, IoT and machine learning.
If I want to solve my own problem with a hackathon now – what can I do?
Write to us! We know what is important for hackathons and we’d be happy to support you with our expertise – for remote hackathons as well! Together, we will work out the objectives, define priorities and tools, and we can definitely help you find the right solution.