What is a Hackathon? Everything You Need To Know – Hackathons are a great way to learn new skills, meet new people, and have fun. They’re also a great way to bring your ideas to life. But what exactly are hackathons? Let’s find out together.
What is a Hackathon? Everything You Need To Know
What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is an event where different people come together to solve problems: it’s a creative marathon. They can also be called hackfests. Hackathons are competitions, but not in the traditional sense of the term: they set goals for participants to work towards, but they are events designed to be inclusive and welcoming, allowing you to work alongside various professionals with new or different skills from yours . This is exactly what makes a hackathon such an interesting event: you can learn new things, meet new people, and have fun while doing it.
Definition of hackathon
This is a relatively recent name, if you think that the first event with this name was the OpenBSD Hackathon in Calgary, Canada on June 4, 1999. The term “hackathon” comes from the fusion of the words hack, understood as programming experimental and unstructured, and “marathon”, marathon. The origin of the name explains the two main characteristics of this event: the computer environment in which it was born, and resistance, understood as dedication to achieving the goal.
A hackathon is therefore an event in which the participants, usually programmers, engineers or other IT and digital professionals, come together to solve a problem in a short amount of time. In fact, a hackathon lasts from 24 to 48 hours: it can last even longer, but the rule is that they remain limited to the duration of a weekend. Participants are divided into teams and faced with a challenge. In fact, they have a common goal: to create something that solves a specific problem, within the established time frame. Each participant brings their knowledge and skills into play, regardless of the role they occupy in their professional life outside.
What is the purpose of a hackathon
The purpose of a hackathon is to create opportunities using unconventional avenues. In some cases it can encourage innovation in a specific technological sector – or even in a specific service. More and more often, in fact, technology companies organize these events to be able to arrive at solutions that they would not be able to find otherwise.
Other types of opportunities are created by providing an environment in which people with different skillsets collaborate face-to-face on a specific project that affects everyone equally, fostering relationships among participants that might not otherwise have been created. This is the panorama of hackathons that address issues of public utility, such as education, the environment, active citizenship, inclusion, health.
Again, the aim could be to develop new commercial ideas: in fact, ideas, collaborations and teams can arise that are the first nucleus of a future start-up!
What happens in a hackathon?
This is how a hackathon takes place. Before the official start, you should have time to arrive and start chatting with those already there – it’s called networking. In other words, even before the official start of the works, you may already have had the opportunity to meet some of your future adventure companions.
Then the trumpets blare, and we start with the presentation of the organizers and the rules, the problem to be solved and the desired result. They will also tell you about the possible final classification, the prizes available, the jury – it is probable there could also be an advertising block from a sponsor, I don’t know, maybe a VPN service or something like that oO
Once the introductory phase is over, it’s time to build the teams and start working: while you analyze the problem and start coming up with ideas for solving it, you’ll have the opportunity to deepen your knowledge with the other participants. Then other ideas, other solutions, projects, prototypes and presentations until time is running out.
Then the various teams present their solutions, votes – rankings – awards – greetings and the hackathon is over. In between there may have been everything: presentations and speeches by relevant personalities, shared meals and coffees, structured training and sudden discoveries, but above all you will have had the opportunity to approach and get to know people who otherwise would have remained strangers.
This structure is valid for face-to-face hackathons, but with few differences it tends to be respected also in online hackathons, because even remotely we try to involve participants to maintain the feeling of being part of a common event, rather than being isolated.
How to find a hackathon
Whether you’re looking for face-to-face or online hackathons, the Internet is by your side. On the one hand there are the dedicated sites:
- Hackathon.com has a list of upcoming hackathons around the world
But as often happens for sites of this type, it is possible that some events are not there, or arrive as “second hand” news. So keep an eye on the major news broadcasters in the area you’re interested in – specialist sites, prominent professionals, social channels: any niche hackathons are likely to be advertised or sponsored within these specialist channels.
How to participate in a hackathon
The first and most immediate form of participation in a hackathon is to compete. You look for the right event for you, you sign up, eventually pay the participation fee, you show up at the start and off you go! If you wish, you can also decide to participate together with your friends or colleagues, to transform this event into an opportunity for shared professional growth. But don’t think it’s the only one.
In fact, if you have some experience in the field, you can also participate by presenting your idea, your cue that can be worked on during the challenge. Or again, helping out in organizing a hackathon: from logistical aspects to those of community management, there are plenty of things to do. Not to mention the mentor figures, who should accompany the working groups during their experience, to make sure that everything goes smoothly.
Is a hackathon right for me?
This is the question that most often blocks those who want to participate – especially those who are first-timers wonder if it’s okay to have a hackathon for beginners.
They’re a fun way to learn new skills, network with people from all walks of life, and build your portfolio. They’re also a great way to get your name out there if you’re looking for work or want to start your own business and are looking for partners. For all these reasons it is worth attending.
So, if you are thinking about participating in a hackathon: don’t hesitate anymore: do it