ETH vs EOS: San Francisco Hackathons

I recently attended the official EOS hackathon in San Francisco. Since I also attended (and became a finalist at) the official ETH hackathon here last month, I thought I’d share my notes on how the two events compared.

Both hackathons reflected the stereotypical culture of each project, respectively. The EOS hackathon was incredibly business focused, compared to the ETH hackathon which seemed much more focused on the tech.

The Challenge

The EOS hackathon had a secret “challenge” that wasn’t released until the day of the hackathon. All participants are advised to create something that addresses that challenge. For comparison, the ETH hackathon did not have a specific challenge like this. The challenge was:

Build an EOSIO application that fosters a fundamental competitive advantage by implementing a business model that aligns interests among stakeholders and/or drives more value back to users

As you can see, that challenge is pretty much as “business-y” as you can get. For me, a hackathon is about following the path of maximal interestingness and building something that seems really cool, not about building a business. That seemed to be the spirit of the ETH hackathon as well, where none of the winners mentioned a business model, and some winners were purely technical ideas like an EVM sharding implementation, for example.

The Prizes

The EOS hackathon had 3 prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. 1st place gets $100k, 2nd gets $25k, and 3rd gets $10k. They also had 3 “superlative” winners for 3 specific prizes worth $3k each: Greatest social impact, best user experience, and best social media post. They had no sponsor prizes. That means 6 teams won a total of $144k. There were 74 total teams, so about 8% of teams won a prize.

The ETH hackathon gave out 2 ETH (roughly $400 at the time) to finalists, of which there were 10. There was also over $150k in sponsor prizes from more than 15 sponsors. All in all, 44 teams won a total of $183k. There were 120 total teams, so about 36% of teams won a prize.

Rules

The EOS hackathon had a ton of very strict rules, compared to the ETH hackathon which was much more lax.

The EOS hackathon required that you use an EOS smart contract in your entry. So for example, if you wrote a mobile dApp browser for EOS (which doesn’t require an EOS smart contract) in the hackathon, you’ve broken the rules, and are not eligible for any awards.

There was no such restriction in the ETH hackathon, as is evident by the fact that some of the ETH finalists did not use ETH smart contracts at all.

The EOS hackathon required that your team consisted of 2–5 people. That means you absolutely cannot work alone, which really bothered me. I like the option to work alone at hackathons for various reasons, like when I already have an idea in mind and don’t want to have to convince anyone of it’s value. This forced me to try and find a teammate, and I did. This event was his first experience with anything blockchain related, so I spent a good bit of time explaining the basics of cryptocurrency to him. He eventually understood what I was building, and had some good ideas around the subject, which I did not utilize. It was a fun conversation, but not very good for hackathon productivity.

In comparison, the ETH hackathon had no such restriction on working alone, and allowed teams of up to 4 members.

EOS Rules

The EOS hackathon seemed to be very worried about cheating and plagiarism. They clearly specified that you are not able to re-use any previous work. You may use open source libraries, unless you are the author of the library.

The ETH hackathon was much more lax. You could re-use something, but you would only be judged on the work done during the hackathon itself, and you must disclose what was not done during the hackathon. This is evident in the finalist project that provided a new sharding implementation, which built upon work done at the ETHBerlin hackathon.

ETH Rules

Length and timing

The EOS hackathon required that all entrants be present by 9:30am on a Saturday, and hacking went from Saturday at 11am through Sunday at 1pm, which provides 26 hours of coding. Entrants were told that if they did not arrive by 9:30am, their spot would be given to someone on a waiting list.

The ETH hackathon check-in started at 4pm on a Friday, but there was no check-in deadline that I was aware of. I showed up at about 7pm. Hacking went from Friday at 10pm through Sunday at 9:30am which provides 35.5 hours of coding.

Presenting your idea / hack

The EOS hackathon provided teams with 5 minutes total to present their ideas — 3 minutes of pitching and 2 minutes of questions.

The ETH hackathon provided teams with 7 minutes total to present their ideas — 5 minutes of pitching and 2 minutes of questions.

The EOS hackathon required teams to create a pitch deck, a 30 second elevator pitch, and a 2–3 min fundraising pitch as can be seen by the slides below. The pitch deck recommendations were quite extensive, recommending a dozen slides about all kinds of business questions.

None of these things were required for the ETH hackathon. I just demoed my project for the judges and answered their questions with no supporting material. Nobody asked me how my project would make money or about my revenue model.

Swag

The EOS hackathon gave out very nice swag. A $100 Incase backpack, a branded Patagonia sweater, a branded water bottle, and a 10,000 mAh rechargeable power bank

The ETH hackathon gave out branded Nalgene water bottles, shirts, and stickers. I also won a cool ETH poster for being a finalist.

Winning teams and projects

Comparing the winning teams is also fun. Winners of the ETH hackathon included various ideas like a new sharding implementation, a cryptocurrency rolodex browser extension, a way to send NFTs like cryptokitties over SMS, and the implementation of a new ad-buying model. You can see them all here: https://ethsanfrancisco.devpost.com/submissions

The EOS hackathon winners included a git issue incentivization scheme, a “uber for packages” app, and a social networking platform. You can see them all here: https://block.one/news/eos-hackathon-san-francisco-winners/

The ETH hackathon winners I spoke with were very open and excited to talk about their projects, how their projects worked, and where to find the source code.

The EOS hackathon winner that I spoke with was the grand prize winner, NouGit. When I tried to dig further into what exactly the NouGit platform is and how it works, I was met with resistance, which shocked me. I asked for a link to the source code 3 times and the question was dodged or ignored. I literally asked “what is it and how does it work?” and was told “We’ll have answers to that soon” which felt super weird and shady. I just wanted to know how the hackathon entry worked and what it actually, you know, does.

The source code is public, somewhere (as is required per hackathon rules) but yet it’s location wasn’t being revealed. I was excited to learn about how combining EOS and Git could yield new collaborative possibilities in how programmers commit code and work. But once I dug further, I found that NouGit actually provides the same functionality as Gitcoin or Bounties.network but on EOS instead of ETH. Which isn’t technically new or particularly interesting, except for someone who is looking to clone existing projects onto EOS. This attitude of secrecy and hyper-competitiveness is not something that is prevalent in the ETH world, where founders are excited to tell you what they’re working on and why. These founders know that creating a winning business is all about execution, not secret ideas.

Conclusion

Comparing the two hackathons is fascinating because it provides insight into how each organization works internally. EOS is very top-down, business / profit driven, and strict. ETH is very collaborative, technically driven, and relaxed.

Personally, I enjoyed both hackathons and illustrating the differences. Thanks for reading!