BSD’s 2018 Hackathon: The Hacks of Life

Each year, our Hackathon brings together staff from across offices and teams to work both collaboratively and competitively on projects that benefit our work, our clients, and the BSD Tools, a suite of email, fundraising, and mobilization tools we’ve developed over 14 years of campaigning and building movements. The Hackathon is kind of like a friendlier Project Runway — or a nerdier Great British Bake Off.

After 48 hours and about 480,000 lines of code, the teams presented their demos to an audience of fellow engineers, colleagues, and the judges (a mix of BSD leadership and campaign practitioners).

“I care most about how this project could be applied in the real world,” explains judge Marie Danzig, Head of Creative & Delivery. Judges also factor in teamwork: “The Hackathon is a unique opportunity to come together across disciplines, outside of regularly scheduled programming, to do really cool stuff.”

So, what did these two days of ruthless efficiency in a compressed timeline produce? Here are a few of this year’s projects:

Map Starter-Kit

Front-End Web Developer Lentie Ward, Front-End Web Developer Traci Potocnik, and Client Services Manager Alex Broomhead

What it does: The team designed flexible WordPress templates to build beautiful maps with a range of robusticity, search and responsive elements on the fly.

Why it’s cool: This project makes building complicated map functionality with a beautiful user interface a breeze. For example, in their presentation, the team demoed a map that let users search and filter for pro-choice congressional candidates by state.


Crystal Ball

Associate Analyst Rachel Funk and Senior Digital Analyst Will Moyle

What it does: Crystal Ball tells your email fortune by analyzing past mailing data to project performance so you can adjust your fundraising strategy in real time.

Why it’s cool: This tool automates email analysis and helps you quickly determine whether to double down on good content or protect your list from a sub-par email. Senior Digital Analyst, Will Moyle, also built a custom Slackbot that can send a neatly packaged summary of Crystal Ball’s findings to the entire project team.


Wrapper Builder with Micro-Integrations

Senior Software Developer Jon Schwartz and Associate Front-End Web Developer Ben Kim

What it does: This project enhances the BSD Tools’ native wrapper management features by adding microinteraction capabilities and selectors for colors, fonts, and styles.

Why it’s cool: Associate Front-End Web Developer Ben Kim, doing his best Jony Ive impersonation, announced during their presentation: The tickle of a microinteraction triggers a “moment… that can make it more human. Moments are what make us human.”


Elastic Cons Search

Senior Software Engineer Josh King and Associate Technical Director Thomas “TK” Kelley

What it does: Josh and TK explored the idea of applying a search platform called Elastic Search to the problem of constituent search in the BSD Tools. Elastic Search can make some complex search parameters much faster and easier to use.

Why it’s cool: Their demo showed a fast, interactive visual map of every mid-level donor in a given area — a level of visual analysis that’s simply not possible without advanced technology like Elastic Search.

Static Site Starter Kit

Director of Technology Operations Kelli Monahan, Associate Front-End Developer Josue Perez, and Front-End Web Developer John Moore

What it does: A new modular and extensible starter-kit for simple websites that don’t require a CMS to deliver dynamic content.

Why it’s cool: The export functionality, which zips assets and compiles your page, makes the code easily copyable to anywhere — including the BSD Tools.


Hack it Open: Predicting Email Open Rates

Senior Software Engineer Lowell Kitchen and Principal Engineer David Blackman-Mathis

What it does: This team also went the “predictive analytics” route: Their AI model analyzes 30 types of email metrics and properties to predict the open rates for mass mailings.

Why it’s cool: This team trained the machine learning algorithm on more than half a million mass mailings sent through the BSD Tools. One interesting finding: Not everyone 💖 emojis in subject lines. These polarizing little icons worked very well with some audiences and very poorly with others.

Bluestweet

Software Engineer Michael Rosata, Front-End Web Developer Robert Cunningham, and Associate Front-End Developer Taqwa Rushdan

What it does: This team created a Twitter bot that can aggregate tweets relevant to a given topic.

Why it’s cool: Twitter measures engagement natively, but this social listening tool filters for high-quality tweets, showing the user only the most relevant information.


Gamifying Contributions

Engineering Manager David Thomas, UX Designer Lee Crawford, and Product Manager Kim Lombard

What it does: This interactive map feature for donation pages shows how geographic areas compare to one another in donation generosity.

Why it’s cool: Everybody loves a little healthy competition, right? Especially when it sparks greater giving!


Site QA Crawler

Senior QA Engineer Georges Le Noc’h, Software Engineer Jay Patel, Quality Assurance Intern Sissi Chen, Senior Quality Assurance Engineer Dave Clayton, and Project Manager Amy Lessner

What it does: The Site QA Crawler is a custom bot that scans a new website for basic errors, such as broken links or missing page titles, and delivers a prioritized report on how to address these issues.

Why it’s cool: The Crawler is an automated launching-pad so our Quality Assurance team can focus their detective work on solving meatier functionality issues.


Zapier + Tools

Senior Director of WPD Martin Olson

What it does: This is an app that connects the BSD Tools to Zapier, a platform for passing data between systems like Google Drive or WordPress in real time.

Why it’s cool: Imagine one of your supporters filling out a survey you built using Google Forms or TypeForm and having that data automatically show up in the BSD Tools! Or, in the future, having your new signups in the Tools automatically copy over to Salesforce.


Want us to build something cool for your organization? Let’s chat.

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