A hackathon is always an intense experience where you are seeking to make as much progress as possible in a short space of time, but this year Kingdom Code BUILD is a little different from previous BUILD events- we only have 24 hours to get things done. So how do we make the most of a shorter event like this? How do we come away feeling like we’ve achieved something meaningful rather than just coming away frustrated that there wasn’t enough hours in the day?
Here are our top three tips, that will give you a fantastic experience at this year’s event. And we’re also going to be using them as the criteria for judging this year’s “Best Use of Time” award, which will be awarded to the team that is most in the spirit of a “hack” event.
1. Be prepared
We recognise this isn’t always possible, but if you can, it’s great to get your project idea as concrete as you can before the weekend even begins. James has already written a great blog post about this so I won’t say it all again, but there’s real value in knowing what your project is, knowing that it’s a viable idea, and knowing what it is that you plan on actually building at the event. If possible, why not even get a head start on setting up your build environment so that you don’t spend the first night just installing a programming language or framework?
If you’ve not already joined, get involved in the #hack-in-ldn Slack channel and discuss your idea, or see what other people have suggested on the Trello board. If you don’t have your own idea perhaps there’s an existing project idea that takes your fancy.
Of course not all projects will be able to prepare before the event – you’re more than welcome to show up on the Friday night without the faintest idea what you’ll be working on or who you’ll be working with, and join whichever team takes your fancy. But then it becomes especially important to start your team time with some preparation and planning, rather than just diving straight into the code. Map out some rough goals for the weekend and decide what you are and are not going to attempt to tackle.
2. Come with the right ambitions
If you approach a 24 hour hackathon expecting to come away with a finished product ready to put in to the hands of users, you are likely to be sorely disappointed. On the one hand, you might be surprised by just how much progress is possible in such a short event, but on the other hand you need to be realistic about what you can achieve.
A hackathon gets its name from the idea of “hacking together” some code – it’s not the time or the place for writing beautifully crafted code full of unit tests. Idea validation is the name of the game – you want to boil your idea down to its core essence, and work out what the one thing is that you really want to prototype. Planning on making a game? Create a prototype of the key gameplay element that makes it distinctive. Want to make a chat bot? Work out how it will decide what kind of things to talk to you about. Do you have in mind a series of teaching modules? Flesh out what just one example lesson would look like.
3. Take as many shortcuts as you can
In the spirit of hacking things together to focus on the right problems, you will discover all sorts of shortcuts that you can take. Don’t waste your time implementing authentication in to your app during the hack – build it before you come or afterwards! If you want to build a chatbot, don’t focus on the integration with Facebook’s Messenger APIs – put your attention on the core internal logic of the conversation instead. In fact, trying to implement any APIs is probably going to gobble up valuable time – why not just mock them out with things that behave in a predictable way?
The Best Use Of Time Award
So this is how we’ll be judging the “Best Use Of Time” award – we’ll score projects based on these three criteria:
- Planning & preparation
- Sensible scope
Tickets are running out fast so book yours today. Happy hacking!