Hackathon Hackers Etiquette

Welcome to Hackathon Hackers! This group is of, by, and for people who love hackathons — whether you attend hackathons, run them, critique them and the industrial-capitalist system that manifests itself around them, or just love to hack, this group is for you. We’re glad you’re here.

This document is both an introduction to Hackathon Hackers (HH) and a reference of the rules and guidelines we’ve set up to make HH a place for everyone to feel welcome. They also apply to all HH subgroups, although subgroups can also extend these to better serve their own community.

What you’ll find here:

  1. About Hackathon Hackers
  2. Rules and Guidelines
  3. Subgroups and Similar Communities
  4. Meta [Tags]
  5. Who to Contact
  6. Coda

About Hackathon Hackers

Hackathon Hackers is an online space for hackers across the globe to connect and spread the hackathon spirit. Members are aged from middle school to retirement, span across most gender identities and races, and hail from six of the seven continents. They’re united by the common love of creating amazing things with technology, usually over the course of a weekend at some college’s hackathon. If this sounds like you, come join us!

Rules and Guidelines

Hackers are diverse and complex, with many different interests and passions. These rules are in place so that everyone can feel comfortable participating in HH. If you think they need editing or don’t cover something important, see the “Who to Contact” section later in this document and let the moderators know.

While the rest of this section will go into detail about what is and isn’t acceptable, our guiding principle can be summarized in one 90's-era sentence: “Be excellent to each other.

Da Rules

These are hard-and-fast rules, and the only rules starting with ‘do not.’ Please follow them.

  1. Do not post anything racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, or in any other way demeaning toward anyone. No exceptions.
  2. Do not make personal attacks or be intentionally rude. When disagreeing, keep your post about the topic. E.g. “That is an idiotic thing to say; 1 + 1 is 2, not 3.” can be shortened to “1 + 1 is 2, not 3.” and “This post is stupid.” can be shortened to nothing at all.
  3. Do not spam. If GMail wouldn’t put it in my inbox, it shouldn’t be in HH. This includes doing attention-catching things like writing in all caps, using linkbait headlines, or otherwise editing the post or preview to pop out at the cost of other posts.
  4. Do not recruit for your startup, company, job, or organization. Consider posting in HH Job Listings instead.
  5. Do not post peoples’ personal information. This includes (but isn’t limited to) private messages from people, home and work addresses, or private phone numbers.

Breaking any of these rules will cause your post to be removed and you may potentially be removed from HH.


HH is a community. Whenever you post or reply, there are other people sitting behind the screen reading what you say. These other people have thoughts, ideas, dreams, aspirations, troubles, advice, perspectives, feelings, and experiences, just like you. You’ll probably end up meeting a lot of them if you go to hackathons. Everyone in this group is a potential new friend — treat them that way.

These guidelines are just that: guidelines. They’re not all-encompassing but they’re here to show what kind of behavior and mindset we expect from HH’ers.

(Most of these guidelines are taken from Nerdfighters of the Greater DC Area, with others borrowed from Hacker News, and Hackers@Berkeley. We’re standing on the shoulders of giants.)

Guideline #1: People are complex, and so are ideas.

  • There is no True Hacker. That is, a person who doesn’t use Firefox, doesn’t like vim, loves Windows, studies the liberal arts, or has never written a line of code in their life is every bit as much a hackathon hacker as anyone else. The only requirement for being a hacker is curiosity.
  • We’re a very enthusiastic bunch, and sometimes we just want to share our excitement (or rant) about something without fearing a conflict, so don’t derail or instigate an argument on someone else’s post if they haven’t expressed their willingness to debate. If you want, you can make your own post and invite input from everyone without infringing on someone else’s space.
  • In discussions with multiple conflicting points of view, the goal for all sides should always be information and education, not shutting down people with opposing viewpoints or making them feel bad. Remain calm and remember that the truth resists simplicity — don’t polarize the discussion, use straw-man arguments, or attack individual participants.
  • HH is an open forum and a welcoming space. In controversial conversations, members have often felt afraid to chime in for fear of offending. A simple solution? Disclaimers. Prefacing your comment with a “I’m new to <topic> and I do not mean this maliciously at all, so I apologize in advance if this is harmful and I am open to correction but here’s my unedited opinion” can be a wordy but helpful way to keep discussion calm.
  • If someone is offended by your post, don’t minimize the validity of others’ feelings by cutting them off with an “I didn’t mean it that way.” Rather, apologize, explain what you did mean, and ask how to improve. At the end of the day, be okay with agreeing to disagree. The last word rarely leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth.
  • If you are offended by someone’s post, always be kind in explaining why and be constructive when friendly corrections are necessary. If you don’t feel able to respond to an offense in that manner, you can message the moderators and one of them will sort it out for you.
  • If you find yourself unable or not wanting to discuss a topic further, you are always allowed to recuse yourself from the situation. If you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed with responses and want to just walk away, just leave a comment saying so. If someone else has recused themselves, respect their decision and don’t tag them in your comments or pressure them to respond. (However, the decision to delete or end a thread entirely is up to the thread’s creator or the moderators.)
  • As a general discussion rule: when you can, please do take the time to educate your fellow hackers, for the betterment of the community. Getting extremely offended over every trivial thing, passive-aggressive sniping, and general unpleasantness is unwelcome; thoughtful, productive discussion is welcome entirely.

Guideline #2: Be as involved as you want to be.

  • This group has nearly eight thousand members. This means some are more vocal than others, and new members or quieter members often feel left out. “Lurking” is a totally valid way to belong, and attending gatherings is never required, but know that your participation is one hundred percent welcome, anytime.
  • A good way to get involved is to start a thread about something you’re interested in. Chances are, with this many people in the group, someone else is bound to be excited to talk about your favorite library/program/website/language. Jump in!
  • Advertising your personal projects is totally allowed, as long as it’s not of a spam-like nature. For example, posting an app or website you made, a club you’re involved with, or a cause you’re fighting for is awesome, creative, and exciting; bumping it constantly or reposting it daily is inappropriate. If you want to give people work-in-progress updates, check out HH: What Are You Working On?

Guideline #3: Keep it cooperative.

  • Avoid excessive vulgarity and insults.
  • Be open and encouraging. Inside jokes and knee-jerk responses (“LOL PHP”) can be fun in our personal lives, but in large groups, they tend to just leave people out or make them feel bad.
  • When you post, look for ways to empower the disempowered, break down stereotypes, and otherwise encourage everyone in the Hackathon Hackers community to enjoy hackathons and hacker culture.
  • Include everyone. For example, ask about the most influential leaders in tech instead of the most influential guys in tech.
  • If you must criticize, keep it constructive. It is far, far easier to tear something down than to build something up, and this is a community all about building. We should encourage people to create as much as possible.

Guideline #4: Safety guidelines.

  • For safety reasons, personal information such as phone numbers and emails should not be exchanged publicly. If you wish to exchange information with another member of the group, it should be done privately outside of the group.
  • Similarly, don’t post the personal information of other people.
  • Some of us have become great friends because of this group, but safety is always a good idea when meeting people from the Internet. Group gatherings and meet-ups should always be in public places, preferably during daylight hours and accessible by public transit. If you create an event for the group, it must not be in someone’s home.

Guideline #5: Disagreements are private affairs.

  • If you have an issue with a member or moderator please take it up with the moderators privately via Facebook message to avoid people ganging up or taking sides in an argument in which they are not directly involved. It’s best to contact the moderators on Facebook via private group message so we can discuss the issue with you. We promise that everything will be confidential and we won’t get mad at you if you have a complaint.

Subgroups and Similar Communities

To be an official HH subgroup, a Facebook group must have at least 100 HH members. Once that’s the case, message the moderators and we’ll add your group to the list of official subgroups. All official subgroups follow the same rules and guidelines as HH does. Similar communities are separate from HH but have overlapping interests and (often) membership.

Read the Hackathon Hackers sidebar for an up-to-date list of all subgroups and related communities.

Meta [Tags]

If a post is preceded by a word wrapped in brackets, then it’s been tagged and some new guidelines apply to it.

[Serious] —Please keep all replies serious and on-topic. Avoid jokes, memes, and off-topic replies. For [serious] posts asking personal advice, also avoid playing devil’s advocate and disparaging the poster.

Who to Contact

If you have a question or concern about someone in HH or a particular post, don’t hesitate to send a private message to the group administrators listed in the HH sidebar. All questions and concerns will be kept completely confidential.

(Side note: if anyone who works at Facebook is reading this, a “Message Group Admins” feature would be awesome!)


Here’s to the hackers. The tinkerers. The makers. The ones who create things quickly. While some may see them as sleep-deprived loons, we see dedication. Because the students who are crazy enough to think they can make something awesome in just 36 hours, are the ones who do.

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