A guide to hackathons

This is a short list of posts that will get you ready for your first hackathon or rekindle a spark that you once had for hackathons.

Why should you go to a hackathon?

Hackathons can be daunting, stressful, and a ton of work. They can also be a safe place to flex your talents, make new friends, and try something new. Whether you’re a student, learning to code on the side, or if you have substantial amount of coding experience under your belt, hackathons are for everyone.

Coding is a constant learning process and it’s an opportunity for hackers to teach and learn from each other, make new friends, find jobs, or build the thing you’ve always said you didn’t have time for.

Sitara gives some great reasons in her post “Why you should go to hackathons”. If you’re a high school student or a veteran developer there is a reason for you to attend a hackathon. You can build your portfolio, network, or even increase your creativity.

Creativity is a big one, Kalilur Rahman makes some great point in their personal view, “How can Hacakthons Help Creativity? What we learn from Apollo-13? And benefits of hackathon”. Hackathons are known to be a place of innovation and creativity. People work fast, move without the constraints of normal day to day work, and are rewarded for thinking outside the box. If you want to spark your creativity, hackathons are a great place for that.

Creativity is important but you still need to plan! When you only have 48 hours to pull off this magical idea in your mind, planning is key. You need to produce the most you can with the least amount of effort. Nik outlines the Minimum Viable Hack including what strategies you should use, and some tips to make the most out of your time.

What do you do at a hackathons?

So you’ve decided to commit to going to a hackathon? Awesome! Now, you’ve started to stress about what you should expect… stop. Relax, you might be new to hackathons so let me tell you a few things. Hackathons are normally 48 hours with registration Friday evening and pitching on Sunday afternoon, not all hackathons fit this format. Some are a week long, others are online, and of course some are both. There are lots of variations but 48 hour hackathons are the most common. You can normally participate with a team or by yourself. Again, this depends on the hackathon. Hackathons include free food, swag, and some even included mentorship.

If this is your first time going to a hackathon I found a post to ease your mind. Tim Fogarty, previously a Commissioner at Major League Hacking wrote, “Hackathons are for beginners”. He goes over everything from the registration table to where you should skip on presentation (hint: you shouldn’t). He has a lot of insight to what happens at hackathons, so you don’t have to go in blind.

Ok, so if you really want to hit the ground running check out Sitara’s post “Things to know before a hackathon”. She outlined what the people are like, how much experience you should have going in, if you will be able to sleep and other things you should know before your first hackathon.

Business or pleasure?

For some people hackathons are their full time job. Check out Lizette Chapman’s post on Bloombergs, “These Hackathon Hustlers Make Their Living From Corporate Coding Contests”. In this post Brian Clark explains “I’d much rather earn that money in two days so I don’t have to take the programming job for two months”. At one hackathon Clark won $6,000 for fewer than four hours of work. Money can be a driving factor for hackers to participate in a hackathon.

In other cases, money doesn’t matter. Just spending time building something cool is enough. Check out Nik’s interview with Chan Woo Kim, one half of the winning team of WebHacks, an online week long hackathon. Manifold has a soft spot for grassroots hackathons, so we sponsored 1st place at WebHacks, with the prize of a CODE keyboard.

In the interview you learn that Chan Woo Kim is a highschool student at an international school in Shanghai. Kim and his teammate Katie Li are relatively new to web development. They wanted to participate in a hackathon but wouldn’t find one that would accept individuals under the age of 18, until they found WebHacks.

There are also lot of different types of hackers for lots of different types of hackathons. You just need to find the right type for you. Hackathons aren’t a huge time commitment and you have the opportunity to learn a lot in a weekend. Winning isn’t the most important things, it's that you learn along the way. Happy Hacking.

A little about Manifold

Manifold ❤️ ’s hackathons and we want to give back. If you’re running a hackathon and looking for sponsors you can reach out to events@manifold.co.

Nik, Nick and Jeff will be at Hack the North this weekend. If you’ll be there too go say 👋 to them on twitter! They might have some special swag for you.

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