Hackathons: Programming and Coding Challenges around the world

When you are someone who is new to programming, you are intimidated by the sheer terminology of this vast ocean. One of these super scary words is “Hackathon”. In this article I will discuss almost all Frequently Asked Questions related to it.

So, for all you etymological geeks out there, the word “hackathon” is a portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon”. Therefore, a hackathon is usually a day long (can be 36 hours, 48 hours, etc.) coding/problem solving competition where aspiring/existing software programmers, developers, designers and product managers, come together to build and design something functional for fun.

Hackathons in general can be divided into 7 broad categories

There are hackathons devoted to creating applications that use a specific language or framework. These are used by companies for the promotion of newly launched technologies.

Google for example, is conducting a hackathon based on their all new framework Flutter to introduce the public to their home grown api Dart. Hackathons like these are aimed on showing off the new features and incentivise programmers to adopt it.

  • For a cause/purpose or as a tribute

Government institutions sometimes organize events like hackathons to test new/existing infrastructural technology. They are also used as platforms to propose new solutions to existing problems.

This can be seen in the Smart India Hackathon Initiative which aims at bridging the digital divide in our country and further promote digital literacy.

NGOs also use these events to raise money around a specific cause. Random Hacks of Kindness is another popular hackathon, devoted to disaster management and crisis response.

Also, The Global Game Jam, the largest video game development hackathon, often includes optional requirements called ‘diversifiers’ that aim to promote game accessibility and other causes.

A number of hackathons like Aaron Swartz International Hackathon 2018 around the world have been planned in memory of computer programmer and internet activist Aaron Swartz, who died in 2013.

  • For a demographic group

Some hackathons are intended only for programmers within a certain demographic group, like teenagers, college students, or women. These generally are used as introductory workshops to promote programming and make them accessible to general public.

Women Who Code is an initiative which intends proportional representation of women as technical leaders, executives, founders, VCs, board members, and software engineers.

  • For internal innovation and motivation

Companies hold internal hackathons to promote new product innovation by the engineering staff. Because hackathons are time-bound, they force everyone to focus their efforts on addressing the problem statement instead of being distracted by long-term planning and management.

Facebook’s “instant verification on Android” feature, “like” button and “tagging in comments” functionality are all outcomes of their internal hackathons.

  • Hackathons as a Recruitment Tool

Hiring the right person is a sensitive issue for companies. Modern recruitment tools such as assessments help smoothen the process and a special addition of Hackathons as a recruitment tool to companies contribute manifolds.

In an industry like tech, which is changing day by day, the trigger for today’s workforce is to improve their skills and be a part of a great experience, one event which suffices all their needs is the hackathon.

With events like Amazon Jobs Day, Spotify — Diversify, IBM — DeveloperWeek; Hackathons are being put to work instead of interviewers.

Check out how companies go about hiring to get an insight on getting hired.

  • To connect local tech communities

Some hackathons (such as StartupBus, founded in 2010 in Australia) combine the competitive element with a road trip, to connect local tech communities in multiple cities along the bus routes. This is now taking place across North America, Europe, Africa and Australasia.

  • Code sprints

In some hackathons, all work is on a single application, such as an operating system, programming language, or content management system. Such events are often known as “code sprints”, and are especially popular for open source software projects, where such events are sometimes the only opportunity for developers to meet face-to-face.

Code sprints typically last from one week to three weeks and often take place near conferences at which most of the team attend. Unlike other hackathons, these events rarely include a competitive element.

Now that you know what hackathons are and what they are used for, here is an introductory hackathon you might want to attend. And before you ask “Are hackathons for beginners?” I would like to tell you they absolutely are.

Should you attend one?
Definitely, events like hackathons not only give you a platform to test your programming skills , they also simulate an environment wherein you can experience working in a collaborative environment under a time constraint and help you improve on your communication skills.
And even if you are new to programming or not even a programmer you can get a reason to skip classes, hang out with friends, explore new awesome tech, witness the creation of new innovative products and enjoy the free food and the sweet sponsor money.

Global Technology Hackathons Around The World

Credits — Piyush Yadav & Yathrath Rai for Precisely - The Opportunity Hub
Images By — Hitesh Gautam