Isobar introduces first Slack#Hack
This year as Slack became one of our key partners the idea sprouted to automate several of our everyday tasks by inviting Isobar teams to create slackbots. We are fully integrated into the Slack ecosystem here at Isobar with commands and bots a regular part of everyday functions, so we wanted to embrace that technology and extend an invite to team members to see what creative things they could come up with.
Encouraging cross-disciplinary involvement to avoid developer only participation, each team was asked to come up with an idea that would not only solve internal issues within the agency, but also have the potential to be extended in the wider Slack community.
On Friday Oct 21st we hosted a hackathon aptly named #Slackhack, where teams presented these ideas to an esteemed panel of judges including two representatives from Slack. Our previous hackathons have included assembling, customising and programming mini drones and Create32 a 32-hour mad dash for teams to create their own Near Field Communication (NFC) prototype for a cash prize of $12,000, as well as the chance to successfully launch the idea in market. With the success of these past hackathons it only made sense to get people to create their own slackbots using our company Slack.
To get an idea of what was expected from the participating teams, check out the info below:
- Make a bot or command with Slack
- 7 Judges
- Awards and prizes, fame!
- Pitch your entry: 21st October
How does the competition work?
We were of course accepting of people who wanted to embrace the desires to keep the glory all for themselves and go it alone, but we encouraged all staff to form a team of up to three to maximise the idea and implementation. You didn't have to be a “coder”, if you had a great idea, we wanted people to go chat with a developer or jump on #slackhack channel and tell people you’re looking for help and make a team. Once the teams were sorted, it was time to figure out what language and technology they were going to use. Again, the options were plentiful. Some of the languages that are available to build a Slack Command or Slackbot include:
- Elixir (for those who dare)
- Essentially any language that allows you to accept incoming posts from Slack
Once a language was picked, they needed to host it somewhere. We wanted to make this as easy as possible for everyone to be involved, so we gave a few examples of how teams can integrate with Slack:
- AWS Lambda functions
- AWS API Gateway
- Azure Functions
- AWS EC2
- On your own local machine (dependent on IT helping you break through the firewall)
The beauty of all of these, is that they have a free tier available that was more than enough to service the needs for this competition. If that all seemed too daunting to setup, we offered support through our DevOps team, but we encouraged everyone to learn and set things up for themselves…it was all part of the fun!
The submission and presentation
At the end of the day, this was a competition, so teams were required to present the work. It was simple: embrace the inner nerd, talk tech, make it flashy. Everyone had 5 minutes to present, and if they were in a team, all were required to present elements of the work.
The presentation was streamed around the country and we had 7 esteemed judges that were assessing the idea and presentation based on the following criteria:
- Creative use of technology
- Use of unfamiliar languages/tools
- Internal and external potential of your idea
- Quality of your presentation/pitch
- Does it actually work? (No smoke and mirrors allowed!)
If that wasn't enough to get teams suitably excited, we also added prizes for first place, second place, and of course an all-important people’s choice award.
There were so many good ideas that came from the #Slackhack so choosing a winner was not an easy task. In the end team Bitcode with Andrew Bednarz and Neetika Markanday won first place with their Home Check bot - a proof of concept Slack integration with home automation - to remotely control, monitor and receive alerts from Slack. Congrats!
Watch this space - we'll have more hackathons soon!