Quantity over Quality — Attend lots of Hackathons
Hackathons are for beginners. Beginners get the most out of it.
Go to a hackathon knowing nothing. You have 24 hours to produce something. Make sure you demo. You spend 24 hours creating something so make sure you take credit for it no matter how small it may be. It does not have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to work. The important thing is that you let people know that you learnt something that weekend. Now attend a Hackathon again, but use what you learnt the first time.
These first few Hackathons may be hard. You may not be happy with what you produce. You may compare yourself to everyone else and feel bad about it. But keep persevering and you will come through it a great developer. Things get easier.
Quantity over quality
from Art & Fear by David Bales and Ted Orland:
A ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right side solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” groups: fifty pounds of pots rated an A, forty pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality,” however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an A.
Well, come grading time a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work and learning from their mistakes, the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
So the more things you make, the better quality things you end up with.
As long as you go in with a mindset that you are there to learn and persevere, your skills and knowledge will improve rapidly each time. It may not feel like it. It may feel like everyone else can learn things better than you. The reality is that they have been in your shoes and have built many more things. Do not worry about being “good” at your first few hackathons. This is the perfection mindset from the “quality” group. It is perfectly fine to attend to simply learn — even if what you produce is not going to win.
After a few Hackathons, you will have learnt a lot from all of your hackathon projects. They may not be amazing, but you are getting better. You may have even won a few things. Anyone working on just a single project in a single team, such as a University project, will not have learnt as much as you. You will have met multiple sets of people each with unique sets of skills. Each team will have given you a crash-course in the technology they are most familiar with in a unique perspective that makes them successful at hackathons.
You can adapt what you learn from each team you meet to build up your skill-set in things you are most interested in. You will feel confident that you can attend a hackathon and create a project that you will be confident to demo. You will find it much easier to create something that is easy to demo — and you will even win a few things. It just needs practice.
So the more Hackathons you attend, the better quality Hackathon projects you end up with.
When you have been to a lot of hackathons and learnt a lot of things, remember the first time hacker that’s struggling to feel valuable. Bring them into your team and teach them a thing or two. Show them things that they can use in the future. Show them what version control is. Teach them about servers. Help them with their “hello world”.