My first hackathon: Hackaway
Photo by Sebastian Höglund
This weekend I participated in my first hackathon ever: Hackaway organised by Ted Valentin, Martina Elm and Jonny Strömberg and sponsored by Schibsted. For those of you, who like me a few days ago, don’t know about Schibsted it is the company that owns Aftonbladet, Svenska Dagbladet, Omni, Blocket, Hitta, to name a few. Naturally, the theme of the event was Hack the News. If you’re curious about the hacks, Anders Berg, CTO at Aftonbladet, has a list of all of them on their development blog.
So what was it like?
Tobias Ahlin captured part of it in a tweet.
Participating in a hackathon at a secret location. Came here by boat on Friday. Judges just arrived by helicopter. No idea what’s happening.— Tobias Ahlin (@tobiasahlin) April 13, 2014
If this is what all hackathons are like why haven’t I attended one before?
What made Hackaway great?
Hackaway took place on an island in the Stockholm archipelago called Ekskäret. The organisers made an effort to have a relaxed and open spirit by encouraging participants to take breaks, enjoy the scenery, and by choosing a location which shared a similar mindset. There was a gender balance and participants had widely varying backgrounds. Developers and designers from the sponsoring companies and the organisers also participated in building hacks. On top of that, we got great and healthy food served by Matskolan.
My skepticism towards hackathons have often been the unhealthy focus on competing, rather than developing something innovative and useful 1. This comes as no surprise to people who know me, I’m not a competitive person and don’t enjoy competitions. That said, I believe Hackaway managed to find a balance for those that enjoy competitions and for those who don’t.
Future hackathon organisers
- Sponsors are important but they are nothing without the participants. Hackaway made no (to me visible) distinction between anyone. Except maybe the judges.
- On that note, while flying the judges in by helicopter is pretty “out there”, this matters little to the quality of the hacks.
- Don’t bother about cash prizes. Fame and glory is worth so much more. My team didn’t win the cash, but more importantly we (everyone) won a lot of knowledge and many new friends.
- Location matters. A company’s shiny fancy office with Fussball and a ping-pong table might be cool, but you’ll never beat this: