McHacks 2016 Judging
TL;DR: McHacks is happening very soon, and we wanted to publish an unnecessarily long Medium post about prizes at hackathons, why perfect democracy doesn’t work when it comes to judging, our new judging system for this year, and bobcats.
There’s absolutely no reason why the sections are titled after Beatles songs.
Last year, McHacks experimented with democratic judging.
After teams were done submitting their hacks on Devpost, we assigned them tables and had a science-fair style expo, where every team demoed their hack to whoever stopped by. We built a voting platform, that gave everyone attending McHacks a single-use + unique voting token (i.e. one vote). Hackers got to vote during the science fair for their favourite hacks. The top 10 hacks then demoed their hacks on stage. New voting tokens were sent out, everyone voted again, and top 3 winning teams were given prizes. Woot.
Yay, democracy. The great thing about this style of judging was that the winners were more representative of what the participants thought to be the best hacks. The hackers were the final arbiters.
Boo, democracy. Some hackers complained that making the whole thing completely dependent on votes would advantage flashy VR/hardware hacks (which look cooler) over hacks that were technically harder to pull off. This is of course the Achilles heel of democracy — irrational voters. Also, during the science-fair round, most teams were too busy demoing their own hacks to take voting seriously. Even though we made it mandatory to vote, and disallowed voting for one’s own project, most teams got around that by just voting for the team next to them.
We wanted to improve the judging system for McHacks 2016. But first, a quick semi-philosophical rant on prizes. Feel free to skip next section if you think semi-philosophy is a waste of time.
A non-trivial question is: do we even need prizes? What does it mean to win a hackathon? (Why do we love rhetorical questions so much?) If you’re a Hackathon Hackers lurker, you’ve probably stumbled upon this excellent article by Rodney Folz, in which he talks about how hackathons these days are increasingly influenced by corporates and how we as a community have lost sight of what hackathons were originally supposed to be about — collaborative learning. While we agree in principle, we do think that prizes (if kept within reason) can be a good motivation. This has less to do with the magnitude of the prize than it has to do with the abstract goal that a ‘prize’ provides. If trying to win a hackathon prize is a proxy for putting in everything you’ve got into a hack, then we have nothing against that. Competitiveness is not inherently bad. That said, there should be more to a hackathon than just the final prize. There should be an awesome mentorship system, interesting tech talks and general silly fun.
Hi again, you semi-philistine.
Based on our experiences last year, McHacks 2016 will have a mix of democracy and selection. For the science-fair round, we will appoint judges from Montreal’s tech community as well as willing McGill professors. Every judge judges (hah) a certain number of projects and assigns a score out of (say) 100 to all. For every judge, we normalize across their scores — this is done to mitigate the unfairness of getting assigned a particularly harsh or easy judge. Once we have all the normalized scores for one project, we average across the scores to get a final score for that project. So if Project Xyzzy was looked at by Judge Foo and Judge Bar (hah!), and was assigned a normalized score of 65 and 75 respectively by both judges, then their final score for this round would be Average(65, 75) = 70. After all scores have been calculated, the top 10 scoring teams will be called up on stage for demos.
The rationale behind not having voting at this stage is that it’s unreasonable to expect hackers to leave their own demos to vote during the science fair. Also, given that one of our goals is to help bring students closer to their local tech community, this is an excellent opportunity to encourage conversations between student hackers and engineers/startup founders in Montreal. More synergy and collaboration, yay.
For the final round, we will have the top 10 teams demo on stage. Then, in similar fashion to last year, everyone in the audience will be able to vote for who should be the top 3 teams. We’re still experimenting with different voting methods. If you’re interested you should read this.
This year McHacks will have very interesting prizes. That’s all we’re saying for now.
Okay well maybe a hint.
API Prizes (couldn’t find a Beatles song that mentioned APIs)
TL;DR;AP? (Too long; didn’t read; API prizes?): We gotchu. Or at least, we will. Check our Devpost for an up to date list.
You should click here. See you on February 20th!