In which a Hackathon is actually won

I’ve developed something of a craze for hackathons, probably not helped by signing up to the Hackathons and Jams meetup group. I used to enjoy the prospect of being part of a team and creating new projects but after a particularly painful experience, my attitude now is more about exploring the free technologies on offer and messing about with new APIs.

Such was my philosophy when I signed up for the NBCUniversal Comcast hackathon. Having attended a talk held by Ladies Who Code London during which Mairead Buchan @tiny_m gave a really nifty demo of using leapmotion as a means of interacting with the web, so I was quite keen to get my hands on one and have a go hacking about with javascript. As it was, I did indeed end up on a team (doing a hackathon can be a real boost to the self-esteem, for those of us unused to being in demand!) and by the end, I was actually very happy to do so.

Everyone on my team was lovely and I think we worked really well together considering we’d been absolute strangers but a few hours ago. We were all very respectful of each other too, contributing, seeking other people’s opinions etc. I really felt we did well on that front, something that took me by complete surprise. I was only able to stay for a short while on Saturday so I mostly contributed to the UX and user journey though I had a go at doing some front end stuff but couldn’t finish it in time for when I’d leave.

I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed with myself for not doing as much code as I’d wanted but as always I’d got to meet some new people, share ideas and have discussions that go in way too deep (my favourite kind!). I’d also got some pretty decent swag including a few free DVDs, some nice notepads and t-shirts.

The best thing, though, was the venue. I’d heard a lot about Impact Hub and had even signed up to their newsletter but never got the time to go down and check it out. I really liked it – the bit I liked most was the wikihouse project which is just awesomeness.





There were a lot of really good projects with a lot of potential, but honestly, the best experiences come from working with good people, something I have found to be truer the older I get.

As though in affirmation, you can imagine my delight when on Monday I got a message telling me that the team had won! Not just best in category either, but best overall – a pretty good sweep. I was also incredibly gratified to find that I’d be getting a share of the prize money not least because nothing tells you that you did a job worth doing than when people who have no idea who you are and have never worked with you before think you earned it.

The winning team holding up the cheque
The winning team: ‘Golden Ticket’

So that was my weekend. I do have to give kudos to the organisers for everything including amazingly healthy food, the likes of which I have never seen at a hackathon (humous! Vegan casserole! Which actually tasted good!) and probably won’t again. One thing I might suggest to companies supplying technology is that if you have any hardware, why not bring some available for sale too? You might get some takers (and yes, I was very interested in getting a leapmotion device, why?).

I’ll be back at Impact Hub to help out at the Transport Hackathon at the end of June, to dispense more UX/UI advice and hopefully make something of my own (not as part of the hack, but just with anything that looks interesting if I have time).


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