A few tips/gotchas about running hackathons

23 Nov
Based on various recent hackathons I’ve organised/helped:
– Make it clear people need to bring their own laptops or there’s not much point being there.

– Help people get into teams and brainstorm ideas, if they need it. A theme can help. (e.g. in Prague GTUG, it was “apps for study”; at HTML5 Game Jam, we had game themes like “Frenemies for Life”).

– If at all possible, be flexible about number of people in each team. 

– Explain schedule and judging criteria at the start of the event.

– Don’t do long presentations at the start. Just 1-2 tech overviews with pointers to more online info.

– Point out to participants which people are there as assistants, and make it clear they should feel free to ask them for help at any time. (Otherwise, people will feel it’s inappropriate to disturb them.)

– Organisers/assistants should spend some time walking around during the day. The main organiser should act as a mediator, finding the appropriate assistants when teams need help.

– Keep final demos short, e.g. 3 mins + 2 mins questions.

– They are demos, not presentations. I’ve learned that it’s not enough to say it at the start of the event – people will still come up and present slideshows if they’re not familiar with the format. So I would emphasise it again just prior to presentations. I’d even arrange an example demo ideally from one of the organisers/assistants who has themselves built something during the day.
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4 Responses to “A few tips/gotchas about running hackathons”

  1. BenJam November 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    I can think of a few events that have won/failed due to these points. Great shout.

  2. MsCentaurea December 8, 2010 at 6:02 pm #

    Nice post. Clearcut tips. The Ukrainian verson can be found here http://gtug.org.ua/post/837/ as the final bonus part of the interview with Michael @Mahemoff upon the results of Kyiv Hackathon held on October 23, 2010

  3. Anonymous September 2, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Hey Iryna, thanks for putting this on your blog in Russian and Ukrainian.http://ignotum.posterous.com/-a-hymn-to-hackathons-ever-after

  4. Anonymous September 2, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    Thanks for adding the link!

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