By Jakub Elzbieciak, on Jan 20, 2020

Contentful joins Atlassian’s ShipIt hackathon to deliver better editorial and developer experiences

Space person floating near a satellite.

In mid-November, Atlassian welcomed Contentful’s extensibility team to the quarterly Atlassian hackathon, ShipIt, in their Austin,Texas office. For 24 hours, Atlassian invited everyone — from developers to administrators to illustrators — to collaborate on new projects.

Developers from Contentful and Atlassian assembled two groups with one goal: improve developer and content editor experiences when using Contentful. They did just that, learning and eating massive amounts of pizza along the way.

Creating a creative environment

Atlassian’s ShipIt Days are company-wide hackathons organized at each Atlassian office every quarter around a central theme. They invite the whole company, including non-technical folks, to work on all kinds of projects. By including non-technical projects, ShipIt gives participants influence over all aspects of the business. There’s even a category for “unplugged” initiatives, which can be anything from workplace improvements to new sustainable practices — we even witnessed a musical in the making!

ShipIt is an opportunity to build community and develop interesting projects in a comfortable, creative environment. This quarter’s theme, ecosystem, was especially relevant to Contentful. We were thrilled to participate.

Preparing to solve real-world problems

The Contentful team arrived early on the first morning, greeted with hot coffee and WiFi codes in preparation for our first session with the Atlassian engineers.

We started by sharing background information. John Collins, an Atlassian senior content designer, explained how Atlassian uses content infrastructure, as well as a few of Atlassian’s guiding content principles:

  • Content is a strategic asset that improves customer experiences.

  • Customers have a better experience when content is easy to edit, update, approve, and publish.

  • Content models must be designed with scale in mind. Atlassian is a fast-growing company.

  • Flexible and reusable content is necessary to make content models work.

We also learned about how Atlassian integrated their own text editor, used in the cloud versions of Confluence and Jira Software, with the Contentful web app. This extension made embedding shared snippets easier by using an inline extension, providing a smarter way of fetching links using reference fields. The editor also offers the ability to use unstructured content when needed.

The hackathon: building, eating pizza and presenting

The combined team then began discussing a few ideas for the hackathon. With so many ideas, we decided to divide into two groups. The first group focused on a way to improve the lives of editors, and the other focused on the platform owner experience.

The first team, the editorial team, developed an integration that reduced the need to switch between different interfaces. Switching between tools slows editors down. Each program has a learning curve, and clicking through a series of tools can cause even experienced editors to lose their focus.

The second group, the platform team, worked on making Atlassian’s custom editor available to other teams using Contentful. This required a faster way to customize the editorial interface and replicate successful Contentful setups.

Each team wrote a hypothesis to guide their projects:

Editorial team: “We believe that giving content editors an easier and more transparent way to follow issues and requests improves the editorial experience and will lead to better collaboration and productivity across teams.”

Platform team: “We believe that by enabling platform owners to roll out customizations of the editorial interface faster, without having to rebuild the functionality from scratch, we will increase efficiency towards delivering services across the company with a reduced manual workload.”

And the winner is ...

Our teams worked diligently over the remaining hours. At the center of both projects were fresh ideas derived from collaboration. The short feedback cycles and deep understanding of customer challenges catapulted our projects further and faster.

The hard work paid off. After presenting our projects, everyone in Atlassian’s Austin office voted. Our joint teams took two of the three top prizes at the hackathon!

Thanks to the close collaboration between Atlassian and Contentful, we delivered two new solutions that will improve the productivity of editors and developers. While one of the projects was developed exclusively for the Atlassian team, the other will be available to the general public soon. Curious to learn more about how it all began? Check out the case study featuring Atlassian’s success with Contentful.

Jakub Elzbieciak

Staff Software Engineer and Extensibility Team Lead at Contentful.