A hackathon or hackday is an event during which developers, and designers collaborate intensively on projects to produce new solutions often resulting in web or mobile applications. Hackathons typically last 24 – 48 hours over a weekend but can last up to a week. Recently hackathons have become increasingly popular across a number of sectors including social enterprise. Below are ten tips to ensure that you run a successful hackathon.
1. An inspirational venue – You will be asking hastily formed teams of developers and designers to be creative and to collaborate intensively with people they have only just met. Select a venue that will inspire them – ideally with lots of sunlight.
2. Venue location – To guarantee a good turnout at your hackathon you need to pick a venue that is easy to get to. Don’t fall at the first hurdle by picking a venue that attendees need to use GPS to find. It should also be possible for attendees to take short breaks outside of the venue.
3. Technologically fit for purpose – Make realistic estimates about the likely number of attendees and ensure that the venue you select has the capacity to accommodate that number and has the appropriate internet infrastructure, including a high speed connection, robust WIFI, extension cords and outlets.
4. Organiser /Sponsor responsibilities – If you are the sponsor of the event it is your responsibility to do the following: set a clearly defined challenge for the event, identify what new APIs and datasets will be used, clarify that developers will retain their IP, create a high calibre judging panel and prize fund consistent with the scope of the project – all of which will get the right people in the room.
5. Support team – Hackathons are very intense experiences – you will need an accessible on-site support team that has covered the ground before, has expertise in running similar hacks and will respond to any issues with great speed and professionalism.
6. Remembering Maslow – Developers have the same basic needs for food and shelter as everyone else. Create space within your selected venue for them to sleep, eat, drink and ensure that there shower & bathroom facilities. Food should include healthy options as well as vegetarian and gluten free alternatives. The agenda for the hackathon (including meal-times) should be clearly communicated.
7. Schedule – Create a schedule for the day and communicate this in a prominent place. Include a hard deadline for work to stop and demo presentation times etc.
8. Special requirements – Preparations should be made to accommodate attendees in wheelchairs or who are blind and security provisions and fire safety procedures clearly communicated.
9. Judging criteria and rules – Should be documented and available prior to the hackathon to avoid confusion or disappointment.
10. Fun – hackathons are intense but they are also fun and developers enjoy them. When planning your hackathon ensure that you have a couple of nice surprises perhaps as part of the judging and prize-giving segment of your hackathon to ensure everyone that has a good time.
We hope you have found this information useful. At Impact Hub Westminster we have run over 40 successful hackathons and would be delighted to help you create a hackathon for your organisation. Feel free to give us a call on +44 (0)207 148 6720 or email via firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.
Follow us on twitter @hubwestminster for more information on hacks.
Impact Hub Westminster Team