Science and technology

eight ideas for operating a digital hackathon

Hackathons are occasions the place builders, product managers, designers, and others come collectively to deal with issues over a short while interval. They have grow to be more and more well-liked during the last 15 years after OpenBSD ran the first hackathon in June 1999.

These occasions present a number of advantages—larger engagement throughout the neighborhood, innovation and new concepts, consciousness for the organizers, and networking alternatives for members.

Mattermost, an open supply messaging platform for DevOps groups, has additionally run and took part in a number of hackathons to interact with the open supply neighborhood. So far, in 2020, we participated in a hackathon to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and ran a hackfest to create open source chatbots for developer workflows. Both had 1000’s of members and had been run utterly nearly.

We’ve come a great distance from our first hackathon in 2016 that had solely 20 members to constructing a step-by-step guide for running a virtual hackathon, and we have realized many invaluable classes.

If you might be contemplating operating a digital hackathon, listed here are eight ideas to bear in mind:

Choose your hackathon theme

Before you start to plan your hackathon, you will want to decide on a theme or a subject for it first.

Is there a selected enterprise or social drawback you are making an attempt to resolve? An business you wish to attain? Technologies you wish to discover collectively along with your neighborhood?

Choosing the theme at first is necessary, because it provides you a transparent focus for the remainder of your planning—which communities to succeed in out to, methods to decide logistics, what supplies to organize, and different particulars. It additionally evokes your neighborhood to work on fixing the particular sorts of issues you are organizing round.

Decide dates for the hackathon early

With 365 days in a 12 months, you’d suppose it might be straightforward to search out one on which to carry an occasion, however it may well really be a problem to schedule even a digital hackathon. The most necessary factor is to not rush the preparation. Ideally, it is best to schedule the hackathon no less than two months out. This provides you sufficient time to advertise and manage it and provides your members sufficient time to organize for it—whether or not it is researching the hackathon matter or setting apart time for it on their calendars.

Here are a couple of fast ideas when making an attempt to resolve when to run hackathons:

  • Avoid overlap with main holidays within the international locations you are making an attempt to succeed in. If the occasion is world, then keep away from main holidays within the international locations the place you’ve gotten larger communities.
  • Avoid overlap with important firm or neighborhood occasions which will act as a distraction throughout the hackathon, comparable to main product releases or developer conferences.
  • Avoid beginning the hackathon on a Friday, particularly if you happen to plan to succeed in builders around the globe. If you are situated within the Western Hemisphere and maintain a hackathon kick-off name on Friday, these in Europe and Asia will both have to hitch in late Friday night time or Saturday morning, successfully that means the hackathon begins on a weekend in these areas. It is often higher to begin on a Thursday as an alternative.

Given the hackathon is on-line, there may be additionally a chance to increase it past an ordinary 48-hour occasion. We have discovered that operating a three- or four-day occasion, for example, ends in a lot larger high quality submissions which can be nearer to completion.

Identify key group members to associate with throughout the hackathon

It is way simpler to advertise and manage the occasion when you’ve gotten somebody you possibly can collaborate with. At a minimal, discover one or two builders who can act as leaders throughout the occasion, mentoring newcomers and answering questions from the members. They will also be your level of contact for technical help earlier than and throughout the occasion.

You also needs to think about if you happen to want a associate to run operations comparable to scheduling calls, and a associate to create the occasion advertising and marketing supplies.

Moreover, as soon as you have picked the theme and dates of your occasion, attain out to your neighborhood and ask if anybody is open to assist. Many could also be . Acting as a hackathon organizer and mentor additionally offers a terrific expertise for neighborhood members themselves.

Produce a workback schedule

Start by itemizing every part you and your hackathon companions might must do earlier than, throughout, and after the hackathon. And I do imply every part—from deciding which platform to host your hackathon on to which video conferencing software to make use of for shows to what prizes to provide out. The extra complete your workback schedule is, the higher ready you may be, and the extra profitable the hackathon might be.

To show you how to get began, try the Mattermost “How to Run a Hackathon” playbook with key dates and actions that you should utilize for inspiration.

Create a code of conduct

Code of conduct is necessary to advertise wholesome conduct inside your neighborhood. It establishes what’s accepted by members and helps create a secure and welcoming atmosphere for everybody.

The similar is true for hackathons. The code of conduct establishes the foundations and actions taken when the foundations are damaged. Include a transparent contact or place to report harassment from the members. Often, the members you are partnering with from tip #three can even assist implement the code of conduct as wanted.

To study extra about codes of conduct, together with methods to implement them, see this excellent guide.

Make one touchdown web page for the hackathon

During the hackathon, there’s a lot occurring. People ask questions, share progress, and group up with others. Especially when operating a hackathon with a whole lot (or 1000’s!) of members, it may well rapidly get chaotic.

That is why a single hackathon touchdown web page is crucial. This touchdown web page ought to include all the data neighborhood members must know, together with sources to get began, the place to ask questions, and methods to create a submission. Updates will also be communicated in different channels like Twitter, however they need to all the time be mirrored on the hackathon’s touchdown web page. Your touchdown web page is the supply of fact.

Plus, make sure that to incorporate a lot of knowledge for first-time members. If you have run a couple of occasions, quite a lot of the data you share is acquainted to you and former members. However, every part is new and sometimes complicated for first-time members, so make sure that to maintain them in thoughts when constructing the touchdown web page.

Plan for exterior promotion

A standard motive to run a hackathon is to succeed in new customers and communities who’ve heard of your mission earlier than. Therefore, asserting and selling the hackathon past simply your social channels is essential. However, merely spamming different communities and pages is not only ineffective, but additionally disrespectful.

Go again to level #1, the place you chose the hackathon theme. Are there sure applied sciences which can be related to it? Or industries? 

If so, examine the place these communities exist and attain out of their respective channels. Even higher, discover their neighborhood supervisor and share the hackathon with them first earlier than sharing with the broader neighborhood.

Include social interplay time

The greatest problem we have discovered with digital hackathons as in comparison with bodily hackathons are the social features. Since individuals are not working in the identical rooms collectively anymore, constructing connections and collaborating with others takes further effort.

Make certain so as to add social actions all through the occasion dates, accounting for various time zones. Include exercise feeds the place members can share updates on what they’re engaged on, drop-in social hours over video, espresso instances, pizza hours, and extra.

Taking the additional step to make sure there are alternatives for social interplay creates a extra partaking expertise for everybody concerned.

Ready to run your first digital hackathon?

Running a digital hackathon shouldn’t be straightforward, however if you happen to put together for it nicely and use the above tricks to plan it, you may be arrange for fulfillment, and hopefully have numerous enjoyable alongside the way in which! There can be an excellent guide from HackerEarth that you should utilize as a reference.

Ready to run your first digital hackathon? Then use the Mattermost “How to Run a Hackathon” playbook to information your planning and browse in regards to the Mattermost Bot Hackfest for inspiration.

Thank you additionally to Jesús Espino and Justin Reynolds for his or her invaluable suggestions on this text. 

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