Hackday @ OneSignal HQ

After an intense bout of hiring, we went from 10 employees to 23 in less than a year. Our new employees spanned departments, skills, and offices (CA and NY). We knew we wanted to do something to bring everyone together, promote team building, and have employees that didn’t normally interact in their day-to-day work learn more about one another’s strengths and skills.

This lead to the idea of holding our first official hackday earlier this month.

Structure

Themes

We decided to build our hackday projects around three themes:

  • Projects that help OneSignal’s customers, partners or publishers.
  • Projects that help several OneSignal developers and/or support staff.
  • OneSignal moonshot projects that support the vision to power the world’s messaging.

Rules

In an effort to promote innovative ideas, projects that were already planned on the OneSignal roadmap were not eligible.

Another rule we added to make the hackday more equitable was to make sure that teams had no more than two engineers and had to include at least one person who was not an engineer.

Teams also were required to include employees across geographies where possible (i.e. teams should span New York and San Mateo). This way the Sales team (in NY) and our Engineering and Operations team (in CA) didn’t just end up dividing into teams based on geography.

Scoring

Points were awarded based on scoring in three categories:

  • Most innovative (Scoring 1-10 Best)
  • Most impactful (Scoring 1-10 Best)
  • Most potential (Scoring 1-10 Best)

Timeline

The hackday began on a sunny Wednesday morning bright and early at 8am. We provided lots of breakfast options, snacks, juices, tea, and plenty of coffee and redbull.
Teams had until 5pm to complete their projects and presentations began at 5:15pm sharp. Once everyone has finished presenting, there was a dinner break while the judges deliberated.

Our Teams

Our teams ranged from 3-4 people with vastly different skill sets and backgrounds.

  • Justice League of America Created a cute animated mascot that would guide you through set up. We added him to our 404 page.
  • OneView (formerly OneBounce) Created a visualization to see a real-time history of notifications sent to a user.
  • Hack Overflow NLP-based support chat robot to help answer common support questions.
  • AllIDoIsWin Created an integration for prospective clients that would scrape their website and then show what their notifications would look like.
  • Bad Mamajamas Used data science and visualization to identify common support questions that could be addressed with improved documentation.
  • Best Team Leveraging machine learning to identify further improvements to our intelligent delivery capabilities.
  • Karma Hackers Created a live map to visualize a portion of OneSignal’s over 55,000 API requests per second and where they were coming from.

Learnings

All of the projects submitted really demonstrated how well our teams understood how to improve our service for our customers. The best part of that is that the projects really ran the gamut of many different approaches to adding value to our service. We’re all very proud of our projects and (to keep the spirit of the hackday alive) in the future, we want to give employees some sort of tangible item, like a certificate or trophy that they can display on their desks which shows them the value and appreciation we have for the amazing ideas they came up with.

Conclusion

Meet George, the OneSignal Astro-Squirrel!

Overall, our hackday was an immense success. People were forced to leave their comfort zones and step away from their daily routine and interact with people who they don’t always work with. We saw projects that spanned a variety of departments and took away a lot of valuable ideas that will be implemented into our actual product.

We can’t wait for the next one!