The word ‘hackathon’ stems from a play on the word hacking and marathon. The idea is to quickly build something in a compressed time period. Usually between a few hours to a couple of days.
I think hackathons are brilliant for several reasons. However, not many people share the same view which is the essence of the post.
I look at hackathons as “networking in context”. Not just loitering around with one hand holding a glass of wine and the other in the pocket when you are not sticking a business card in a persons face.
Below are the reasons why I think more people should participate in hackathons.
Shipping: The time time constraint forces you to ship something which is the greatest plague a lot of developers suffer from. However, with the wrong motivation and too much “business/idea guy” influence, you might end up shipping powerpoint slides
Learning and Experimenting: Hackathons are the perfect place to experiment with that new programming language or API. It gives developers and participants a good reason and place to test what they have been thinking about doing. It is also an amazing opportunity to learn from other brilliant participants with skills different from you.
Partnerships and Recruitment: Many partnerships are formed during hackathons. This is perfect for those seeking co-founders and those seeking developers to hire. It is like a 2 way roiling interview. You get to see people’s abilities and find out if you can work with them. You do not have to rely on what you are told or assume. Saves everyone a lot of money and time.
Money/Winning?: The question mark is there because I think it is the wrongest motivation to participate in a hackathon. However, from my observation I see it is the common one that promotes participation here in Nigeria. Winning such an event is a lottery and only a tiny fraction of participants can “win”. As a result, focusing on the “winning” subtly promotes the idea that those who did not win (which feasibly is a vast majority) gained nothing from participation. It also mentally discourages those that either believe they cannot win or those that believe playing a lottery is not worth the effort.
Do not get me wrong, winning is a great thing, but for hackathons, it should be a by product for focusing on the right things. In the long term, the value obtained by proper participation will surpass any stipend that is on offer as the prize.
I would also point out that hackathon no be work. Except of course you are looking for, or selling to developers.
PS: You could check out LifeBank that was built over last weekend.