Thinking of running your own Hackathon? Peter Morano is the Hackathon Chair for SocialDevCamp and currently Vice President of Engineering at InContext Solutions. Dice News took the opportunity to quiz Peter about the key things to think about in creating the best possible Hackathon experience for everybody, whether it is for educational or social reasons.
Hackathons have become an insanely powerful tool in solving problems, experimentation and networking and Morano says in order to harness this, it is no longer enough to tell Developers to just come and build something,
He also explains that you really need a topic to base the Hackathon around as boundaries and requirements help the Developers, even if they are loose requirements such as ‘mobile app’ or ‘web app’. Another standardising factor for Hackathons is an opportunity to showcase the sponsors API or toolset.
In terms of the sponsors themselves, they are largely driven by connecting with the toughest developers in the market which means that if you are able to demonstrate you are going to bring together great developers, then you’ll increase your chances of securing infrastructure, real estate and mandatory pizza and drinks to hold the event.
You’ll need prize money and most importantly, it should go without saying, you’ll need developers and that can at times be trick.
It is also vital to set out parameters for the event, most importantly time which enables developers to instinctively crystallise ideas down to their purest form and the more obvious the starting pistol or air horn, the better. Extra applause for venues with shower facilities too.. although the event might have something ‘student’ in it’s DNA, time allotted will often be longer than any of the worlds longest long haul flights.
Creating a brand for hack days can also add real long term value where the best developers will return to subsequent events for more and although prize money is standard bounty for generating interest in events, Morano also explains that choosing judges that are respected by developers can further attract contestants, giving them the opportunity to present to distinguished people and strengthen their profiles.
I also think that printing up T Shirts are a good souvenir for the event which can bolster the brand over time as a lot of developers will wear the tech T Shirts they are given.
At the same time prior to the event, like all marketing releases, pent up demand is a good strategy as it drums up anticipation but also serves to prepare developers with what to expect for the event and it is also a good idea to charge a nominal fee for entry. Without this the attendance rates can diminish dramatically – if a developer has paid for the seat, god willing they’ll be there.
Finally yet paradoxically most importantly, WiFi has to work. Ask the venue to increase upload and download speeds with a back up available.