How Hackathons Strengthen the Web3 Community
Isaiah Jackson, host of Coindesk’s Community Crypto and author of Bitcoin and Black America, spoke with hackathon organizers and participants on what makes them great, and why they help grow the Web3 Community.
In this post we’ll be answering the following:
- What are Hackathons?
- How can they help diversify Web3?
- How is Web3athon helping communities?
- What skills do you need for hackathons?
- What’s coming from mobile-first applications?
- How does diversity of experience change design?
What are hackathons?
For those who don’t know, a hackathon is an event that brings developers and non-technical founders, as well as other creatives together. They form teams who build a solution to one of a set problems that are presented in the form of a challenge.
While the spirit of competition is strong in hackathons, they’re also driving forces behind growing the community that makes up Web3.
Ashar Shahid, one of the open-source protocol developers at API3, highlighted the ability to meet new people who are just as passionate about Web3 as one of the reasons he started attending these events. When asked why he started attending hackathons, he said:
“For me, my first few hackathons were just to meet up… learn about crypto, and learn about development”.
Describing the recent ethDenver, he spoke about how cool it was to see rows and rows of computers on multiple levels of the Castle Stadium, with people waiting in multi-hour lines just to take part.
But it makes sense. There’s a lot of information sharing and networking, and participants have the opportunity to evolve a lot over the course of a hackathon. Seeing the unique processes of different teams all working on their own solutions to the problems at hand leads to cross pollination that elevates the design and coding skills of everyone involved.
It’s the non-homogeneity of ideas that leads to big innovation.
Developing diverse attendance
Web3athon — presented by CoinDesk and CRADL — recognizes this, and the creators believe that in addition to creating better products, a more inclusive dev space will help accelerate adoption of Web3 technology. The event, running until September 15th, aims to bring in the widest set of people for any hackathon to date.
One of the ways they are facilitating diverse attendance is by hosting the event online. Ellis Norman of HackerEarth, a frequent organizer of hackathons, said that the transition to online events was already happening prior to COVID, and that the pandemic only solidified the format. Online events are more inclusive to a wider range of people since they can jump in after work or their kids have gone to bed, or attend from another city, state, or country altogether — Not to mention that there’s no cap on the number of attendees.
How Web3athon is helping communities
Web3athon will be tackling 5 issues that have global significance, but whose solutions need to be implemented on a hyper-local level:
- Generational wealth
- Financial health
- Sustainable culture and community
- Environmental wellbeing
- Disaster response and relief
Tricia Wang, CRADL co-founder and lead, describes these as “truly human issues that communities [have been] dealing with around the world for centuries.”
The event is happening in 2 stages over 3 months, and includes a staggering 17 chains that participants can choose to develop on. Stage 1 is problem focussed, where participants are encouraged to dive deep into how their selected issue affects their local user base before choosing what chain they will develop on. With a deep understanding of the problem, developers are better able to utilize the nuanced differences of the 17 blockchains, isolating one that fits their solution best.
This specific criteria highlights the value of a diverse, multi-chain Web3 environment.
Skills for hackathons
For those interested in getting involved in hackathons, but without technical experience, don’t worry! You can teach yourself coding with a little practice and guidance. Ashar places Solidity, a language specific to Ethereum, at the top of the list of skills for people looking to get into hackathons and Web3 development. One of the reasons it’s so easy to learn is that there’s many experts, like Ashar, who post how-tos. In depth documentation is also prevalent for the language.
His second recommendation is to learn React so that you can build the front end of any app you design. “Presentation matters” says Ashar, and it’s true — Government sites are some of the worst to use because of their mostly terrible UX and UI. You also need to keep in mind that hackathons are competitions, and looks that compliment functionality are a winning combination.
The process Ashar takes for developing during hackathons is simple:
- Define the idea of what you want to develop by looking at the problem; what solutions already exist, and what are their pros and cons (You can flesh this out more by looking up “design thinking”).
- Turn your concept into a pseudo-code where you write out the logic in human-speak, but keeping it close enough to code that you and your team can easily break it into sections and get to work.
- Consider how your program is going to fit into the front end that you’ll build in React.
He describes this as the “bread and butter of your hackathon process” but reminds everyone to be sure to express their own style.
Coding is beautiful because you must create in a way that a computer can understand, while staying true to your thought process. It really is a form of self expression.
Hackathon success may come from mobile-first applications
Ideas developed at Web3athon could go from just a submission to a pillar of the Web3 community. Uniswap has this type of story, where Hayden Adams was able to approach Vitalik Buterin at a hackathon and talk up his project on the spot.
The success of his pitch was thanks to the code being available on his phone, and it’s important to remember that the majority of the world is mobile first during your development process. Gwendolyn Regina, investment director of BNB Chain, explains that many emerging markets are leaping past hardwired services straight to 4 and 5G. This results in populations who access banking and the internet at large primarily by smartphone.
Web3athon highlights Celo, who is one of the sponsors, as being great for mobile types of applications. Different needs are met better or worse by each chain, so it’s important to understand the problem you’re solving and the population you’re serving before jumping into writing for a specific blockchain.
More experiences, better solutions
By making participation non-location specific through online hosting, Web3athon drops the barrier to entry to a computer and an internet connection. This type of openness, which I believe is at the heart of Web3, will increase the variety of human experience influencing the solutions coming out of the space. Because of the evolutionary nature of technology, greater variety of thought will only lead to stronger Web3 products moving forward.
The internet is a tool of connectivity, and while the common business model of Web2 mega companies creates profit from dividing its users, Web3’s architecture fundamentally changes the incentives — The individual is empowered, and cooperation toward a common goal is encouraged.
This moment in time is an opportune window for onboarding new people, as working remotely has become commonplace. By creating an online space that facilitates collaboration, Web3athon is strengthening the tenants of Web3 culture: that anyone, anywhere, no matter their background can make a difference; that it’s the quality of their ideas, and their work ethic that matters.
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