Friday, January 3, 2014

Put "Hackathon" on your New Year's Resolutions!

You can hardly expect TheHackerCIO to restrain himself from plugging Hackathons. So I'm going to take the advent of a new year as an opportunity to re-shout the truth:

If you work around technology (or want to), 
You need to go to a Hackathon this year!
Do it! Plan for it Now!

Maybe a couple. Or more.

I've been increasingly impressed with what I've learned from Hackathons.

The biggest and most unsettling thing I've learned from Hackathons in 2013 is that there are a whole new slew of agile techniques and frameworks out there that allow an order of magnitude faster development speed for production of an MVP.  In comparing the 2013 competition to the prior years event, development velocity was stunning.

In one particularly telling example, a contender failed to attract a developer after his initial presentation on Friday evening at 6pm. On Saturday afternoon, at a time when I would have told him he might as well join up with another team or go home, he pivoted to a completely new idea, attracted a co-developer, and they not only completed their demo-quality MVP.

They won second place.

Now that would have been utterly unthinkable the year before. In 2012, I remember the CloudHero team valiantly struggled, hoping to add one last feature prior to the final presentation.  As they worked, I stood outside the door, ready to signal them the moment they were on. Inside, a dedicated team member stood poised to hit the enter key, thus issuing the VCS command that would wipe out any work and leave them at the last stable demo. This had been a 48-hour effort.

In 2013, many teams had a near-demo quality version of their MVP up the first night before they went home! Now it's increasingly more common to see 1 day hack-nights. The whole pace of code development is now able to be performed more rapidly. This kind of environment is really important for Startups to know, and consequently for CTOs to be aware of. But you can't really know this if you don't have your finger on the pulse of the development world. Just taking my own example, as good as I am, I would have wrongly advised that 2nd place contestant!

TheHackerCIO uses this as a technique for keeping current with rapid and agile trends. It makes him better at technology recommendations to early stage Startups. It helps him to know what new technologies, frameworks, and packages should be put onto the list for play during the year and eventually, hopefully, to master.

It helps focus the mind of the technologist on every aspect of the startup experience. And it's not just for developers. I could write volumes about this, and no doubt I will post quite a bit more about it this year!

But for now, resolve to do a Hackathon this year. I beg you. For your own sake. So you don't become irrelevant. Maybe I'll start The Great Hackathon Challenge, to encourage everyone to do a Hackathon.

Hackathons weigh heavily on TheHackerCIO's mind right now, because he is about to go to the AT&T Developer's Summit Hackathon. It's this weekend, in Las Vegas. You should at least spend some time reading about it. All the winners from the AT&T Hackathons are invited to the big event at  the beginning of the year, to compete for the final prize. I'll be a judge at this Hackathon, but I'm hoping to give mini-presentations and advice to the contenders, to help them maximize their chances and do the best they can! I'm an inveterate Sensei! And, I can't even apologize about that. I love to teach and help. I love to see success and improvement. I'm selfish that way. But judging should be a new, fresh perspective. I'll provide more details after I get up there in Vegas, since once more, I have to hit the road ...

I Remain,


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