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Another Synergex Hackathon Is in the Books

By Jacklin Garcia, Posted on November 18, 2019 at 11:56 am

Jacklin Garcia

This October we hosted our second annual company-wide hackathon at Synergex. While our first attempt last year yielded better results than we expected, this year we outdid ourselves. From the quality of the projects to the logistical execution, this event was a home run. We’ve decided to adopt the hackathon as an annual tradition, because it’s proven to be the most successful team-bonding experience we’ve had, and it fits well with our corporate values of learning and initiative. If your company would like to join in on the fun, continue reading to find out more about our process, some of this year’s projects, and the things we’re still working to improve.

Opening Pitch

A week or two before the hackathon, we started with an optional brainstorming session, using a shared Google spreadsheet to capture all the project ideas that came out of the meeting. (I’ve found that sending an email with the sheet isn’t as effective for gathering input as getting everyone together. When there’s a dedicated time for this event, people show up and put their energy toward generating ideas. Plus, when one person explains their idea, it often sparks another from someone else.) We kept the sheet available for anyone to add ideas after the meeting as well.

The next event, a pitching session, took place about a week before the hackathon. The floor was open to anyone who wanted to lead a project from the ideas list or to suggest a new one. Participants raised their hands to express interest after each pitch. At the end of the session, we went through the list again and asked everyone to select their top project choice so we could start forming teams. This part was a little like herding cats, and not all projects that were pitched got picked up. However, we walked out of the room with teams decided.

Starting Lineup

A few days before the big event, we had a one-hour pre-hackathon workshop for teams to get together and plan. This was the time to download software, set up source control, and determine if any additional equipment was needed. By dedicating this preparation time, all teams could come into the hackathon ready to hack!

Our hackathon lasted roughly eight hours, plus time for meals and breaks. We started with breakfast and a quick presentation about logistics, and then the teams were off to start hacking. We largely left the teams alone, only announcing when lunch and snacks were available and giving a few time warnings before the clock ran out. Once hacking ended, the presentations and demos began. Each team had five minutes to share what they’d created.

After the presentations, everyone got to vote, and we asked that they not vote for their own team. Finally, we awarded prizes for the best hacks, and one team got to take possession of the coveted golden grabber arm until the next hackathon.

This Year’s Home Runs

We’d call this event a success regardless of what projects came out of it, simply due to the cross-team collaboration and energy that would be hard to replicate in any other way. BUT this year’s projects were also quite impressive, and we plan to implement several of them in whole or in part by the time next year’s event rolls around.

Team 1 worked on a proof of concept for online documentation for one of our products. This product previously had only paper manuals!

Team 2 put together a proposal for a corporate volunteer and giving program.

Team 3 researched a new collaboration tool and demonstrated how it could be set up for our company’s use.

Team 4 researched a new business line and created a commercial to promote the new business.

Team 5 created an API to access and print data from one of our productivity tools.

Team 6 made a proof of concept for a new UI for one of our products.

Team 7 had a plan for getting involved at local universities to increase our footprint in the greater Sacramento area. This included sponsoring their hackathons!

Base Hits and Foul Balls: Recommendations for Your Hackathon

You can do this too! Here are final dos and don’ts to consider when planning your own event:

  • Do have fun! For 2019, we themed our event (baseball!) and had that dictate food, team names, shirt design, and awful puns in pretty much all presentations and this blog post.
  • Don’t wait until the day of the hackathon to decide on project ideas.
  • Do explain logistics, including time limits for presentations/demos, up front.
  • Don’t wait until the end to take a group picture. Two years in a row, participants have left before we got the group photo. The start of the day might be a better time, or while votes are being counted.
  • Do have the hackathon open to all employees. Hacks don’t have to be technical! Our best projects seem to come from teams with mixed professional backgrounds.
  • Do have the WiFi password visible in all rooms, and test logistics prior to hack day.
  • Don’t make voting overly complicated.
  • Do host a fun social event after the hackathon. We’ve traditionally done this off site, but keeping it in the office allows teams to keep working on their project if they’d like to.

Reach out to the Synergex education team if you’d like some additional help getting started—or check out the Careers page on the Synergex website to join us for our 2020 hackathon!


CodeGen 5.1.6 Released

By Steve Ives, Posted on November 7, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Steve Ives

I am pleased to announce that we have just released a new version of CodeGen with the following enhancements:

  • We modified the way that key loops are processed so that if a repository structure has a mixture of access keys and foreign keys defined, the foreign keys are ignored when processing key loops.
  • We added a new key loop expression <IF FIRST_SEG_NOCASE>.
  • We added four new field loop expressions <IF AUTO_SEQUENCE>, <IF AUTO_TIMESTAMP>, <IF AUTO_TIMESTAMP_CREATED> and <IF AUTO_TIMESTAMP_UPDATED> which can be used to determine if fields are defined as auto sequence or auto time-stamp fields.
  • We added two new key loop expressions <IF AUTO_TIMESTAMP_CREATED> and <IF AUTO_TIMESTAMP_UPDATED>.
  • We added two new key segment loop expressions <IF SEG_AUTO_TIMESTAMP_CREATED> and <IF SEG_AUTO_TIMESTAMP_UPDATED>.
  • We changed the behavior of the field loop expansion token <FIELD_TYPE_NAME> when used in conjunction with auto-sequence and auto-time-stamp fields.

This version of CodeGen is built with Synergy/DE 10.3.3a, requires a minimum Synergy runtime version of 10.1.1, and can be downloaded from here.


Colour my World

By Richard Morris, Posted on March 25, 2015 at 3:28 pm

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Apparently UI design is more than just picking colours for you controls – who would have guessed it.  Now if the Senior Director of Design @ Infragistics is telling you this then I guess it’s time to listen.  I’m all for a good UI design – but in our world sometimes it’s just too easy to take the “take what we have and make do” approach.  If you have a cell-based or even a UI Toolkit screen cluttered with fields, drop-downs, lists etc. then surely that’s what the users want to see in your shiny new app right?  Well maybe, but then you struggle with new prospects because your UI looks, well, wrong.  The functionality of the application beats the competition hands-down, but often it’s not good enough to even get your foot in the door.  And for all you in-house developers who don’t have a system to “sell” – don’t look away now as your users are just as important to keep happy as the next sales prospect.  Imagine if you had to write that cool new app using “notepad” – no intellisence, drag and drop didn’t exist, only one edit buffer available, the list is endless – but in a nutshell you’d leave and go program somewhere where they provided the best tools for you to do your job.  And so it is the same for your users – give them the tools to perform at their best.

And then we come back to the age old problem – ten-key.  You just can’t beat data entry on a cell based system.  While this is generally accepted as true, there are ways to improve the process.  Reduce or in many cases eliminate the chrome around the application (I think the cool term today is “flatten”).  Does every other field have to be a comb-box – why not let the user enter the “known only to them” code and provide the newbies with a clickable button to “find” the one they want – you’ll soon find them entering the code!  Choose a colour scheme that matches the environment. If you application is for office based people then make the screen light and bright – it’s easier on the eyes in a bright open office.  Or maybe your application is being used in a dark control room – no windows or natural sunlight, so make the application darker and milder to reflect this.  Align your controls, prompts and buttons to a gird like structure.  Don’t overdo the font types and sizes.  And of course there is the 1.617 rule!

It’s interesting that many of the sessions this year are more about making your apps look right and not actually making you aps.

 


I’m baaack…

By Don Fillion, Posted on August 27, 2009 at 4:28 pm

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A few of you may remember me from my days with various software companies, where for many years I developed vertical market software. We may have rubbed elbows at an SPC, or met more recently while I was a Synergex PSG Consultant. After a really quick year or so in that role, I have now moved into a managerial position with Synergex, so, this is now Don Fillion, Director of Professional Services, kicking off PSG’s contribution to the blogosphere, the Synergy/DE PSG Blog!

As you are probably aware, we have some pretty fine consultants in the Professional Services Group: masters at working with customers to apply the technology Synergex develops. This blog is really their forum, a place for them to expound on their thoughts concerning software application development in the land of Synergy/DE (and beyond…!)—and hopefully pass along some insight gained during their various engagements. But it’s your place too, as we hope posts will engender some lively discussion.

So, welcome! If you have ideas or suggestions about future posts, or you would just like to discuss the latest technology trends and how they impact you, please feel free to email me at don.fillion@synergex.com. I look forward to working with you!

Don Fillion

PS… As I was researching weblogs, I came across some pretty cool sites. One of the best was LIFEHACKER – tips and downloads for getting things done. It’s kind of a toolbox and discussion forum for modern (techie) life. Check it out!
 


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