As skaters caught air on Gsoft’s in-office half pipe, the participants, media and judges all congregated for an opening get-together late Friday afternoon. A DJ spun tracks while people shmoozed, played foosball and arcade games, watched the skaters, drank beer and devoured a variety of tasty food.
Soon though, it was time to get hacking. For 30 hours on Saturday and Sunday, the 50 teams created bots and applications for Slack, the popular real-time messaging, archiving and search tool for modern teams.
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We organized a Slackathon in our offices this weekend & one of our teams won! A bot to digest your notifications https://t.co/3dtnw6huxp
— Benjamin Niaulin (@bniaulin) June 6, 2016
The winning team was Taz Digest, a powerful tool that helps Slack users to digest and organize all of their unread slack notifications that are trending based on emoticons, directly or indirectly mentioning you or generally trending.
They took home $5,000 in cash.
The $3,000 second place prize went to HANS, a robot that uses Slack to build an organically-grown knowledge base. The robot uses natural language analysis to associate questions that users of a Slack team can ask. Hans searches for the answers of questions from web users from experts in the field.
The $2,000 third place prize went to GROOT, which plays on the notion that plant-life can make the office environment a generally happier place.
GROOT suggests plants that are well suited for your specific workspace. It notifies people when they need to be maintained and allows employees to “really take control of their environment, form a bond with their workspace, and ultimately end up happier and more engaged.”
Gsoft’s CEO Simon De Baene told MTLinTECH that the Slackathon was loosely based on events that took place a year ago. Gsoft had already released its Officevibe employee engagement software when Slack started blowing up. Officevibe sends emails to employees once a week asking them a variety of questions about how they view their workplace. De Baene wanted to create a similar bot for Slack, so he rented out a house in Barcelona for two months, send teams of six employees at a time for two-week stays.
De Baene’s own mini team ultimately came up with Leo while in Spain, which effectively does what Officevibe does, but as an intelligent bot made for teams using slack. Gsoft calls Leo “the most powerful way to measure and improve employee satisfaction, without ever leaving Slack.”
“Bots are the new cool thing right now,” said De Baene. “Messenger is building bots, Kik is building bots, all because people don’t want to leave chat. This is where everything is happening.”
The CEO saw how other communities were holding hackathons bent on building the best Slack bots and he wanted Montreal to show what it could accomplish too.
“We realized how amazing it was to build bots that were helping build a greater workplace. So we said, ‘Lets do a Slackathon. Let’s bring together a lot of people in the same place and invent things that can do great stuff for your company,” De Baene told MTLinTECH.
Constantly creating (and failing) seems to be just fine with De Baene. The 30-year-old created Gsoft ten years ago at just 20 years old. Over the next decade, the company launched 12 products, just two of which have succeeded. In that sense, Gsoft recognizes the benefit in holding these events where perhaps one out of 100 applications could end up succeeding.
“A hackathon is just a way to share knowledge,” he said. “Having good ideas is the easy part. It’s really a question of execution and teamwork.”