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Slack and BetterCloud Join Forces for 48-Hour Slackathon; Winner Drives Tank

Christina Wang

January 28, 2016

4 minute read

Slackathon-ftr

Ten teams, ten projects, one prize on the line: the chance to drive a tank.

After rolling out Slack several months ago, the BetterCloud engineering team has clamored for the opportunity to work with the platform at greater depth. In collaboration with Slack, BetterCloud decided to host an internal event to give engineers, designers, and product managers the chance to hack away at the Slack API. Slack sent two platform team members to our product and engineering office in Atlanta, giving our team the opportunity to learn the Slack APIs from the people who know them best.

For two days in early January, the BetterCloud office oozed with energy as 10 teams tucked themselves into meeting rooms, kitchen booths, and coffee shops to begin the 48-hour contest. Slack team members, Amir Shevat, head of developer relations, and Don Goodman-Wilson, senior engineer, made the 2,100-mile trek from Slack headquarters in San Francisco to serve as team consultants throughout the event.

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Not Your Typical Hackathon

Unlike a typical hackathon, where participants come from many workplaces, the Slackathon consisted of just two companies with mutually beneficial goals.

On one hand, the BetterCloud team gets the rare opportunity to work directly with Slack engineers, on the other, the Slack team gets up close and personal with its users as they work with their platform’s API. “We’ve really enjoyed it [the Slackathon], and we’ve found it very useful,” says Shevat. “The teams have given us a lot of feedback on the product, so it’s been bi-directionally beneficial.”

“These are the very early days of the platform,” says Shevat. At the end of last year, the popular real-time messaging application launched the Slack Platform. When approached with the idea of a Slackathon, the Slack team jumped at the opportunity. “It’s great to have a friendly partner that’s keen on doing interesting stuff with us. There was mutual enthusiasm from both parties.”

“It’s really good for me to have a connection with the people who are using the platform,” says Goodman-Wilson. In a hackathon-like environment, there’s an injection of outside viewpoints, he says. “There have been several things that people have tried to do here that have never crossed our platform team’s mind,” says Goodman-Wilson. “It’s those moments of inspiration that I live for.”

For the Slackathon contest, the judging criteria was simple:

  • Did team members stretch themselves beyond their comfort zone?
  • Can this be used internally at BetterCloud or by customers?
  • How well was the project presented and executed?

GRAND PRIZE: YOU DRIVE A TANK!

And the winning team is…(drumroll please)

The Slack Ninjas!

The Slack Ninjas team built a unique integration with Salesforce and Slack. Once a deal has closed (technically, a Closed/Won Opportunity), the integration sends a notification to a specific channel in Slack.

But that’s not all, by integrating with the GIPHY API, the team was able to send a congratulatory GIF to the salesperson who closed the deal. There were ZERO developers on the team, which makes what they were able to accomplish even more impressive.

“We basically had to learn the ins and outs of Apex, which is the Salesforce development environment. It was a huge moment for us once we were able to get Salesforce talking with Slack!!” – Adam Satterfield, Vice President of Quality Assurance, BetterCloud

The Runner Ups

Team BetterBeer

Using the Botkit, a Raspberry Pi, and a flow meter, the BetterBeer team successfully built an integration that monitors the amount of beer remaining in a keg. When the keg falls to a certain threshold, a message is automatically posted to a channel notifying the team that beer is scarce.

“Integrating with the Slack APIs was fairly effortless, the APIs were simple and easy to use and their documentation is well-written. The only issue we hit was some difficulty with the SlackBot when trying to send attachments. However, the API was flexible, and we found an easy work around.” – Mark Jones, Functional Analyst, BetterCloud

Team I’m Just Here So I Won’t Get Fined

BetterCloud already offers provisioning and deprovisioning workflows, but what if you could kick off a workflow from inside of Slack? Team I’m Just Here So I Won’t Get Fined built a BetterCloud-to-Slack integration that does just that. Using a slash command, BetterCloud admins can initiate a workflow from anywhere.

“This was easily the most collaborative exercise I’ve done with any development team, ever. I wish we kicked off all of our projects like this. I’ve never seen collaboration at this level. Seriously. Everyone was so energized and willing to help. It was amazing.” – Nate Collum, Sr. Product Manager, BetterCloud

Who Dat? We Dat!

Team Who Dat? We Dat! used the Slack SCIM (System for Cross-domain Identity Management) API to add or remove users from certain channels when they’re provisioned or deprovisioned. This is driven by syncing users and group membership information from Google.

“Our biggest learning moment had to be getting used to using the two different APIs. The instant that we got a single SCIM API call working, we were able to utilize the rest of the SCIM API calls without any problems. The difference in the office environment was a welcome change; instead of everyone at their desks, there were several war rooms spread out across the entire workspace hashing out ideas and plans.” – Kevin Palmer, Software Engineer, BetterCloud

If you’d like to be a part of the BetterCloud Engineering team in Atlanta, and take part in events like these, visit the BetterCloud Careers page for a list of open positions.

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