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Could you answer a few questions about hackathons for me?

Hacking Hackathons

Hacking Hackathons

Recently I was talking to Jeff Martens of CPUsage about Hackathons. A few questions came up about what would make a hackathon fun, exciting and worth your time. Here’s a few questions, that I’d love to have a conversation about…

  • What type of hacking would you or do you prefer to do at a Hackathon? Hardware Hacking? Software Hacking?
  • How important are the prizes?
  • What should the prizes or rewards be?
  • How many people should attend that would actually make the Hackthon fun?
  • Have you attended, and if so, what was the coolest thing about the hackathon to you?
  • Are hackathons better as 1 day or 2 days or more?
  • Should hackathons be during the week or the weekend?

…and as you can imagine, there’s a million other questions. What’s your take on hackathons? Got a few thoughts? Throw down a comment or two, much appreciation for your thoughts, next beer is on me!  😉

4 thoughts on “Could you answer a few questions about hackathons for me?

  1. What type of hacking would you or do you prefer to do at a Hackathon? Hardware Hacking? Software Hacking?
    I have done both HW and SW hacking. Lately I’ve been looking for things to do with 3D printing, however.

    How important are the prizes?
    Somewhat important; I’m not choosing the hack specifically for the prizes. That said, if the hackathon has attracted a lot of interesting people I’d otherwise never get to work with, that’d almost be the best prize, to me.

    What should the prizes or rewards be?
    Prizes should be interesting, unique, substantial if they are going to be there. I am not interested in professional services. Cash or something unique is nice.

    How many people should attend that would actually make the Hackthon fun?
    I’ve found the magic number for me is around 45-50. That way I get to meet a few people I’ve not met before and it doesn’t become overwhelmingly large.

    Have you attended, and if so, what was the coolest thing about the hackathon to you?
    I’ve attended a few. The coolest thing is getting to try new things and learn from others.

    Are hackathons better as 1 day or 2 days or more?
    One contiguous 20-24 hour period. I hate single day hacks that start at 930a and end at 6pm. It’s just not enough time to complete anything substantial.

    Should hackathons be during the week or the weekend?
    I prefer the weekend.

    Since you didn’t ask, I’ll do it for you. Should hackathons have a clear theme? YES. I’ve been to some where the criteria were just all over the place and people were doing lame things trying to hit all of them to win prizes. PIck some APIs that make sense together. Choose complementary themes. Don’t make it so open ended that people abandon the theme and just work on whatever.

  2. What type of hacking?
    I’ve only done SW hackathons. I think the main benefit is learning new skills, so either SW, HW, its all about our wetWare.

    How important are the prizes?
    I think prizes should be more like medals than big cash prizes.

    What should the prizes or rewards be?
    I like HW prizes. Chromebooks. Tablets, Phones, Chromecasts. Books (to about $250)
    Here’s what I’ve seen work counter productively. At AT&T Hackathon two folks forked our day 1 code, came after lunch day 2 and presented our code as their code, winning $500. At Google Kirkland, a team turned up with a prebuilt 3 printing app, won a big 1st prize (a $1000 value, I think). I rather see 10 prizes than 1 winner takes all (I expect Salesforces $1M Hackathon prize will turn into a circus).

    How many people should attend that would actually make the Hackthon fun?
    Hard to run a fun Hackathon for more than about 120 people. Attendees need power, wifi, see/hear technical presentations.

    Have you attended, and if so, what was the coolest thing about the hackathon to you?
    Attended, organized and led. Coolest thing is seeing the presentations at the end of the day of what people, and teams built.

    Are hackathons better as 1 day or 2 days or more?
    Used to require 2 full days. Now it’s much easier to get an environment set up and something built in 1 long day. This is much easier on the organizers.

    Should hackathons be during the week or the weekend?
    I prefer a Friday evening social get together, followed by a Saturday hackathon, followed by Sunday recovery. We recently organized Seattle DevFest 2013 http://www.meetup.com/seattle-gdg/events/125948972/

  3. blueAlien says:

    First off, check out this video on how DefCon does a hacking contest (CTF): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8oJ5CMXo3k

    1. What type of hacking would you or do you prefer to do at a Hackathon? Hardware Hacking? Software Hacking?
    Why not do something unique, and combine hardware and software hacking? For example, first you have to hack a Raspberry Pi or Arduino and then modify some code to implement the hardware hack…

    2. How important are the prizes?
    If it’s a contest, there should be some kind of reward for winning or an incentive to participate. Sometimes the honor of winning is enough, but that will usually only fly at a more prestigious event that has been around for a while.

    3. What should the prizes or rewards be?
    tech accessories, badge to a tech event, sponsored items (Chromebook, network card, etc.)

    4. How many people should attend that would actually make the Hackathon fun?
    This will depend on whether you want to do team based or individual challenges… Also whether it is hardware, software, network. If it is hardware based having a alot of participants will mean a high cost to get all of the required parts for the challenges. Network or server penetration would be the cheapest as participants would bring their own machines to work on, and only a couple servers would be required.

    5. Have you attended, and if so, what was the coolest thing about the hackathon to you?
    To me the end results are probably the coolest thing. Seeing how other people solved the same problem is a much different way can surprise everyone involved.

    6. Are hackathons better as 1 day or 2 days or more?
    This would depend on what the final challenges are and if you are going to do any kind of elimination, bracketed, or round-robin style rounds.

    7. Should hackathons be during the week or the weekend?
    Weekend

  4. Q: What type of hacking would you or do you prefer to do at a Hackathon? Hardware Hacking? Software Hacking?
    A: I only do software. However, I think both hardware and software should be allowed

    Q: How important are the prizes?
    A: Prizes are very important. Every maker has projects they want to work on over the weekends. the prizes need to be worth enough to give up their weekend and work on something other than their own projects.

    Q: What should the prizes or rewards be?
    A: IMHO $5000 cash for 1st prize, $3000 for 2nd prize.

    Q: How many people should attend that would actually make the Hackthon fun?
    A: You need 200-300 to make things interesting. I’d try to get 400 to register since some people won’t show up

    Q: Have you attended, and if so, what was the coolest thing about the hackathon to you?
    A: I’ve been to startup weekend in the past.

    Q: Are hackathons better as 1 day or 2 days or more?
    A: 24 contiguous hours would be best — Sat noon to Sunday noon.

    Q: Should hackathons be during the week or the weekend?
    A: It should be on the weekend

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