Tips from past winners

Team Suho

Marco Salinas & Christian Meredith

Adelaide.

While based in South Australia, the duo were in Canberra for meetings with Government showcasing a Regulation as a platform (RAAP) product and while there took the opportunity to participate in GovHack. 

The team of two, planned to do three entries, but only finished two in the weekend! This is Marco’s third time in a hackathon but Christian’s first time.

http://2017.hackerspace.govhack.org/project/sparky-chatbot

http://2017.hackerspace.govhack.org/project/landchain-building-passport

Landchain which won first prize in digital identity.

Sparky the chatbot – won second prize.

Team skills

Christian had just joined the company, fresh out of Flinders Uni, this was his first experience of a hackathon or working with Government.

Marco has more than 15 years in the IT industry, 5 years in startup environments. His experience is not just technical but also sales, web development and video production.

Video 

The videos for both entries are of a very high standard with outstanding animation and story telling. Marco says that first you need to have a really good story to tell and you need to be convinced about it. You need to write about it early and clearly. The team spent the first night just trying to figure out what they were trying to do and wrote about it. They created a solid, well documented story, that you could show to anyone and they will “get it”.

A mistake some teams make is that they leave the write up and the video to the end. You need to write clearly and you can’t do this if you’re tired.

For video animations the team used a tool called Biteable. https://biteable.com While there is a free tier, the team paid a little money to get better animations. With this tool the animations are out of the box and just the story and text needed to be added.

After completing the writeup the next step is to start coding. During development, every time you have something working, take screen shots and recordings as this is all used in the final video. Much better than having to go back and gather this material at the end.

Software tools

The team used IBM tools including a blockchain system and an AI chatbot tool. The reason is that both of them are “out of the box” and come with good examples ready for customisation. Other platforms that offer this sort of thing, such as Heroko, let you can sign up for a free 30 day trial which is perfect for a hackathon.

Time management

The team built the first entry, Landchain, and finished it on Saturday night, then on Sunday in the few hours before they had to fly back to Adelaide, they started working on their second entry the chatbot. The video was finished at the airport and uploaded when they arrived in Melbourne while waiting for a connecting flight.

Friday – thinking about what to build until about 11pm

Saturday – early start, stayed all day, back to the hotel and worked until 2am

Sunday – worked early at the hotel until 10am, flew out at 3, submitted in Melbourne.

Tips for success

The secret is to know your tools. The reason they chose IBM was because they were familiar with their platforms.

Once you’ve got your idea written up, start working on a really smart proof of concept. Make it the smallest minimum viable product (MVP) that you can generate that will showcase your idea and demonstrate its value. Once you’ve got something working, start on the video.

The team had a specific computer set up for video production. They used a MacBook Pro with iMovie installed. It might not be the best tool, but is quite intuitive. The combination of the presentation, animation tool “biteable” plus screen recordings of the MVP was enough to make the video. Voiceovers were recorded in a meeting room at the hotel.

The video is critical to doing well in GovHack. Three minutes seems like a lot to fill but many teams go way over and judges may not watch beyond three minutes.

What did the team learn?

The idea of using high level tools to build an application very rapidly is useful in the workplace. Producing prototypes can be a great way to work with stakeholders in business. We learn from GovHack that even just two days can be enough to show that an idea can work.

Christian said that he’d never seen the rapid evolution of a product over a weekend. Previously he was familiar with spending much more time concentrating on implementation details, often spending several weeks.

Will they enter again?

Christian is keen to enter again. Marco has volunteered to help this year.

When you come to an event like GovHack, Marco urges you to go for something really good, that ads value to society. Some people just come for the food. It doesn’t matter if you win, although that would be great, it’s better to contribute to society if you can.

 

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