A hackathon is an event which will usually span several days, and revolves around teams of people attempting to bring their projects to life in a short space of time, usually a new piece of technology. They are fast-moving, quick-paced events that aim to have one or more successful projects, businesses and ideas alive by the end of the hackathon. While this sounds like a great way to ‘hack’ your way to quick success, are hackathons really worth your time?

The benefits of a hackathon

Fast-moving

A hackathon is designed to be fast-moving, getting you from A to B as quick as possible, with B being a completed project or design. This means that any unnecessary meetings, slow communication processes and days of to-ing and fro-ing are dropped. Instead, it is replaced by a team of engineers who just, put simply, what to get stuff done.

They’re relaxed, fun and informative

Hackathon events are not scary events that can only be attended by expert engineers; they’re fun and relaxed, but still offer you a real chance to learn something new and be a part of a cool, potentially world-changing, project. You can learn quickly in a few days what might take months of lectures or courses.

A creative environment

You can be as creative as you like when you’re at a hackathon. The idea is to tackle and solve problems in a short-space of time; you might not have enough hours to use conventional methods! This allows you to try new things, be a little unconventional and maybe even end up creating a new solution in the process.

Community

A hackathon provides a great community environment where you gel with your team to produce what can be real, meaningful projects. With the sleepless nights, free food and chill out times that hackathons normally involve, you’ll create some great bonds with new people.

But are hackathons worth your time?

Fast-moving

While the fast-moving nature that was touched on earlier can be a positive, it also has its drawbacks as well. Sometimes faster does not necessarily mean better, especially if you are working on a new project or idea.

The race to the finish line can mean you overlook certain aspects, skimp on quality and end up with a less-than-successful project, especially considering no hugely impactful piece of software or technology was ever developed in just two or three days.

It can cost you valuable time

If you are an already established business or project and are looking to ‘hack’ your way to more growth, hackathons could even end up costing you valuable time that you could have spent with output on your usual work.

It can be difficult to tackle large problems

We’ve already mentioned that you cannot create a hugely impactful piece of software in just a few days, and this is because you do not have enough time to understand and approach large problems.

You may be given just a few days to ‘hack’, what can be complex problems shortened down into small paragraphs for the team to understand, process and then come up with a solution. For many problems, this quite simply is not enough time.

There is no guarantee of working software or technology

While the idea of a hackathon is to ‘hack’ your way to success in just a short few days, there is no guarantee that there will be working technology at the end of it. While, of course, teams can continue to work on the project once the hackathon has finished, if results cannot be promised then it be hard to get commitment from everyone involved.

What’s the solution?

Hackathons can be extremely useful, valuable events that produce some good results. The best way to make hackathons worth your time would be to:

  • Take the task as seriously as your own work
  • Commit to delivery and follow through with the project
  • Be open to learning from other attendees and experts

Follow these steps above, and the few days of fast-paced action can be extremely useful in helping you to build a new project or scale the one that you already have.

Written by Anna Lemos