Hi, my name is James and I work for LINE Corporation as a junior software developer. I’m very pleased and even thrilled today because it’s such a great honor to share my experiences and thoughts from “LINE Developer Workshop & Hackathon 2015.”.
As we all know, LINE Corporation is one of the biggest companies in the mobile messaging market. A lot of developers work together to provide better mobile experiences for consumers all over the world. In order to strengthen the bonds among LINE developers, there is a semiannual event called the Developer Workshop – a gathering of the developers, by the developers and for the developers!
From January 21 to 23, 2015, LINE developers came together to a quiet resort to be away from the rat race of city life and to re-energize from exhaustion. Many developers attended and they spent their time participating in many fun activities such as the Hackathon and various sporting events. One of the workshop’s greatest advantages is that it provides developers with a very good chance of communicating each other in person and sharing what they think one another.
Day 1 : Developer Workshop
On the first day, the main objectives of our workshop were to review the year 2014 and preview the year 2015. Perhaps you’ve already heard the news that LINE did really well in the last year. Our total revenue was 77.4 billion JPY and we recorded 181 million monthly active users. To reach these goals, all the developers from every corner of the company collaborated each stage of development. During the workshop, a representative from each working unit of LINE gave a presentation to their fellow developers.
The workshop went smoothly and yet, very effectively. Each representative presented their working unit’s accomplishments of the last year and also future accomplishments in the coming year. In addition to this, the presenters briefly introduced their unit’s roles and duties to the rest of the developers. By doing so, relatively new developers (including myself!) were able to follow the presentations without any problems and clearly understand each working unit’s achievements so far and goals ahead.
I only became a member of this wonderful organization quite recently and all the presentations were so precious to me. It was a great opportunity to quickly grasp how LINE operates. Over the past months, I’ve had many chances to work together with other developers but it was just a prelude. If you let me be really honest with you, I was quite ignorant about other services provided by LINE other than my work. There are many working units within LINE Corporation so it took several hours for representatives to introduce themselves and deliver their presentations. However, every single word was important and developers were given the big picture of LINE ecosystem.
During the presentations, each representative explained so-called “cold cases” – the issues that should have been wrapped up in the previous year but in fact, still linger on. By sharing these cold cases all together, every developer was able to identify the problems and find out possible solutions. After the presentations, we gathered to tackle the cold cases. Everybody had a chance to choose his or her favorite case according to their personal interests. This is a proud tradition of LINE developers. We choose to wrestle with those cold cases with our own motivation, not by somewhat outside factors.
To work on cold cases was a lot of fun to me. Regardless of working unit or affiliation, most developers were willing to try the cold cases, and sometimes try multiple cases simultaneously! The LINE developers seemed to be motivated primarily by their own desire to extend knowledge in different domains and to advance their skills. While I was watching their adventure, I felt I had to start something to sharpen my skills and ability.
Day 2 : The LINE Hackathon
The next day, we participated in the Hackathon event held outside the resort. For the competition, we had to focus on solving a single problem within a given time limit. The problem was not necessarily related to each participant’s area of expertise so we could work on the problems with fresh views. These problem-solving groups were formed either by pre-assigning a team or by randomly matching developers.
In my case, I was in a team with two randomly selected senior developers. Before working on a solution to the problem, we gathered ideas about what we wanted to solve during the Hackathon. We did not need to consider external factors, so we devoted ourselves entirely to creative concepts. At the beginning, we gathered ideas based on both our experiences and needs. For example, we came up with a multimedia search application, a BitTorrent application and Bitcoin mining. After a short idea-gathering and review session, we set a goal to develop a tool for ourselves as part of LINE’s Business Connect(BC) service. BC is a service that a user can use to interact with a LINE system, rather than other users, like LINE Official Account(OA) For example, there are several OAs in LINE used to language translation. Furthermore, OA can provide users with other information, such as weather, shopping deals, and details upcoming events.
Our main idea was to try to create a prototype for an OA on top of the BC that provides useful information related to specific commits. More precisely, we were aiming to provide git-related commit information such as an in-depth look at the git blame command. Basically, we wanted to develop this OA in order to further strengthen our agile development culture. We designed the OA prototype to work as follows:
With a centralized git repository, commits are pushed each day to a centralized git server which responds to a pull request. After peer review is completed, the code could be merged into the mainstream branch. Git already provides a command for that purpose, but in reality, we need further details to track single-commit activities. Ultimately, the OA would provide advanced information related to single lines of code.
After a few hours of prototyping, the teams presented their final results. For me, it was exciting to see how senior developers work during Hackathon. I was also surprised by some other teams; one team presented an educational application using collective intelligence and another team designed a spectacular application for the recently announced Apple Watch.
The winner of the LINE Hackathon 2015 also created an OA. This OA provides dining information based on the user’s location. If a user sends an emoji, the OA tries to find related restaurants near the user’s current location. For example, if a user in Shinjuku enters in a ramen noodle emoji, the OA recommends the restaurant Yasube. Because of the lack of time, the team could only provide similar restaurants regardless of the emoji entered but many developers were pleased by their presentation. To celebrate, the company gave Apple Watch gift vouchers to the winners.
This three-day workshop was a rather hectic schedule but it was a good opportunity to work closely with other LINE developers. We, as developers, were able to strengthen the bonds through workshops, the Hackathon and various other activities. I enjoyed every moment of the LINE Developer Woskshop 2015. I could see LINE’s past, LINE’s present and also LINE’s future, sharing the LINE culture with every LINE people there.