Mattermost-Jitsi 2020 Hackathon recap: How the community improved remote work for everyone

From November 10th to 17th, developers from all over the globe gathered together for our inaugural Mattermost and Jitsi joint hackathon, Hacking from Home: Thriving in a Remote Environment

The goal of this hackathon was to brainstorm practical solutions to problems specific to remote work, which has become a necessity for so many people due to COVID-19. There were so many great ideas from our talented participants that would truly help improve the lives of remote workers.

Here are the highlights from each of our winning submissions.

1st place: Lyno voice channel plugin

Submission | Latest Release | Source Code

Our first place submission by Paul Tiedtke is a plugin that adds a voice-channel feature to Mattermost. The plugin uses lyno.io, a tool built on Jitsi that provides users with virtual rooms within their favorite tools.

Hackathon: Lyno voice channel plugin

Here is an excerpt from the submission’s problem statement:

In remote teams we often have a decrease in communication, visibility of colleagues and team spirit. All the communication between meetings, like at the watercooler/coffee machine or even quickly asking a colleague next to you, is completely lost. These problems will be solved by providing virtual rooms.

A virtual room [with Lyno] is like an open space office in the real world, you can see who is currently present, who is talking to whom and join a conversation. No need for a random call or scheduling an appointment just see who is there and talk immediately to your team with a single click.

This submission in particular was a huge hit with both reviewers and internal staff. While tools like Mattermost are great for text-based communication and tools like Jitsi are great for video-based communication, there is still a gap in closely mimicking informal “water-cooler” conversations in remote work. We felt this submission could really be useful in bridging that gap, and seeing our tools integrated to provide a solution for this widespread problem is why we named it the winner.

Here are a few comments from our reviewers:

  • “This looks awesome, and would 100% be something I’d use. The screenshot provided has sparked a lot of discussion internally integrating the project.”
  • “Very clever way to encourage ‘by the coffee machine’ like conversations!”
  • “Bring this to Mattermost! Would be so cool to connect with coworkers and chat while you work. Would make it feel more social!“

2nd place: Head Coach, a mental health check-up bot

Submission | Demo | Source Code

Our second place submission by Joe Leveridge called Head Coach, a plugin that adds a mental health check-up bot to Mattermost.

Here is an excerpt from the submisson’s problem statement:

Today we have a much better understanding about how mental health varies on a spectrum from good to bad and how it differs from person to person and from time to time. However, despite considerable progress in the field, it’s still hard to talk about our mental health at work. We need more tools to help people feel safe about raising concerns about their emotional wellbeing and to not feel they need to hide how they are feeling.

Introducing your brand new ‘Head Coach’ bot. The Head Coach plugin helps you to regularly take a moment to reflect on how you are feeling. The Mattermost ‘Head Coach’ will send you a daily reminder message to rate “How is your emotional health today?” through a simple UI. You can also make a note of any specific factors that are contributing to your current mental state.

Head Coach will acknowledge your submission and provide guidance on [how] you can either improve your mental state or share your energy with others.

And here are some comments from the reviewers:

  • “This project tackles a widespread problem front and center, every company chat needs this bot, stat.”
  • “Super cool video!”
  • “This person knows how to hackathon. Very complete submission that actually works. Video was a nice touch.”

3rd place: Unconferenced

Submission | Demo | Source Code

Our third place submission by John Brown is a tool called Unconferenced, which is “a new take on conferences during remote times” that uses a forked version of Jitsi Meet.

Here is an excerpt from the submission problem statement: 

Knowledge sharing can be difficult in a work from home (WFH) environment. It’s harder to share small bits of knowledge or discuss things in a natural way like you could around a coffee maker.

Unconference seeks to create a flexible solution of providing a space for informal knowledge sharing, entirely self-directed. With a website to provide structure and promotion for Jitsi Meetings, unconference closes the gap on knowledge sharing in a WFH environment.

Unconference isn’t just a replacement for streaming a panel talk or tutorial presentation. It’s those things, with live interaction, without the need to do a bunch of setup ahead of time. Just jump in, knowledge share on one platform, and then go see what else is happening!

And here are some comments from the reviewers:

  • “Very complete, which is quite impressive over the short time period. The way they forked Jitsi and added functionality is also impressive.”
  • “Uses a forked version of Jitsi, kudos for pulling those changes through.”
  • “Really loved the demo. Looks very cool and I would definitely try this out!”

Conclusion

While those submissions were the winners, there were many other great projects that are worth taking a look at. All submissions are public on our GitHub repository.

You can view a short recap video of the event as well as recordings of our two pregame panels, Lessons from Transitioning to Remote Work and Overcoming Fears to Participate in Hackathons on YouTube.

We are also holding a lottery for exclusive Jitsi/Mattermost swag for those who are interested! Complete this form for a chance to win.

We appreciate everyone who participated and hope to see you at future hackathons!

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Emily Cook

Emily Cook is a software developer working as the Open Source Community Manager at Mattermost. She is a passionate advocate of open source, tech education, and anything to do with advancing STEM opportunities for women and minorities. In her spare time she likes to travel, dote on her dog, and run her very small Etsy shop.

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