Behind the Scenes of Porticode


🎉 Porticode has made awesome progress over the last couple of weeks 🎉

We have now confirmed MLH partnership, welcomed aboard two more sponsors, gathered volunteers and, most importantly, started thinking about attendee swag. 😉


Foreword

Firstly, I should mention a little bit about myself. I am a second year Computer Science student at UCL, and I have a lovely dog called Minnie. I care a heck of a lot about making technology accessible and welcoming to everybody, and I am working hard to achieve this on various projects within University, of which Porticode is one.

I took on the role of Main Organiser around two weeks ago, and have been working with the beautiful team (💖) to ensure that the event reaches its full potential. I thought it would be a nice idea, as our tagline for Porticode is ‘a hackathon for everybody’, to open up the event and show everybody what is going on behind the scenes of an event like this, and some of the organisation it entails…


Our Vision and Aim

The aim is simple: we want to make the hackathon experience of building something awesome within a supportive community open to as many different people as possible. We want attendees of all abilities to feel comfortable and encouraged at our event 👪. To make this happen, we have a few ideas in place:

  1. Workshops

We know that workshops are pretty standard at hackathons. However, with a series of ‘beginner’ workshops alongside those suited for more seasoned attendees, we are aiming to create an environment in which somebody new to programming could still walk away with a product that they have built.

The plan is to have a series of introductory workshops for basic web development, each of which will provide the tools to build upon what is taught in these sessions. The workshops will be structured in such a way that you can choose frontend, backend, styling or a bit of everything if you are not sure where your interests lie. There will be three main workshops:

  • HTML, CSS and JavaScript (jQuery)
    This workshop will teach the basics of how you turn text into a website, make it look pretty and add some animation and data loading to it. This is all frontend, and will be accessible to anybody interested in technology whether they have coded before or never written a line of code in their lives.
  • Bootstrap
    This is a framework that uses HTML, CSS and JavaScript to make websites fun and pretty without too much work. It is perfect for a hackathon because with its rich set of features and themes, anybody from a beginner to a more advanced hacker can get a decent-looking website in almost no time.
  • Node.js and APIs
    For the backend people, or those who want to make their website do awesome things (including storing data, letting users log in and integration of other services like Monzo or Twitter) we have a nothing-to-something masterclass planned to get you up to speed. Again, this will be aimed at anybody interested in technology, regardless of ability.
Confirmed beginner workshops as of this week

To allow for realistic development of skills during the short time period, we need to supplement these workshops with more structure and support. This comes from points 2 to 4…

2. Mentors

Mentorship is also fairly standard practice at hackathons as well. Our unique plan, however, is to utilise mentors as much as possible by actively channeling their guidance to those who need it most.

In addition, mentors will be kept up to date (due to the Mentors’ Dinner and our Slack team) with how the beginner-friendly structure will work, and how to build on the topics attendees learn in workshops. Essentially, we plan to have a ready-to-go pop-up coding school integrated directly into Porticode with as many people around as possible who will be able to assist our beginners as they learn full stack development in a matter of hours.

3. Template Projects

I remember at my first hackathon that I totally wanted to build something, but I knew nothing. That meant I wasted a tonne of time researching trivial things that I, as a clueless first year, had no clue what the context of which was. After hours of recapping my HTML and CSS knowledge, I ended up with some basic useless templates which had extremely limited functionality.

My theory is that if you are provided with this context, some good material to learn and some strong guidance on how to learn it from a completely hands-on perspective, everything should be far less intimidating and far more accessible. With this in mind, we hope to provide a GitHub repository with a bunch of “Template Projects” that is accessible to all attendees to kick things off. We are considering Flask, Django, Node.js and Ruby on Rails backend templates in addition to some basic HTML templates to help beginners get off the ground.

4. Resources

So, as we all started somewhere, I think it’s only fair to share the secret of how we have arrived at where we are today. Everybody uses resources: tutorials 👁, books 📚, videos ▶️ and more are all used by programmers everyday to learn new topics, languages and frameworks. Therefore, we want to make the resources we have used easily showcased to anybody who wants to see them.

We are doing this through a page on our site where ‘suggested’ resources are posted with some tags and information which should help anybody interested to find great resources which have been tried and tested by real human beans.


You

The most important part of an event is how the attendees experience it. Our organising team is working hard to ensure that we create an enjoyable event for all the dedicated people (like yourself reading this article!) who will trek to UCL to dedicate a weekend to us. Feedback and ideas will be central to how Porticode grows, so we welcome any input.

Our first batch of tickets sold out in less than a minute which is totally crazy! So thank you to everybody who has already supported us 💜. The number of first-time hackers who signed up is awesome too, so we look forward to introducing you all to this new world 🌎.

results from our first ticket batch 🙌

Next Steps

Right now we are in a good place ☀️. We have a beautiful organising team, a fantastic venue, lovely sponsors and, most importantly, a dedicated bunch of attendees. We will be working super hard over the next 25 days, 8 hours and 23 minutes to polish everything off, get us some great food 🍔, hire more wonderful mentors 👌 and get access to some awesome prizes 🎁.


Get Involved!

If you want to sign up to our newsletter to get the #freshest news and updates about porticode, go here. The Facebook event is also here, so do post if you are going! if you have any questions or ideas, please let us know. 💕

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to meeting you all on 10th December!

— Emily