Hackathon 2018: Saturday

5 minute read

It’s that time of year again!

For Gravitywell’s 2018 Hackathon, we’ve packed our cars full of computers and beer and hit the road for beautiful Fowey in Cornwall.

Our home for the week is a stunning house set high up on the cliff overlooking the mouth of the estuary, complete (of course) with requisite hot tub, pool table, and cinema room. Oh, and an ice crusher for the traditional Gravitywell ‘Drake and Stormies’ (rum and ginger beer in roughly equal measures).


In some previous Hackathons we’ve used the time to explore new products or services and worked together to come up with the plan for the rest of the week. In others we’ve delved into new technologies or experiences. Because we’ve always focused on experimentation, we generally haven’t focused on getting to the end of the week with a complete ‘thing’, whatever that may have been.

For 2018, we’re doing things a little differently. The challenge this year is to design, build and launch a finished product. In order to do that, Simon and Jack formed the idea and wrote the brief beforehand, with a kick-off presentation, the week’s schedule, and basic wireframes and user stories ready to share with the team as soon as they arrived. They even made lunch.

The idea

We’re making an app that allows instructors to deliver a tailored series of video clips to serve as ’home practice’ for their clients, between physical classes. For this week, we’re concentrating on just one vertical - Pilates - in order to try and keep things simple and remove as many distractions as possible. However we’re keeping open minds as to other verticals this could be used for, especially when considering branding and marketing. For example: physiotherapy, fitness training, learning how to sew, or following an electronics course.

The idea came from our own experiences, when our instructors would sit and draw stick-figure diagrams of exercises at the end of a class for us to take home and practice every day before the next weekly session. We thought that if those instructors could record short video clips of each exercise, and then easily deliver particular clips in a specific order to each of their clients, we could save a lot of time for the instructor while greatly improving the client experience.

To make sure this is something we can realistically deliver in just 5 days, we’ve stripped everything down to the bare minimum:

A marketing website
A simple one-page website explaining what the service is, from where instructors can either login or create an account.

An instructor web-app
A browser-based application that allows instructors to upload and manage their video clips, add clients, and create ‘lessons’ (we’re still deciding the names of things) for individual clients.

A client mobile app
An iPhone app that clients use to watch through the tailored video lessons delivered to them by their instructor(s).

An admin web app
GDPR rears its ugly head and forces us to consider how we manage and control user data. So we need a simple web app so user accounts can be entirely removed.

After a light lunch - at which point we discovered Jesus enjoys neat double-concentrate orange squash - Simon and Jack gave a quick presentation to explain the idea, followed by a group discussion. We of course ended up with a huge list of ideas for how the experience could be made better, but we’re forcing ourselves to quickly put these aside as stretch goals, should time allow, so we can avoid getting bogged down in What Ifs.

We loosely split into teams to discuss the requirements, both from a technical perspective as well as the research, branding, and marketing aspects.

The developers discussed using as many off-the-shelf services (eg. AWS Cognito for authentication) and libraries/components as possible in order to save time, but quickly threw out the idea of using a CMS like Drupal for the instructor web app (turns out nobody remembers PHP). They quickly settled on React, Sails and Mongo for the apps, and got boilerplate apps setup while researching the various AWS Media Services for video hosting and delivery, along with designing the necessary APIs. They decided on local dev environment setup and process so that we can all work together tightly and easily, and even started planning the eventual deployment process!

After only a few hours of arriving, the idea was already starting to take shape. We all got back together briefly to discuss the goals for the remainder of the day, and what we wanted to achieve before the end of Sunday (the first full day!) before getting stuck straight in. Everyone seems excited, and generally happy with progress. There are still some big question marks over the systems we’ll use for storing, handling and playing videos. A bit more research is required before we make the decision tomorrow.

While pizzas were in the oven and pitchers of Drake & Stormy were being prepared (with Simon feeling bad for micro-managing Laura here, then finding it was essential as the rum had been forgotten), we got the living room and cinema room setup with PS4s to wind down with after an intense first day. A rather loud but completely epic Nidhogg battle between Simon and Henry ensued, and Jesus and George were introduced to Overcooked - no one has ever been so angry about mushrooms and onions.

It’s too soon to say just what this service is going to look like exactly, but one of the (many!) goals for Sunday is to have a complete clickable Adobe XD prototype… So we’ll be sharing more tomorrow!

Oh, and we had to do some emergency shopping...

Written by Simon Bos (Founder/Director). Read more in Latest by Simon or check our their socials Twitter, Instagram