My friend Anthony and I participated in a hackathon. We didn’t win, but we certainly did not lose. Let me elaborate. First and foremost I want to thank the folks at Valleyhackathon.com for having us at the event. It was a great experience.
What is a Hackathon?
There are several formats of this type of competitions, but the dominant characteristic is that they involve technology. What do we hack, the Pentagon? No, not at all. It’s not like that. To participate in a hackathon you have to come up with a project/idea and complete it within the deadline. Some hackathons are 72 hours, some are 48 hours, but the one we participated on was 24 hours. In this instance, the entry required that you had a project that involved writing software and our team could have up to four members. We could have a hardware component in our project, but a significant software portion was required. Once the clock started ticking and we had 24 hours to finish a working product.
What was the product idea?
It was Anthony who originally came up with the idea and we thought it was would be a perfect fit for the hackathon. Our goal was to create a web application that would allow people to know a bit more about what is going on in their towns. Local businesses would be able to register on the application, share the name of their business address and a short description of the services or products they offer. On the other hand, end-users could also register and choose the businesses they would like to receive notifications from. Notifications would be a way for businesses to let town folks know about a promotion or a new upcoming event. Registered businesses could schedule their announcements to be sent out to all subscribers at any specific time. We knew that this was not a novelty. I’m pretty sure that there are similar services out there, but we thought our grassroots approach would set as apart.
Why did we not win?
We bit more than we could chew. For one, we underestimated the amount of work required to complete two portals, one for the businesses and another for the end users. The second factor was that we did not stick to what we knew best. We set out to try a new code library that we were not completely proficient on. The hackathon started on a Friday roughly around 6:30 PM and it ended the following day at 6:30 PM. On Saturday around noon, I began to realize there was no way we were going to be able to finish the project by 6:30 PM. I had slept only 30 minutes since the competition had started and my thoughts we were getting blurred. Long story short, we did not have a project to present by the time judging came around.
Why did we not lose?
Even though we did not place in the event we were able to reconnect with fellow “hackers” from previous and events and met new faces. We were exposed to what other programmers are doing here in the Central Valley. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been nice to walk away with a prize, but the experience of being there was all worth it. I’m really looking forward to next year’s hackathon.