Complete Hackathon Guide

by AmpedWeb Team


About Amped:
Amped was the reloaded hack-day hosted in Seattle, WA at 14 May 2011 with high energy, diversity, and breaking the hacker stereotype. The event was absolutely free thanks to sponsors.

We enjoyed that event and now want to pay tribute. The purpose of that site is to become a source of knowledge about hackathons and similar technological events.

We want to help organizers make great events. We want to show that hackathon is fun and there is a way to participate in it without any stress.


In this article, we will talk about what hackathons are and why they are needed, and also share tips that will help you organize your hackathon. Recently, the hackathon has become an increasingly common format of events, including in Russia. Previously, we already briefly wrote about the form of the hackathon, but now we have decided to tell you more about what hackathons are, what they are for, and how to organize a successful hackathon. What is a hackathon? The word "hackathon" is a term derived from a combination of two words: hacker and marathon. Today, hackathons no longer belong to hacking, it’s just a “marathon of programmers”, where small teams of specialists from different areas of software development (programmers, designers, managers) work together to solve a problem. Usually, hackathons last from one day to a week. As a rule, the task of the hackathon is to create full-fledged software, but there are also hackathons that are intended for educational or social purposes. On such hackathons, web services (mobile apps, websites, web apps, infographics) are developed to solve socially significant tasks. The result of the hackathon and joint work of civil society activists and IT specialists is not the prototype of the future application, but the ready-to-launch minimum viable product - the first version of the app where you can test the idea’s work. There are different directions and themes of hackathons - from medicine to urban design. Earlier, the Social Technology Greenhouse organized Mobile Hackathon, and in May of this year, the Greenhouse hackathon was held for NGOs, in which representatives of non-profit organizations and local initiatives together with designers and developers worked on creating models of civil applications. You can read more about the projects that participated in the hackathon on the site. How are hackathons Usually, hackathons begin with a presentation of the event as a whole and specific topics, if any. Participants then propose ideas and form teams based on interests and skills. After this, work on projects begins directly, which can take from several hours to several days. Food on hackathons (especially those that last more than a day) is spontaneous, and, as a rule, participants eat food like pizza and energy drinks. Also, participants can sleep during the hackathon, if they find where. The hackathons end with project presentations, during which each team shares the results of its work. Sometimes hakatons are competitive. In such cases, the jury evaluates the participants and selects the winners who are awarded prizes. Why do we need hackathons? Hackatons are a good opportunity for designers, developers and other specialists to come together and work on creating a project. Acquaintance. Hackathon is a meeting place for designers, developers and other specialists where they can get to know each other, exchange knowledge and ideas, or come up with a joint project on which they will work further. Forming a community. Hackatons help to create networks of talented and active people interested in a topic or problem. Creative work process and collaboration. On the hackathon, the participants have a unique opportunity to work in a free, convenient format for them, with specialists from those areas with which they may never have intersected. New knowledge. The hackathon format assumes that participants are constantly confronted with tasks that they have not encountered before. Accordingly, learning new hackathons is very fast, and the knowledge gained can be immediately used in practice. In addition, there are many people around who can help. For example, a person who is nearby may explain in 10 minutes something that would require viewing a whole video course. Show talent. For participants, a hackathon is an opportunity to show how good specialists they are. The implementation of new ideas. Being a kind of platform for experiments, the hackathon allows you to invent and implement completely new ideas and projects. Scene of start-up projects. For companies, hackathons can be especially interesting because they are the scene of potentially successful startups that you can continue to work with. If you decide to organize a hackathon Holding a hackathon related to your social mission is a good way to attract talented specialists to it, to invent and implement new ways to solve existing problems. If you decide to organize a hackathon, then these tips can help you. Determine the purpose of the hackathon. What problems are you trying to solve? What should developers do? Attracting developers is the key to a successful hackathon, because they know how to create applications. You should also involve experts from this field, people from the community, students - the wider the audience, the more creative solutions can be. Leave enough time for planning. Depending on the scale of the event, preparation usually takes from three to six weeks. Choose a venue and date. For obvious reasons, nothing can happen until you choose exactly where this is going to happen. There are many places where you can spend hackathon - from the offices of IT-corporations to local cafes. Since most professionals are working professionals, weekends are more convenient for them. Attract sponsors. The most expensive elements of the hackathon are the playground, food and prizes. Think about what and what sponsors you can offer in exchange for support. Tell us about the hackathon to potential participants. Post the event information to the appropriate resources in order to attract those for whom the hackathon is intended and which may be of interest. Contact the press and reputable community members who can share information through social media. Ask sponsors to also disseminate information - it is in their interest to have the widest possible audience. Order (some) more food. Ordering too much food and watching her disappear is sad. But nothing compares with the failure, if the food is not enough, and the participants will be angry and hungry. The same rule applies to the second important aspect of the hackathon - coffee. Make sure you have good prizes for the winners. As a rule, there is a direct link between the quality of prizes and the quality of projects. Remember that no matter how carefully you prepare, something can always go wrong. You need to understand what is critical and what is not, and try not to let the last happen (it will be critical not that a cloudy liquid is poured from the coffee maker instead of coffee, but that Wi-Fi has stopped working or there are not enough sockets). In general, the organization of the hackathon is not a very complicated process, and the result of each such event is the emergence of new ideas and projects that have the potential to be socially significant and beneficial to society.

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