Hackathon 2023: The Rise of the AI Chatbot

Igor Kalders
March 2, 2023

Did you ever have a brain fart that you did not pursue, only to see others execute on it successfully? And then you went: see, I knew that would work! But of course, you can’t take the credit for it.

Let’s recognize that it takes a nurturing environment to raise an idea from conception to execution. The Selligent Hackathon has aimed to be that kind of fertile soil for some years now. We plant dreams, unbounded by process, bureaucracy or legacy. It’s like the sensation of a skydive through fresh air: all experience, no constraints.

Collaborating across teams and countries


Many felt that this year’s hackathon culminated into a playing field of some very strong contenders. Incidentally, we also observed an unprecedented diversity in participants. Hosted from Belgium, we welcomed team members from India, Canada and the U.S., whilst our subscription sheet listed people from Engineering, Support, Services, Marketing and Deliverability. Talking about bringing together a company!


Creativity and engineering on display


Not very surprisingly, two participating teams surfed on the GPT wave that’s crashing onto IT shores everywhere. One of them even managed to charm our C-level Marigold jury into awarding them the first prize. Imagine as a marketeer, addressing your target audience by expressing natural language like “all Belgian beekeepers” or “people with a Chinese phone number who have clicked our mail in the past 5 days”. If you just heard a thug, those were the attendees’ jaws dropping. Congratulations Gilles Groven, Tom Artoos and Oliver de Schaetzen for this feat!

It was very much fun to see how different perspectives bolted onto SMC so differently. The guys from support whipped up a smart browser extension to reduce customer frustration. The service people crafted a nifty mobile friendly SMC portal. And some engineers made logging look sexy (sic), while others enhanced the experience of creating custom journeys.

But the most creative project must have come from the hands of team Partiboi, displaying in their backdrop psychedelic Marigold logos amongst cute little running dogs. If you owned a PC in the 90’s, this may have hit you with nostalgia from long gone demos and thus, the achievement drove the creators home an honorable mention from the jury.

Because at Selligent, we value democracy, a second winner was elected by popular vote. And so it happened that a global search feature for SMC enamored the viewers the most. It was advertised as the equivalent of finding your cat in a messy room, but the team might still want to work a bit on the marketing message there. Congratulations Blaise Braye, Karel Frederix and Igor Kalders for convincing the masses!

Students engage in real business cases


Engineers at Selligent tend to pride themselves for technical excellence. This year we decided to not just brag about it, but also allow others to enjoy that taste. We invited 10 PXL students to engage in a real business case from Selligents recent past: optimizing the blocklist filtering of email addresses. The outlook on some Kinepolis tickets for the fastest optimization was enough for this battle to be taken on. After 24 hours of sweat – and admittedly, some sleep – a clear winner emerged with sub-100ms results. Congratulations Kirsten Froyen and Stijn Kits van Heijningen!

To give a short impression of the atmosphere: there was pizza and beer, there was Playstation with Fifa (albeit respectively 4 and 2021 – we still seek budget for upgrades, wink wink), there was croissants for breakfast. You’d better have a good excuse to not attend next year!