In October, we held our first in-house accathon in Bitpanda. Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it was a different experience to the one that usually comes to mind when thinking about a hacathon, but the event was a great success nonetheless.
If you’ve never heard of a hacathon, it’s a time-box event that usually lasts about two days when software developers, designers and others collaborate intensively on (software) projects. A hackathon is basically a collection of people who want to create amazing things together. Sometimes the theme of hacathons is about a specific topic or finding solutions for a particular issue.
The first internal Bitpanda hackathon
For our event, there was no set theme and no specific rules or guidelines in place on how the teams should organize themselves because of the current COVID-19 situation. About two weeks before the event, everyone in our engineering department was invited to take part and share their ideas on what they would like to work on.
As you can imagine, the list of topics was long, so we eventually broke it down into a short list of eight projects. The teams established themselves around the things they wanted to work on. We had a total of 18 participants in the hacathon – some worked on a topic only and others worked in groups.
Proof of Concept
A hacathon usually aims to build a working prototype / proof of concept that will be presented at the end of the event. Due to the time constraint, this can mean cutting corners or trimming the scope of a project. But this is usually not a bad thing because limitations often lead to being creative and thinking outside the box to achieve results.
On the first day of the real hacathon, we started with a kick-off meeting to let everyone know the cornerstones and what we expected for our final presentation. The teams organized themselves. Some worked from the office (with plenty of distance among team members, of course) and others worked completely far from home.
As you can imagine, our participants built many amazing things together. Since we can’t talk about all of them (yet), we’ve selected a few of them for display. Showing data in a visually appealing form seems to be a common theme – out of eight projects, three were related to dashboards.
One team, for example, worked on a dashboard for crypto transactions to monitor the transactions taking place in real time and to provide better insights. Another team looked into a service that allows us to use dashboards to display on our office monitors but also online. This team wants to provide a platform that allows the creation of dashboards that can be easily extended. With this function, it is possible to display virtually any data – from open merge applications and test coverage, to open bugs.
But there were even more use cases: some ideas for future integration were displaying daily lunch menus from the restaurants around our office or public transportation information in the surrounding area. These features will be especially useful when we are back in the office.
One common issue in mobile development is outdated apps. Many users do not have the auto update function for Android enabled or do not manually update their apps. These users often come across bugs already installed in a more recent version but the latest version of the app is not installed.
To prevent these issues in the future, one participant looked at a function to simplify this and inform users from inside our app to update their app if a more recent version is available. This function would add convenience to our users and make the lives of our support team easier.
One of the teams worked on a proof of concept for gadgets for iOS as gadgets are among the most sought after features in the reviews. Tools are especially interesting because they can be used for different purposes. For example, a pricing tool would provide timely information on asset prices and allow our users to check them directly on their home screen. A portfolio tool helps them keep track of their current holdings.
After about 2 days of work, all these projects are just a proof of concept but participants created things that could find their way into production one way or another. However, even if some things don’t leave their initial stages, there are some valuable takeaways from this hacathon and some cool projects to build on.
As mentioned previously, because of COVID-19, our accathon was a different experience to the one we had initially intended but nevertheless it was amazing to see what the teams created in such a short space of time.
Overall, a hacathon like this is an excellent learning opportunity, whether it’s exploring a new service or technology, digging deeper into something or offering new features.
We are already looking forward to the next hacathons ahead.
If you’re looking to get involved yourself, and / or want to help our team get some of the topics our participants have worked on to produce, make sure you check out our career page.