Hackathons, according to Wikipedia are “…(also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.” For me the first thing that pops into my mind is Facebook, but you may be surprised to learn this was originally devised by the smart marketing folks at Sun during the height of the internet boom!
Since then, Hackathons have become a main stay for socializing, innovating, and friendly competition between like minded individuals with a common theme or goal in mind.
I beg the question, why limit hackathons to programmers.
Already we can see some areas where Hackathons have been applied to not only programming but also life sciences (e.g. Open Bioinformatics Foundation). Personally, I would love to see more “hackathons” in other areas. Perhaps government (ahem shutdown) or cooking? to think of a couple random examples. For me, it feels like hackathons are simply a way to fast prototype ideas into reality.
If you want to start your own hackathon, what is the structure?
Hackathons can take place practically anywhere. At Facebook HQ and their notoriously grueling hackathon to the mile high club British Airlines hackathon. Or at no place at all and purely online as in the case of Kaggle, which I’d consider a form of hackathon.
Now that we have a place, what is the structure of a hackathon once you’re there?
Overall, I’d say there is usually a short presentation by the organizers about the goal and guidelines of the hackathon. Once announced, people generally break up into teams of 2-4 and go off to generate ideas, mockups, and get to work. Hackathons can last a simple evening as was the case with AirBnB or last for more than a week in some organizations.
Here are some good tips from our pals at Quora if you are so inclined to create your very own hackathon.
In the meantime, if you want to see what all the fuss is about, I invite you to join one of our hackathons we’re hosting next month for the National Association of Realtors