Jan 19, 2019

Why hackathons are great

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About a year ago we participated in a local hackathon, and I’m happy to share some thoughts about this event. It was so good that the year after we went once again.

It was late spring Friday when we decided to take part in a hackathon organized by Garage 48. It promised to be an interesting one since the title was Gamification in serious apps. However, this requirement didn’t stop one team from pitching an idea of a simple game.

The contest gathers diverse specialists in one place. Some of them have a knack in graphic editors, others have development skills or experience in marketing and have a gift of gab. All people at the event are united with one idea – to create something that will work. The main idea is that in two days, no matter what you decide to do, you should show a working prototype.

A hackathon is one of the best places to show skills and go beyond your routine work mode. We didn’t know anyone from participants and it was interesting to meet new people. You might miss some adrenaline moments if you go to the contest with a full team. It was refreshing to feel when you have about one hour to go, to complete your team. For “refreshing” I mean running around with one eye on a watch and another at guys and girls who haven’t decided which team to attend. And keep on asking – “Have you decided”?

Prepare to work

Before going to the event, our team thought about the concept of the app. When we were discussing what kind of product idea should we pitch it was difficult to pick one. I mean you can find dozens of interesting ideas for the app, and start to work on any. This freedom of choice makes you woozy.

The main point is that if we build something it should be simple. The very first idea was the educational app for pupils. However, after the discussion, we understood that it would take time to show the working prototype. Moreover, we’ve realized there is no straight and clear model for monetization.

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Everyone loves onboarding, right?

So, we thought of one cool app, and then another one. After repeating this process several times, we’ve decided to stop with a dating app that will encourage live communication. The idea is pretty simple: the more people will talk with each other in live conversations the more they will find out about each other. The app has text chat and video chat. When you start video chat the front camera streams blurred image of you to another person. Depending on how good the talk goes users can reduce blur effect to demonstrate sympathy.

We found more than one person who said that our idea is interesting, but didn’t succeed in building a full team for it. We found the designer, iOS developer, marketer, but still needed a back-end guy. Two back-end developers were waiting for the best offer to come. They said that they wouldn’t join us not for love, not for money. After this, our team split up and worked on a different project.

Who is there?

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Typical working conditions

We all hear from time to time that people complaining about a lack of time for personal projects. Sometimes we can see them in a mirror. No matter what size of the project would be, our mind can find all kinds of excuses begin to work on a magical day called “tomorrow”. If you are fed up with excuses and lack of time, a hackathon is created for you. There you will have enough time and find a lot of like-minded people.

Some of them are ready to work under any conditions. It doesn’t matter if they need to send an expedition to Mars next week and haven’t slept for the last few months. Just give them an interesting task and they will work on it.

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These people aim at constant development and ready to dedicate time even to strange ideas to challenge themselves and see what they can do. Who would possibly imagine that Coub will be popular? One would think that Youtube with cats wasn’t enough for humanity. Nevertheless, we have another time killer and people love it.

We also see people who like what they do, but it’s hard for them to find time for personal projects, so a contest like this is a breath of fresh air, where they gladly dive into work. And among all specialists, we can find those who will present the concept. They imagine things and try to infect with their ideas the rest of the audience that will disrupt the old foundation, improve existing one or simply propose something so bad that it will become a good thing for the end-user.

After all, teams were formed judges announced the deadlines. When you hear that contest lasts two days, it means that you have one day for creating the prototype and half of the second day for polishing the sample.

It was exciting to be a part of such an event where a wide array of creative people who work on smth with enthusiasm gathered in one place. You observe how they debate about programming issues, hear suggestions about design layout, and lots of other talks around projects.

As a result, a lot of good ideas finally started to shape into real products. It was impressive to see how much work you can do in two days. Sometimes it seems like week won’t be enough for scheduled tasks. After the contest, you might notice how different productivity level in our routine is.

Why should I go there?

In short, because it’s fun.

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People who want to leave this country — raise your hand 🙂

Yes, it’s also about hard work, but the reward is great. Join the hackathon if you want to meet cool people, see the real work on a product without any fancy words. This event unites a lot of people, and it’s inspiring to be a part of this vast community.

Where else could you find the developer of Upwork and have a chat with him and other professionals? You just need to be open for a talk and let people know that you are interested.

Hackathons are about work with enthusiasm. You’ll be surprised by what people can do when they are interested in the task. If you aren’t a developer or designer, you can still help. Attend as a mentor to give useful tips and share your knowledge with newcomers. You can be the one who catches the interest of tech people or helps keep work in order. The synchronization of the working process is essential for product creation.

Moreover, if you already have a plan and now in search of a good team, you can observe the skills and communication of future members. I think it works better than any recruitment process because instead of browsing his or her profile on LinkedIn you have an opportunity to do the real things with them and see how good they are.

If you feel that you aren’t ready for showtime, visit the hackathon to see what kind of aspects are important in creating the product. The jury helps beginners to find the weak spots in their ideas. Thus you will avoid bigger expenditures in the future.

My last but not least advice is to listen carefully to the opinion of people who already launched products. Real experience has greater value than any written story.

Thank you for reading. If you like this article, take a look at our review of “Getting real” is a great book about product development and interesting details about the design of real things.