By Todd Plesniak
Last weekend, all the CX cloud computing developers flew to Seattle for our first ever CX Hackathon. Being a team with members all over the country poses a number of problems, so these group events where the team can get together is really great. Talking to people over CX Group chat is good, but nothing can replace face-to-face communication. This was my first ever Hackathon, so I didn’t know what to expect. The only thing I knew was we were going to work non-stop building cool stuff.
We started off on Wednesday night with some scrum training (a method for agile software development) to help improve our workflow, and then we presented ideas for the hack. Each person stood up and pitched what he or she wanted to work on. After everyone presented, everyone voted on which project they wanted to work on. We all got three votes, but the funny thing was all the ideas were cool, so a lot of people used their votes really early.
We broke up into four teams and decided to work on a scrum tool, better metrics, streaming and improved Facebook integration. I really think one of the places CX could really improve on is the social media side, so I joined web developer Mike Lyons and software engineer Artie Pesh-Imam to work on the Facebook integration. I have not done much HTML programming and was looking forward to learning more about it.
After the first day, Mike and I got as far as we could before needing server help. That is when Artie stepped in. At that time, I jumped ship because the problems that appeared were beyond my programming skills and felt that I could help out another team. I saw a sketch book from one member of the design team on the table. It had a basic logo sketch for the scrum tool the team was building. Since I have some art skills, I did a few sketches to advance the basic idea. It was an open book with the name in it. I thought the name should be below the book, and having the pages flying out would make for a more dynamic design. Later in the night, UX/UI designer Nick Casares had noticed the design and said, “Who did this? It’s pretty cool!” To my surprise, he then took my drawing and made it the logo for the tool. I felt pretty awesome they used my logo.
On Friday, I started helping out mobile designer Jacob Schwartz, who was working on the scrum tool team. He hasn’t done much programming in Ruby before, and I have been using that for more than 6 months to create automated tests for the Rails website. We proceeded to create the “Export to CSV” button so that our director of product management Will Lowrey can export the stories to archive them and prioritize them in Excel. After finishing the export button, we started to tackle the last task, which was the back-end saving for when a user reorders stories. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to program this feature because lead web developer Bruz Marzlof and mobile developer Kyle Stewart had just finished up with what they were working on. Since Bruz is the “Rails genius,” they took over the task and finished it in about 10 minutes — it probably would have taken us more than an hour to figure it out.
Saturday, we did presentations, where each team went through what they built and gave demonstrations of their projects. The amount of work we got done in such a short period of time was mind-numbing.
What I learned at the Hackathon: Cross-pollination and peer programming is awesome. Being able to sit with someone and work through problems, even if you do not know the programming language, is a great way to get your feet wet. I’m looking forward to the next Hackathon. “HaCX Denver,” here I come.
To check out photos from the CX Seattle Hackathon, go to our Facebook page here.