Sunday 3 November 2013

Benefits of Hackathon and how to plan

Next week I am volunteering for the HackNight by Microsoft Ventures to represent NowFloats. I would have loved if the "word" hack means "share your idea" but unfortunately  it means "to reduce or cut ruthlessly". To etiolate it I decided to take some effort from my side. Hence sharing some thoughts around Hack days which can help others.  

The "word" Hackathon was coined by Sun Microsystems around 1999.Now most of the tech companies have Hackthon (hack day), but why?. Attending hacks makes one look geeky, get some goodies, a nice T-shirt may be, a photograph with tech magnet, this is obvious. Beyond this hack days helps techies in many ways. To make most of the Hackthon preparing well is pre-requisite.  

Benefits of hack day for techies 

  1. Build Next Big What: Hack days are like going to place of worship. It builds a environment in which your thoughts is streamlined by like minded people. This will help you to refine your thoughts/ideas or may be give new direction to your thoughts. Who knows your idea is next big thing! GroupMe and PhoneGap came out of Hackdays! .May be you will meet your "Angel" there.
  2. Ship it : There is lot of difference between having an idea or coding it and shipping it. In Hackday you have to Ship it. Hackdays helps you understand the importance of shipping the product in given time and the challenges in doing so.
  3. Gulp More : Learning new technologies, new ways of doing things or other soft skills is also major benefit for techies attending the event.
  4. Meet people : There are two kind of people whom you will meet in hack-days
    1. Veterans/Experts/Evangelist in industry : There will be experts attending the event to enable you to do your Hack. Go and talk with them and connect with them during breaks. Also most of the hack-days start/end with interactive session with technical leaders. Students will get chance to meet potential employer.
    2. Peer Group :You will meet lot of like-minded people. Meet new people and form teams. I am sure there will be a take away for you
  5. Foot loose : It is a break from your daily routines. It is as good as going for fishing in a nearby lake. Just enjoy it even if you don't catch any fish.  

Preparing for the Hack day event 

  1. Know it all : Understand well what is the intent behind the hack day. Prepare by making notes and how your idea is aligning with the scope and expected output.
  2. Miniscule project scope: Keep it practical, don't dream of building complicated scenarios. Keep it very simple.  First make it work, keep a copy and make it pretty by adding features. If you ask me only one thing that should be taken care then it is this. The concept of MVP revolves around this.
  3. Learn :Go through the API or Frameworks which you have to use in the hack-day if any. You might have to brush up technologies/framework to use in the hack-day.
  4. Business value : The judges will ask usually questions regarding business value of the hack. So please prepare for that.
  5. Preinstall :Preinstall any software you require. Also test any other devices like phone or any  hardware your planning to use.
  6. Reuse :Try to use UI templates, library, your old code, open source or any code from other forums. Nobody is worried about originality of the code in the hack day.
  7. Hack-mate: Find like-minded people and if possible with slightly varying skills like UI, Design other than coding skills. In hack day everybody in team should code.
  8. Tummy full: Drink lot of water and eat food. Dehydration can affect your task in hand.
  9. Connectivity: Usually the venue will get crowed and leads to Wi-Fi connectivity issue. Keep your mobile phone with data connection/data-card/other means as backup.
  10. Last but not least :Take a print out of your registration notification/email if any so that you don't struggle once you reach the venue.

Beyond 24 hours of sweat: 

  1. Connect with peers and take forward the Idea if you think it can go beyond Hack day. Most big companies got build under small ideas.
  2. Send e-mail/Add to LinkedIn people you met in the event.
  3. Add the Hack event to your resume.
  4. Make a notes of things which you want to learn in detail after the hack day and learn it.


So best of lucks all the Hackers of the world!