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Four participants relate their experience at the inaugural Classified Post Hackathon

Steffany Cheng

University of Hong Kong

Describing taking part in the inaugural Classified Post Hackathon as an “eye-opening” experience, Steffany Cheng, a finance and accounting student at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), said participating in the competition had widened her career horizons.

Having seen first-hand how technology and business can be drawn together in innovative ways, Cheng said she is considering delving further into career opportunities in the fintech sector. “It’s certainly an area I am going to explore,” said Cheng, who was feeling exhausted but elated after staying awake for more than 24 hours.

As a finance student with few previous insights into the way apps and digital mobile tools are developed, Cheng said she was surprised by the creativity her tech-savvy Nascent teammates had achieved within the tight time frame. “It was like watching an act of genius,” said Cheng, who contributed her own elements of genius to the team effort in the form of business and finance knowledge.

While some teams started programming quickly, Cheng’s team, assigned to the Hackathon’s media challenge, brainstormed for almost seven hours before deciding on a strategic plan.

 Cheng said her team opted to dovetail their solution with the South China Morning Post’s existing content management system. “We wanted to combine the core business competencies and the news organisation’s reputation for credibility with the principles of automation,” explained Cheng. The strategy of allowing SCMP readers to access news topics aligned to their preferences, while allowing SCMP editors to make better use of the content management system, resonated with the judges who awarded Nascent the second runner-up award in the media category.


Guilherme Souza

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Cutting-edge technology and stage acting may seem like distant cousins, but Guilherme Souza’s thespian experiences came in handy while making his team’s presentation to the judges at the first Classified Post Hackathon.

“A combination of my acting experience from when I was at Renaissance College and my natural personality gave me a bit of confidence,” said Souza, a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) computer science graduate, who now works for a software company that builds apps. Explaining how he came to join his first hackathon, Souza said that when studying at HKUST he had always been too busy with his studies to take part in one. This time, however, his employer suggested that Souza and his fresh-graduate co-workers form a team and enter the Classified Post Hackathon. “It’s a lot more than ticking a ‘something I wanted to do’ box. It’s been a great experience,” said Souza.

During his three-minute presentation, Souza explained how he and his T2 teammates had used the 24 hours to build a mobile app capable of personalising individual SCMP online readers’ preferences when accessing the type of news and features articles they read. Through the T2 app capabilities, the SCMP newsroom could also tag and suggest articles that might be of interest to an individual reader, based on past history and preferences.

Souza said that his team decided on the type of functions their app should offer after talking to SCMP news and management representatives, on hand at the Hackathon to answer questions and provide advice. “We asked many questions, and were given lots of insight into how a newsroom operates, which is quite complex,” noted Souza. Teams in the media category were also given access to the SCMP’s extensive news article data base.

“Working to come up with an idea and then through the night to build a prototype, and present it to the judges, is something I am going to remember for a long time,” said Souza.


Nicole Tang

Open University of Hong Kong

As the “ideas” or creative director for JTM Team, Nicole Tang found the combination of working non-stop for 24 hours with teammates to take an idea from brainstorming and conception to prototype an exceptional experience.

“This was my first hackathon, so I had no idea how rewarding, but also how exhausting, it would be,” said Tang, a third-year computer science student studying at the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK). Tang said that, given her study background, it was motivating to work on a project that represented a real-life challenge. “It was a great lesson to learn how important teamwork is,” noted Tang. An example of this was the way her team divided the different data research and programming responsibilities between them and supported each other whenever tiredness threatened to slow down motivation.

“We all felt as if we were doing something fun and special,” noted Tang, who explained that her team’s concept involved designing an algorithm to enable South China Morning Post (SCMP) readers to personalise their online reading choices. By extracting information from a data base of an individual’s historic reading preferences, the algorithm selects key words written in the main body of an article instead of the titles.

Based on her own online reading experiences, Tang said sometimes the sentiments expressed in a news title can be misleading. “Our solution allows readers to quickly access news and feature articles that interest them, but also includes a function to recommend similar articles the reader might be interested in,” said Tang, who teaches young children coding and computer skills in her spare time and hopes to secure a creative technology job in any industry.


Ryan Leung Cheuk-hang

City University

“Data is art,” announced Ryan Leung Cheuk-hang as the video screen behind him burst into a collage of red and blue lines, like an exploding star, during his team’s presentation in the insurance category of the inaugural Classified Post Hackathon.

A third-year creative media student at City University (CityU), Leung said that, as non-technical students, his team decided that transforming data into a visualised format would provide an interesting way to present analytical information.

Although creative media involves a lot of interdisciplinary studies, Leung said his team wanted to see how well they could do in the Hackathon.

Taking their team name from the Solomon Islands, which Leung and his Hackathon teammates visited as part of an “extreme environment” educational trip organised by CityU, the Solomons used publicly available data extracted from the Facebook application programming interface (API) to build a graphic analytical picture of sentiments expressed and shared by Hong Kong residents, based on tracking conversations around specific topics, keywords and phrases.

 “Our main strengths are in design and creativity, so we decided to conceptualise the data into graphics,” explained Leung. “We thought it would be interesting to interpret data into something new and inventive.”

Leung added that his team was pleased when audience members took photographs of their graphics as they appeared on the auditorium screen. Leung said his team, being creative artists, are used to staying up all night to work on projects; however, it was a first in terms of staying awake for 24 hours in the company of mainly technology students and enthusiasts. “It was fun. We really enjoyed it,” he said.