Vonage Spring Hack is the biannual internal hackathon organised by the Vonage Developer Relations Team for everyone in the company. The 2022 edition took place last month.
In this article, we are going to have a look at how we organised the hackathon, what the challenges were, and which projects made an impact on our judges. If you are looking for some inspiration on how to plan your next hackathon, you might find some useful information.
The goals of the hackathon were to raise empathy with our developer customers by building something cool with our API products, drive innovation by fostering creative ideation and enhance cross-team collaboration and education.
The creative use of our APIs was the most important aspect of the hackathon. We wanted to adopt an “API first approach”, which means that we expected the hackathon projects to revolve around the idea that they will be consuming APIs.
Teams were asked to build hacks around two themes: Customer Experience and Developer Experience. We asked each team to use their imagination and coding skills to showcase the power of our APIs, improve them or invent new ones.
We had three challenge categories that were evaluated by an internal team of judges: Best in Show, Best Integration, and Most Creative; two special challenges: AWS Challenge - which required utilising one or more API-based AWS’ AI services to deliver additional value to Vonage customers -, and Best UI - a special prize awarded to the team with the best use of Vivid, Vonage’s design system; and, finally, the People’s Choice award, that allowed Vonage colleagues to vote for their favourite project.
Vonage’s culture is based on our values of Accountability, Collaboration, Trust & Excellence and this hackathon is a perfect example of how our Team Members live and breathe these values. Spring Hack is a true reflection of our employee brand “Be What’s next. Right Now”.
Spring Hack attracted 160 participants and we had projects submitted by 26 teams. All Vonage employees were welcome to join. Participants had the chance to collaborate with people they rarely see or interact with in their daily work.
Back in the pre-pandemic time - when hackathons happened in a physical place - food, drinks and fun activities were part of the deal. Nowadays things are different; Spring Hack was a hybrid event, as some people returned to the office, but some others were working from home.
To keep all the participants in the loop, we created a dedicated Slack channel, where people could ask questions and find support.
And finally, the swag! Everyone that joined the Spring Hack received a swag pack with Vonage branded t-shirt, reusable straw, stickers and a hand-written note.
In planning the hackathon schedule we took into account public holidays across countries participants were based in; Singapore, India, Israel, Poland, Spain, the UK and the US.
Pre-Hackathon event - On the 20th of April, we hosted a pre-hackathon stream session during which the team from AWS presented the technologies included in their special Spring Hack challenge: Transcribe, Translate, Polly, Comprehend, and Rekognition.
Kick-off - Then, we kicked off the Spring Hack on Monday 25th of April, with two welcome sessions to go over the goals and prize categories, the schedule and the logistics.
The hack - Spring Hack runs on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th of April. To be eligible for prizes, each team, represented by one person, needed to complete a project submission form by 23:59 PDT on April 26th. As part of the form, participants were asked to upload a video demo of a maximum of 4 minutes.
Demo showcase - On April 28th we showcased the videos during two live events. Both sessions were recorded and shared with all employees. The voting for the People’s Choice awards opened after the showcase.
Awards Ceremony - On the 10th of May we hosted a live stream session for the announcement of the winners. After the revelation, the winning teams were invited to join the stream for some Q&A.
Best in Show - The prize was awarded to the team that got the highest score from the judges. The winning team, Team Ecosystem, created a project that records and reports real-time attention detection in video calls. To achieve this, they used the Vonage Video API, AWS Transcribe and Websockets.
Best Integration - Recognising the best third party integration. This award went to Team Chat Widget, which created an in-house Vonage Chat Widget using Vivid, Vonage AI Studio and the Vonage Meetings API.
Most Creative - The most creative hack idea award went to Team HoneyBot. HoneyBot is an anti-robocalling honeypot detection and alerting system to help Vonage catch spam and robocalls. The project was developed using Vonage Voice API, the Vonage CLI, and Vonage Server SDK.
People's Choice - Everyone in the company had the chance to vote for their favourite project. The winner is The Interpreters Unlimited Team. Their project aims to enable any contact center with automated real-time voice interpretation, leveraging Vonage APIs and partners AI services. For their project, the team combined the power of Vonage APIs and Vonage Contact Center.
AWS Challenge - We partnered with AWS to create a special challenge: utilise one or more API-based AWS’ AI services to deliver additional value to Vonage customers. The winner of this special prize was Team RTC, which created a real-time audio translation of audio calls, using the Vonage Voice API.
Best UI - This special prize was awarded to the team with the best use of Vivid (Vonage’s design system). The judges decided that two teams deserve to win: Team RTC once again and Team Vivid Video Express, whose project uses the Vivid UI Component library to build a Demo app for Vonage Video Express.
The Best in Show award went to Team Ecosystem for their video call attention detection project.
We invited the winners - Hamza Nasir, Rahulkumar Gaddam and Talha Ahsan - to join the Product and Engineering All Hands and do a live demo of their project. We also asked them a few questions about their experience with the Spring Hack.
How did you hear about the Spring Hack? What was your motivation to sign up for it?
We heard about the Spring Hack in the All Hands and Facebook workgroups. We got more information from the weekly newsletter and found more details on the internal Confluence page.
How did you come up with the idea for your project?
Hamza's mother is a teacher and when she is teaching online to a huge number of students, she often struggles with ensuring everyone is paying attention. We started to discuss the possibility of introducing some kind of an invigilation mode to help teachers in a situation like that. Attention detection was one of the features we came up with.
What did you like the most about the Spring Hack?
The creativity and the competitiveness. We liked all the Vonage employees coming together with creative ideas and working on them in a short span using some amazing technology. It was a great learning opportunity as well as inspirational. It was such a good example of the amazing possibilities offered by the Vonage platform. We had some great projects from all the teams in such a wide variety of areas. It was also fun being able to work on a project with creative freedom and no set requirements.
Vonage Spring Hack focused primarily on bringing people together and using Vonage products to drive innovation. We put lots of emphasis on encouraging interaction during the event and we were happy to hear some good comments from the winning teams during the award ceremony:
"The hackathon is our favourite couple of days of the year, as we get the chance to go to the office and build stuff together. We really enjoyed it!" - Phil Lavin, Team RTC YNT
"It was great working with people that are passionate about technology and Vonage products. It was great fun!" - Tamir Nahum, Team Chat Widget
"The best part of the hackathon was the opportunity to work with the team on a project that was more loose than usual and to be creative. We can’t wait for the Autumn Hack" - Tahla Ashan, Team Ecosystem
Overall, the event was a success! We had many people participating, we saw collaboration from members of different teams and we received 26 amazing projects. The judges had a hard time deciding the winners. Stay tuned to hear more about the Vonage internal hackathons and see you in a few months for Autumn Hack 2022!