May 4

Attending a Hackathon

Tom at hackathon

This was about the biggest hackathon in the east coast or possibly in the entire nation with a record amount of attendees in the hundreds.

Only 160 teams presented with teams ranging from 1-4 people. For me it was my first one and I was a bit skeptical at first.  Prior to this I’ve heard of companies holding hackathons and wondered about the benefits.  I thought about it and realized that it is similar to crowd-sourcing so it mainly benefits the host but what’s in it for the developer/hacker?

You get a variety of developers coding for an extended period of time at no additional pay to create something the host can sell or profit from.  In return the host will provide snacks, pizza, and beer!  Wow… not really, this just makes viable sense for the business hosting the event.  Okay so there’s really more to it depending on the size of the hackathon and the benefits for the developers can be equally beneficial.  I can tell you the two essential things you should check for:

  1. Sponsors offering prizes, preferably cash to implement their software.
  2. Press such as journalists, preferably with a camera.

Another consideration is whether you have the rights to keep your code, which you totally should, and I wouldn’t bother attending one that strictly prohibits this.  Continue reading because you will find out that you  don’t have to be a level 900 coder nor a black hat hacker.  It is actually possible to win even if you’re a axe-wielding tree hacker or hustler.  There were actually quite a few of those at the Disrupt hackathon, the latter not former.  So when the attendee list is in the hundreds how many presentations do you expect to have and how long should they be?

It boils to down to a quick persuasive presentation, because most likely you won’t have time to fully demonstrate the functionality of your application under two minutes.  Getting the point yet?  It’s the idea that counts and how you present it.  Design is key as well!  Ensure you team up with a designer that will make the graphics and style your web app, because it will get you much closer to winning.  If you’re a solo dev you can use templates, themes, or boilerplates.
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