We have the San Francisco Design Concourse from Monday until Thursday night.
Q: What makes for a good hackathon?
Q: What would we need to host it?
- good desks / places to sit and code
- reliable internet
- free dinner, midnight and/or 3am food
- healthy food in addition to junky food
- some like energy drinks
- don't have people pitch their ideas
- have an official wiki for people to post their team+idea
- tell contestants your judging criteria before the hackathon starts
(and make sure judges know it)
- keep presentations speedy, with a gong to keep people honest
(<5mins for final demos)
- have a nice big central room for everyone to code in
(don't spread people out across the building)
- don't require judges to give feedback after each demo
In addition to internet though, do not forget adequate power - electricity.
Good Internet can undo a lot of miseries.
- if any organizers are competing, don't allow their teams to them enter
- don't let sponsors bother coders (a few brief interviews and a pitch at the beginning is OK, but asking everyone to do a survey is not the best idea.)
- explicitly have contestants outline what they actually built during the hackathon, or have judges go around and talk to people ala http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2240576. Or check git/svn logs.
- have contestants list # of team members so judges can weight this into their decision (otherwise winning is super hard for 1-person teams)
- discourage non-workers from attending and distracting coders
And energy drinks.
Definitely put the top ones on stage in front of investors, and, if you can, give every participant some kind of freebie(free pass to the conference?).
The people who participate in hackathons are exactly who you want to be putting in front of investors as much as possible.
Perhaps have people choose between investment or lunch with you or one of the judges.
Letting the best three on stage would be awesome as long as you ensure the code was written during the hackathon (people tend to cheat a bit on this I think).
Considering we are spending $100k on the internet connections, I think we can afford to pick up the pizza tab no problem. :-)
- focus on a set of predefined APIs, which key developers from the relating companies present in the room
- a shitload of prizes from those companies for the best projects (each company decided who to give the prizes to)
- free breakfast/lunch/dinner
- huge room with tables of 6 people
- no ideas pitching, just coding
Be sure to provide a way for people to team up in advance since a lot of people might come alone to the conference. (team up designers w/ developers)