Better Hackathons

An Offline Camp passion talk about how hackathons are terrible and how they can be better


Editor’s Note: Participants at Offline Camp Oregon had diverse backgrounds and interests, ranging far beyond the Offline First approach that we came together to discuss. Through short passion talks, campers shared with us some of the hobbies, projects, and technologies that excite them. Here’s a taste of that passion for you as a preview to our upcoming events.


Hackathons are terrible — but they don’t have to be. I used to be Co-Captain of a Code for America Brigade in Burlington, Vermont. The goal of the Brigade, called Code for BTV, was to facilitate sustainable collaborations on civic software and open-data projects between coders, designers, and both governmental and non-governmental organizations.

National Day of Civic Hacking banner in front of Burlington, Vermont City Hall.

One of the things that we did as Brigade Captains was organize a number of hackathons. However, we took a different approach that I think made for a much better hackathon experience. We:

  • Provided healthy food to hackathon participants
  • Started hackathons with Human-Centered Design sessions
  • Did not hold overnight hackathons

Watch the video to learn more about our approach and its results.

Bradley Holt presents “Better Hackathons” at Offline Camp Oregon, November 2017