Write Your (Hackathon) Story

We are currently missing out on your story and many other great stories.


With an increasing amount of students going to hackathons this semester, there are an increasing amount of great stories that aren't being written.

I formally challenge you to write your story. It doesn't have to be long. It doesn't even need to talk about a whole hackathon. The subject is really up to you. It can be about how you came up with your project idea, about your experience at a hackathon, about a bug from hell that you dealt with for 3 hours at 1am, or anything else related to the event. It can be technical or not technical. It can even be about why you almost didn't even show up.

It takes a lot of guts to hit “Publish.” Let me try to convince you why it is important:

  1. It’s great practice for introspective thinking, which can help you on your next project, at a future job, or just in life in general. I find going through the development process as really important. It can also show personal growth. It’s awesome to look back a year later and see how far you have grown.
  2. Whether this is or your first hackathon project or your 15th, it can help create relatable experiences that a new hacker could possibly connect to. We all run into 1am debugging hell or struggle somewhere in a project whether we are new or old to hackathons. It’s a chance display humility. You never know who it might give courage to.
  3. A year ago my friend, Tess Rinearson, gave a talk at Hackcon on telling Hackathon Stories as a way to “communicate and celebrate our values.” It might not seem like a strong argument on the surface level as to why you should write, but as communities grow it becomes very critical to communicate our own values. It is one way of having your voice be heard.
  4. It is a great way to start a conversation. The content of the post could have the potential to interest someone you have never met or a current friend who shares a similar interest. Occasionally people outside of hackathons will read a story and really be intrigued.
  5. Whether you are a 3rd year Computer Science major or a first time hackathon attendee in high school, it is critical you develop the ability to communicate your ideas through writing. Joel Spolsky said it best in Advice to Computer Science College Students, “The difference between a tolerable programmer and a great programmer is not how many programming languages they know, and it’s not whether they prefer Python or Java. It’s whether they can communicate their ideas.”

Now that I (hopefully) convinced you…

Sometimes you will have finished a draft, read through it, moved around some things, taken things out, added things, fixed a dozen grammatical errors, and now what? You feel close to publishing, but there’s something holding you back.

This is a very typical situation for me because I am horrible at catching grammar errors and don't want to embarrass myself.

If I need to be your Amy Chen, I can. Feel free to reach out! I want you to hit publish. I want these stories to exist out in the open. I don’t want perfect stories rather I want real stories. If you find an awkward sentence or two, you can always go back and fix it. If you really, really don't feel safe publishing a story, it is alright. You still went through the process.

I hope you hit publish soon. Remember, even this post itself is an example of developing the ability to “communicate your ideas through writing.” I will also share any stories you have written. Send me a link on Twitter. Good luck!

Written with ❤ in Austin, Texas


P.S. Shout out to my two editors for most of my writing, Amy Chen and Brian Torabi. You guys are the best. Brian takes my gibberish and helps me make sentences. Amy tells me to stop writing wordy and long paragraphs. ❤