I want to be… a Hacklete

Some ideas for Non Coders (and Coders)


In Part I of this mini-series, I tried to introduced some of the background and thinking behind the Hackathon.

In this the concluding Part II, I’d like to bring to your attention some of the tools and techniques that might be helpful if you are considering entering as a Hacklete.

We very much encourage you to enter, regardless of background / skill-set.

If you get through this post (as did more than 70% of those who started Part I which is quite high on Medium given repeat visits, search engines, etc.) and pre-read a few of the curated suggestions towards the end, you’ll actually be exceptionally well-positioned to win. It really is that simple.

Who can be a Hacklete?

You’ve probably noticed by now that all of the mast images used for my Medium stories are Olympic-related (and of course all from London, my home city, but any such event would have sufficed). This is not accidental.

“Of the best athletes who left their mark on the valley of Olympia, some surpassed all limits and became legends by winning in successive Games and remaining at the forefront of their sport for more than a decade. It is worth mentioning that some of their extraordinary achievements would by today’s standards still be the envy of all athletes since.”

In other words, those who add a winner’s badge to their 2014 Hacklete jerseys will probably want to add the 2015 badge, the 2016 badge, etc.

Further, the impact our Hackletes will have goes well beyond a single event. We fully expect to leverage the results in our future offerings, either directly or in part, and this first event gives us the opportunity to leapfrog our collecting thinking, outside of today’s constraints and products.

It was true in 776 BC and it is true now, that such Games were open to any citizens (they may have had some contextual considerations about who they considered a citizen, and we have some confidentiality/privacy restrictions, nothing more).

Let’s show how, by first describing the challenge statement for the Hackathon which you will see requires more than just coding skills to solve, and then some tools you might use to solve it if you want to stay clear of the coding teams (but now knowing you’ll be welcome on either).

What will the challenge be about?

Today we help improve people’s lives with improved well-being. This is an attractive business model on the basis of a fundamental premise, that healthier people cost less and perform better. We also know healthier people live longer, better. Some call this Vitality.

In this expanded concept of vitality, the essence of life, what can we create digitally that will assist for the greater good? Of the individual? Of the Whole?

This is a pretty deep question, and one we don’t expect to answer today. But in this concept of digitally-assisted living, there will be products that collect data frictionlessly. Set and forget. Never set. There will be products that provide ambient feedback. The room temperature just changed… didn’t it? There will be products that have intelligence, both in the moment, and over time. Past; and Future. — Pull; and Push—

The Hackathon will issue a challenge statement in this broad, ambiguous context, and you and your fellow team-members will design a prototype of something that collects data frictionlessly, provides feedback ambiently, with some novel intuition about the user.

A mobile device with a screen interface will work well. So will something in which no screen is ever required. Something that is all about the individual body is great. So is something that is exclusively in the environment. Or both.

An app on your phone that senses you are going more than 25 miles an hour in your car, and elegantly turns off texting, satisfies all of the above. You’ll think of better ones.

Regardless, this ambiguity is why you might really want to have someone on your team who doesn’t find ideas scary. Coder or not.

One of my favorite media commercials currently, this one by General Electric

Can Non-Coders Really Compete?

The not-so-well-kept secret in IT these days is that creating capabilities that used to require a deep specialist who punched cards for the super-computer in a thoughtful manner, can today be done in a few hours by any one using a drag and drop app-designer tool; a database that used to require scores of Data Base Administrators (DBAs) carefully analyzing “indices”, “log files” and “explain” plans can now be “purchased” for free using any number of BaaS (“back-end as a service”) providers such as Facebook (Parse), etc.

Of course, there is much more to creating scalable platforms that work for 65 million+ members, but that’s not the goal of the Hackathon. In fact, I’ll admit that when taking my six year old son on a Daddy & Me trip to the Science museum in London this past summer, I had to pause for a minute when half my childhood appeared to be on display as a historical artifact behind the glass. Really, a museum?

One of many similar display cases, Science Museum, South Kensington 2014

The human brain uses about 20 watts of electricity to compute; a supercomputer which uses 20,000 watts (not nearly so efficiently it must be said) is now available to everyone in just five lines of code or one web-click; for example, if you want to paste in the last 100 Twitter messages of a consumer of interest and get their personality type, just click here to try it.

The only limit on applying all these capabilities today is really about going back to basics. If we want to help someone create a new habit, for example, what are the right triggers, actions, rewards, and investments (to borrow Eyal’s framework from a good book our board chair recommended earlier this year)?

So if you have some creative juices, or if you can just think of a good product that you’d like to use, some of these tools might be for you. The number two item on Product Hunt today relates to the “Growth Hacker” movement, and makes #2 on my curated list too, as its one line summary is exactly why you should join the Hackathon:

“Growth hackers get involved during the development and design phase to ensure they help build something that people want.”

We need you to get involved, now. hway.co/jointhehack


The Curated List for Non Coders

(hint: coders might find it useful too; click on each item for external website)

  1. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Ewal.
    Click here for course as reviewed on Product Hunt if you are a visual/auditory learner. Builds upon but goes beyond BJ Fogg and others with a simple framework to think about your engaging product idea.
  2. Growth Hacker Marketing: The Course by Ryan Holiday.
    Your business plan will be an important part of the judging pitch, but it doesn’t have to involve tonnes of marketing $. Browse this for why.
  3. IFTT. “Put the Internet to Work for You.”
  4. Zapier: “The best apps. Better together.”
    These two apps above are similar but stylistically very different takes on the same idea. With so many “Things” in the Internet (thereof), how can you wire them all together without writing a line of code. It’s simple, and Chris will show you how on Friday December 5 after the kickoff.
  5. Product Hunt. “The best new products, every day”.
    Okay, this won’t help you create a new product any faster, but its a good list to be following, and will at least give you a sense of where the rest of the market is
  6. InVision. “Build better experiences in five simple steps”.
    One of Paul’s favorite tools, and I think the best of the design/prototyping bunch. Created to solve the need the communication gap between designers and coders, it actually creates working prototypes that will be slick enough to win this year’s Hackathon. (Link provided is the one that I think lets anyone sign up for a year free if you want to use outside of company work)
  7. Proto.io
    For the graphic artist that wants to win the pitch on user interface, create some pretty realistic working prototypes, such as the one linked for the yet to be released Apple Watch.
  8. Apple Store: HealthKit, Connected Home, Toys, etc.; Amazon Store Wearables, etc.
    While successful Hackathon solutions will be much more than a cool device, it might be worth browsing these just to get a flavor for the type of frictionless data collection and ambient feedback that is available today, and think through novel or innovative ways to combine these in ways that might not be obvious. Some of these devices will be available for use on December 5–6 and any items publicly available in stores like these are welcome to be used (real, or virtually) in your Hackathon submissions.
  9. Frame
    A simple app, and there are many good ones just like it, but framing your product mockups might help create a polished final pitch (and be a good to-do for someone on your team if not otherwise engaged at any point)
  10. MIT App Inventor (formerly by Google) and MIT Scratch
    These ones might be good for kids as well as Android fans, but they’ve both come a long way for those who want to take this a step further and even learn how to program, but do so using drag and drop lego-style building blocks. Even my unique idea of a driving app is partially represented in the first step in the course, and yes this creates a real App you can run on your Android phone.
MIT App Inventor, example code

For further information:

hway.co/jointhehack or click here for Part I of this story
or join the discussion on our company Yammer group

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