Last week, 30 of the finest and w-hack-iest creators and hackers came together to tackle our latest hacknight challenge event on the theme of digital distraction.

Prompted by the ever increasing number of digital distractions we’re bombarded by everyday, the evening posed the following challenge to it’s teams of guest makers:

“How can we be less distracted and really enjoy the world around us and live more ‘in the moment’?”

We didn’t want any old standard hack though, so with all forms of hacking encouraged from wire framing and coding to boardgames and paper prototypes, we were looking at a night that celebrated brilliant solutions in all forms. We also partnered with the Women’s Tech Hub, who are working to increase gender diversity in tech in Bristol, to bring some new faces and talents along for what ended up being our most gender diverse hacknight yet.

58% tech professionals suffer with imposter syndrome

Spurred on by Simpleweb project manager and DJ extraordinaire Dave as well as delicious chilli and cake from happiness officer and self-proclaimed feeder Georgie, those with ideas slowly formed teams, haggling for the creative and tech skills on offer in the room.

After being fed, watered and welcomed by the Simpleweb team, hackers were treated to an inspiring talk from Nick Elston (pictured below), a specialist speaker on the topic of anxiety and wellbeing in the workplace and a member of Team Mango, our brilliant hack night sponsors. We were privileged to be treated to such a high-profile speaker who touched on some of the impacts digital distractions are having on our wellbeing.

“Social media is the biggest contributor to anxiety in young people but also the biggest place to find support and community”, he told us. We were also surprised to find out that 58% tech professionals suffer with imposter syndrome. Both excellent reasons to explore ways in which we can work with technology to connect people up with the real world and increase wellbeing in the process.

Let the hack commence

After three hours of hard hacking teams came together to present their ideas. With help from Alice and her kazoo of doom, team’s were given a tidy 2 minutes to persuade us how brilliant their solutions were.

And as well as judges Ajara from Women’s Tech Hub, Nick from Team Mango, along with Simpleweb team members Becs and Simon looking on, for the first time at Simpleweb Challenge, we introduced a curve ball of the People’s Choice prize. As voted using a Simpleweb Playground tool ‘Pitch Perfect’ – the audience was invited to use our web app to vote on each hack’s level ‘Innovation’, ‘Coolness’ and ‘Usefulness’.

The People’s Choice winners were offered a special prize of vouchers from Simpleweb investee Datemakers who are on a mission to make our dates less boring. And whilst our hack nights are not a matchmaking event, we did think it was apt that winners of this prize would be able to go away with something that will help them connect with the special people in their life in the real world too.

And the winners are…

For the theme of the evening, connecting the digital and offline world was really important

In first place with the top cash prize AND winners of the People’s Choice was Unwrapp (pictured below). For this hack’s team members Jon, Adil, Diana and Mike, Unwrapp was created as a bridge between digital distraction and living in the real world.

Through an application to gauge user’s happiness and a physical card game to play with a handful of friends or colleagues, its live demo certainly brightened the moods of attendees.

As judge Nick told the audience: “The reason I love this idea is because I felt emotional connected to it and, for the theme of the evening, connecting the digital and offline world was really important.”

In second place was Team Leam (pictured right) with a Bristol University team which included students Liam, Adam, Jordan and Chris.

Inspired by a motivation to get outside and get active instead of being glued to social media, they attempted (and almost succeeded) in building a Chrome extension that connected up with sports tracking app Strava. The idea was that your screen time would be controlled by the amount of exercise you do (the more exercise, the more time online you’d be rewarded with).

Judge Simon told the audience: “We thought Team Leam’s app was technically challenging. There was certainly lines of code on the screen at least! It connected the real world activity with on-screen time which we really liked.”

Finally, in third place was team Bigger Picture which included brand new Simpleweb front-end developer Kate, along with fellow team members Elena, Vicki and Marius.

Their app aims to help find a balance between focus and relaxation. After periods of focussed activity it reminds you to take healthy breaks, and for every piece of work you complete a new square is uncovered in the ‘Photo of the Day’, as a symbol of what you’ve achieved so far.

Team kudos

Despite there being three winning teams, the judges and organisers were also blown away by what was produced from the other five teams.

Wood B Pals, with team members Jaycee, Joseph and Kristie (pictured right), tackled the problem of children having too much screen time and not enough time in the outside world. Aimed at disadvantaged families and parents who feel isolated and anxious about trying new things, Wood B Pals is an app that allows users to meet up with similar families in the local area, connecting them with local landmarks and trails. With each trail including its own challenge, the app also provokes users to pay attention to nature and the world around them.

Team Theta, which brought together Jane, Abdi, Joe and Tim (pictured left) and also secured a respectable second place in the People’s Choice vote, designed an altruistic app that blocks distracting apps on your phone and rewards your chosen charities with funds when you engage in focussed activities – kind of like a sponsored smartphone detox.

Bleep Clique, which consisted of Simpleweb developers Ollie and Craig (pictured right), built a programmable metronome to help structure musical practice, with the aim to make practice more focussed and therapeutic.

We also heard from team TTT (Tim, Tom and Tom) and the browser extension they built in just three hours that blocks social media sites so you’re not tempted to spend hours procrastinating by browsing memes.

Finally, judge Ajara was so full of brilliant ideas that she skipped to the stage, even though we couldn’t judge her on it! Her idea was for a photography based tool that helps you to live in the moment, really notice your surroundings and then share memories with family and friends.

Big thanks again to our sponsors Team Mango, partners Women’s Tech Hub and the amazing teams that came along. We had such a brilliant time that we’re already planning our next hack night, so sign up to our newsletter or join the Simpleweb meetup group to stay in the loop.

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