Funda’s 12th hackathon is done and dusted! 13 teams worked their arses off for 24 hours to create and pitch something great to improve funda. We look back on this year’s highlights with UX Designer Rick Pijnenburg and Software Engineer Melvin Zehl who co-organized the event.
How much fun was it to organize this hackathon?
Rick: ‘For me it was a lot of fun to organize it. At the end it’s rewarding to see all the innovative ideas, but what I like the most is to see unexpected team combinations working together for the first time. The hackathon really helps to break down silos, by stimulating more teamwork across the organization.’
Melvin: ‘I 100% agree with Rick. Also to see new colleagues jumping in, pitching ideas and building new products right away was awesome. Take our new Flutter engineer Felipe for example. He started two weeks before the hackathon, but was already able to build a completely functioning new feature from scratch!’
Rick, what was the swag station about?
Rick: ‘Last year we organized a remote hackathon, for which a co-worker and I designed potential funda swag. Just before this year's hackathon started, I remembered this and thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could set up a ‘swag’ station for the hackathon, where we could design funda swag in real time? So I rented a transfer press, bought some transfer paper last-minute and set up a printing shop, where co-workers could bring their t-shirt and get it printed with the funda logo or something customised.’
Which idea did you work on yourself during the hackathon?
Rick: ‘As I was the first point of contact for all the teams during the hackathon, I was mainly a bit of a chameleon, helping out multiple teams. I was busy with organizing the pitches event, answering questions and providing a bit of design direction for teams lacking a designer. Next to this, I cheated a little bit as I had an old design concept ready for the ‘saved object collections’ team ;)'
Melvin: ‘Thanks for letting everyone know we cheated, Rick – I was actually part of that ‘saved object collections’ team! The idea was that people could create different lists (or collections) for saved homes. For example, you could compile a list in which you could save all your dream houses listed on funda or one in which you save houses with nice interiors. The advantage of this is that you don't saturate your actual saved home collection, so you can easily find back the homes you are seriously interested in.’
What was your biggest struggle working on your ideas?
Rick: ‘The most difficult part is to estimate how far you can get in 24 hours and what you can present at the end.’
Melvin: ‘To make the trade-off in what you actually are going to build. Everybody is excited and has all these cool new ideas that you immediately want to add and build. However, you have to pick and choose because your time is limited and you want to deliver something that you can actually demo.’
What makes participating in the hackathon so fun?
Rick: ‘You always have ideas during the year that don’t really fit the roadmap or strategy, or concepts that need a lot of exploration before you can even estimate how much work it will be. The hackathon is the place to explore these ideas, convince stakeholders of the potential value or build a proof of concept so you can better assess what building the full feature will involve! So for me it’s really a creative event, to do something with all the ideas stored in your head.’
Melvin: ‘It’s a nice break from the work you are doing with your team. I think it is very refreshing to put your mind to something else. But also working with colleagues outside of your own team is fun!’
See also: The funda hacka-talk with 3 engineers
How much sleep did you lose?
Rick: ‘On Thursday, I went home at 2.30am I think, and was back at 9am, so not too bad. But the day after I slept until 2pm, ha ha, so I guess it did take some energy, with the organizing, running around and all. But it was worth it!’
Melvin: ‘I could luckily catch the last train home, but I continued working on the train and bus. When I got home, around 2am, I kept on programming in bed until 3am. My daughter woke me up around 6.30am, so I didn't get much sleep!’
Which ideas and teams were you most impressed by?
Rick: ‘I really liked the diversity of some teams, with people from product, engineering, marketing and sales coming together. For example, the team with funda Interior created a concept prototype for saving inspiration from homes on funda, without any designer in the team! And another team built an algorithm to show similarly styled homes.’
Melvin: ‘I was quite impressed by the team that built a machine learning-based recommendation system to find similar homes based on the style of a home. It’s a clever idea and shows us something new we can do with all of our data.’
Who did you vote for?
Rick: ‘I didn’t vote, to stay impartial.’
Melvin: ‘I voted for the winner!’
Rick: ‘Funda won.’
Melvin: ‘Well, I think the most important prize is the People’s Choice Award. It reflects what idea people are most enthusiastic about. That prize was won by Team Targeting and Map Insights.’
Which ideas do you think will be put into practice?
Rick: ‘There was an idea to make it easier to assess the energy label of a home and its impact on funda. This team built both easy-to-implement solutions and solutions for the longer term. I think especially the quick wins from this concept will make it to production soon!’
Melvin: ‘Definitely the change to the energy label. Though, I think the ‘saved object collections’ might be a runner-up as well.’
What made this hackathon different from earlier editions?
Rick: ‘For quite a lot of people it was their first in-person hackathon – as we had some remote editions during the lockdowns – and that meant a lot of teamwork and more fun! Next to that, we added an extra prize, the Sustainability Award, to promote ideas that have a green impact on either funda or our users.’
Melvin: ‘Don’t forget the food – we could finally enjoy some nice Indonesian food together again!’
See also: Machine learning: the model behind funda's Waardecheck
Looking forward to the next edition? Going to organize it again?
Rick: ‘After the hackathon ended there were already a few people who wanted to organize the next edition. I think it’s nice to let others organize the next edition as well, and allow the hackathon to evolve further. For example, we often see that product development (engineers, etc.) is overrepresented and that there’s a bit of a barrier for 'non-makers' to join the hackathon. Even though I think everybody is a maker, a participant with a sales background approached us to organize next year’s hackathon and I think he could really elevate it so that all of funda's departments feel that they can contribute.’
Melvin: ‘I’m definitely looking forward to the next edition! I’m actually thinking of not coding for once but seeing how I can help otherwise.’