LINE iOS/Android Hackathon 2017

Nice to meet you all. I am Hyeonji Jo, an IOS developer at LINE. On this post, I’d like to take you to the LINE Hackathon 2017, held in December 13th to 15th, 2017. LINE has been holding regular workshops for LINE’s iOS and Android engineers, consisting of a number of sessions and a short, day-long hackathon. A lot of feedback to the previous workshops demanded more time for the hackathon; participants had brilliant ideas but the time allocated had been a bit too short to develop them. So, this time, no other sessions were setup but the hackathon. I reckon no matter how long you are given, you will have to fight off that regretful or depressing emotion that remains afterwards. However, given twice the time this time, the completeness of outcome was much more satisfying, and the teams came up with more various and fun ideas. I am already missing the event so much.

Day 1

The attendants were iOS and Android engineers as well as QA engineers from LINE offices in Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Teams had been setup before the event, and we had about 30 teams. Since the nationalities were all different, the main language used in the event was English. During the event, we received notices, as well as schedule, tips on using the facility, and casual greetings, all through LINE’s Official Account. We could also ask questions to the LINE OA which was pretty handy for us.

When all the attendants had arrived, we started off the workshop by introducing ourselves when our name was called. In the past couple years, the number of engineers at LINE has shown a dramatic increase, so we all knew each other only by name. This was a good opportunity for us to get to know each other by face too. This event was quite meaningful since it is rare for all iOS and Android engineers over the global offices to get together.

TeamBuilding = new Stack(cups)

Following was a cup stacking competition. To win, you had to stack cups faster than your random opponent. Our team had to compete not with a ‘team’, but a single developer from Japan, whom we met for the first time. After passing a few hellos, we got into a heated game. Since the opponent was only one person and we were a team, we had no doubt to win, but our opponent was strong. He was good. Although we lost, we supported him throughout the competition, hoping he would not lose. After all, he didn’t become the champion but I was quite happy to see him going so far in the tournament.

The number of cups to stack increased as games grew harder and hotter. The winning team had an amazing strategy and they were so fast, we could barely see their hands. Who knows? They might have prepared well along before this hackathon for the game.

Let the real game begin!

Now, the real game began, the hackathon. Each team chose their preferred meeting room, and started getting serious. Our team started off getting specific about the ideas we have prepared before the event and discussing about actual usability of our outcome. The vibe, the heat, the energy, the intensity in the air—and you name it—were hot.

Starry, cheery night

During dinner, we all enjoyed a glass of a beer, catching up, chatting and even debating about each other’s project for the hackathon. Looking back, this time helped us get relaxed to get set for a somewhat hectic coding adventure that was about to get even more hectic. Afterwards we were free to continue coding or call it a day. I heard later that many teams stayed until very late, or very early rather. They were kickin’ it!

Day 2

On the second day, we were to present our outcome and vote for the best project. We continued coding and prepared for the presentation which was to start from 8 p.m. Nothing was scheduled during the daytime except meals, helping us to fully engage in our work. It was quite refreshing too, seeing the beautiful snowy scenery, instead of Seohyeon station. What I love about hackathon is being able to get myself buried in coding, especially coding something that I like.

What’s so special about hackathon is being able to see how others proceed on with their development. There once was a hackathon right after I joined LINE, around the time when I was getting myself into Swift. At that hackathon, I got a lot of tips seeing how my seniors approached a problem and researched. This hackathon was once again a good time for me to learn. Indeed, you can always see others’ code on GitHub, but seeing the process of researching and solving is quite an experience for junior engineers like me.

Hackathon, with QA

Unlike our previous hackathons, QA teams joined along in this hackathon. They tested the implementations and provided feedback to enhance the quality. One of the teams came up with a tool to help QA engineers to register issues in a very simple way. This team earned the Quality Control Approved mark.

Finally, the presentation

After a long endeavor, the presentation session came, finally. The project ranged from using new technologies such as iPhone X’s Animoji and iOS 11 Core ML Vision Framework, to integrating other platforms with LINE, as well as to features that users wanted to have on LINE. Compared to previous hackathons, the range of project topics has broadened, thanks to having more time for hackathon, keeping listeners attentive for several hours of presentation. Not a soul was dozing off.

Since we had many teams, presentation was restricted to 5 minutes and 10 slides. To fit in the time and to avoid boring the audience, we had to put in a lot of thoughts into our presentation, which took quite a time. Because a winner is picked by a vote, many teams prepared humorous scenarios or role playing to win the hearts of the voters. Some of the teams had awfully good actors, on top of outstanding ideas, making us all clap and laugh our heads off. Those teams will be remembered by many for a long, long time. Anyway, the presentation session was fun, seeing our members equipped not only with brilliant ideas or skills but with sensational presentation and persuasion skills.

And the winner is!

The winner of the vote was the team who developed grouping a LINE chat list. They made it easier to group chats by types, for example, personal chats, group chats. Their service allowed users to create their own groups to categorize as desired. The idea was quite interesting and I was impressed how they implemented so many features in such short period of time. As a LINE user myself, the feature was one of the most attractive features. I am sure others have felt the same. No wonder why they got the most votes.

Summing up

The workshop was refreshing, having a chance to code outside the office, something that I’ve been interested in for a while, something that I have not been familiar with. Through the presentations, we all wowed and nodded at what we came up with, especially on the features the LINE users wanted and the features LINE lacks. Also, many discussions allowed me to expand my view on app usability and technologies.

Not only did I find pleasure in coding, but also in getting acquainted with others. I ended up having many conversations, which I enjoyed a lot, spending the whole day with others, seeing people coding right next to me, and enjoying meals with others. I feel much closer to our members now that I met them in person. Although we are geographically far from each other, this hackathon has successfully accomplished one of its missions—”closing the distance” between us.