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The most popular APIs and tech at college hackathons (devpost.com)
131 points by nealrs on July 28, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments

Very interesting to see how much more popular Android is for hackathons. I imagine it's because you don't need a dev account, easy to deploy to a device/share APKs, and the APIs have fewer limits. But if you ask this same survey of actual startups, most go iOS first for the $$$.

> I imagine it's because you don't need a dev account

This is finally fixed in Xcode 7.


and you don't need a mac to develop android apps, so for most people android app is essentially free.

This has already blocked me. Developed an android app, was asked by several friends to port it to Apple, didn't want to shell out for a Mac. Even the Minis, a popular "get a Mac platform for cheap" choice, are several hundred dollars used.

I've heard of people running MacOS and XCode from VirtualBox/QEMU/etc. I guess you would have to pay for the Mac OS software to install on the VM, but it would save you on hardware costs.

I didn't think that the OS X license let you run it anywhere other than Apple hardware. That's just something I've heard though, never actually investigated it.

I doubt this is true. I know that historically, Apple users were limited to Apple hardware by the nature of the architecture. However, Apple switched to using the same hardware as the rest of the PC world.

Another option would be to make a Hackintosh, actually; if you have a sufficiently powerful spare machine; this would also need the OS software, so virtualizing is probably just as easy.

The latest Mac Mini (2014) I saw had soldered RAM and a slow processor, so older used versions should be even more popular....

Not to mention you need a Mac for iOS development. If your entire team (or at least all of the mobile developers on your team) don't have Macs, you're limited to Android.

Only commenting as I've been sniffing around Visual Studio 2015 tonight and they keep boasting you can develop fully native iOS apps in it now: https://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/features/mobile-app-devel...

You still need a Mac to compile.

Having been to many hackathons, I'd say that far and away the most likely reason for this is that Java is taught in most CS curriculums. Hence students can come in and make an Android app over the weekend, whereas building an iOS app would require learning a whole new language.

I bet if you looked at winning hacks the Android skew would be much less defined (as winning hacks are usually developed by people who learn outside of class and have prior experience with the platform).

I was surprised Android wasn't a higher percentage... Look at it this way:

78% of the current smartphone market is Android, 18% is iOS. [1] (4.3:1 in favor of Android)

According to the article, 38% of hackathon devs are interested in Android dev, and 22% are interested in iOS Dev. (1.72:1 in favor of Android)

From this perspective, desire to develop for iOS is MUCH higher than market representation, meaning that (as I read the numbers) comparatively, Android appears to be the weaker choice -- and that amongst hackathon developers, iOS is far over-represented compared to the market as a whole, as I assume most at these events use their own devices.

[1] http://www.idc.com/prodserv/smartphone-os-market-share.jsp

The 78% is worldwide, and a lot of Android's share is in countries where price is king (Android devices start at $50 unlocked). In the US Android has ~50% of the market and I imagine the US has the majority of the world's hackathons (esp. ones that would be represented in this survey).

I'd assume the missing link is the percentage of users of each platform that are willing to pay for apps. Given iOS has a higher entry cost, it'd make sense that more iOS users would pay for stuff.

People at this kind of hackathon aren't caring as much about that as they are "what kind of hardware do I have and how easy will it be to get this to work".

That's a fact. Android users are cheap when it comes to paid apps.

I was also thinking that many CS students learn Java as part of their degree (though I don't have stats handy), so Android is a natural extension there.

my intro cs class @ cmu was in java back in 2001 -- but now they teach python (major win imo)

Two surprises that caught my eye were Azure beating AWS by more than 30% (416 projects to 307) and Unity3d smoking Unreal (1174 projects to 64 projects)

Microsoft offers prizes at almost every one of these events for teams using Azure. If the team isn't especially invested in one platform or another, the prize availability will decide for them.

Their prizes are pretty good too. A few friends of mine won specced out Surface Pro 3's for a really crappy Android app.

@yodon - yep, surprised us too at first. But MS had a very strong hackathon sponsorship campaign last season (mentors, prizes, etc.) and that really does move the needle.

I was surprised to see Venmo as top payment API. I guess I am out of the loop as I have never heard of it. I expected to see Stripe at the top of that list.

This was what surprised me... I thought the order would have been Stripe, Paypal...

OP here. IMO, I think the reason Venmo trumps is because it's P2P payments rather than for retail / enterprise. Most of the hacks using Venmo are about tipping your friends or discouraging bad behavior, etc.

Plus, Braintree / Venmo are frequent sponsors.

There should be some asterisk or something next to tech that is a frequent sponsor. That influence severely distorts the conclusions. If we're discussion auto racing and Hyundai was giving out free cars, then would that mean that Hyundai was the best race car because everyone was using it? The intent of this study isn't to see how effective contest sponsorship is, it's to get an idea of popular technologies. Sponsorship non-disclosure paints an inaccurate picture. i.e. Azure being so popular when in the real word, it isn't.

Absolutely this. Sponsorship information completely changes the picture.

Its my understanding that Azure is slightly better for students. Their Dreamspark offering, at least when I looked at it, was better if you got started in the first couple years of school.

Unity3d is almost certainly leading because of all of the oculus sponsorships.

I think it's more likely because Unity has been targeting the smaller dev market since it began, while Unreal only seriously started targeting that market earlier this year with its free version.

I dont know anything about Unity or Unreal but can't you do Unity stuff in JS? Perhaps that has something to do with it too?

This is great data. As a former/recovering evangelist, it's great to see how these things work at a macro level. You always keep track of your own data, hacks, etc but don't have a good idea of what happens at the hackathons you didn't attend or for the APIs - colleagues or competitors - you're not tracking.

+1 to ChallengePost/DevPost for sharing all this.

Thanks Keith, our org dashboards are going to even more with this data!

I'm amazed to see Lua higher than Go, JSP, Scala, and some other stuff students would be more likely to be exposed to. Maybe students are doing a lot of NGINX stuff ?

I'm also glad to see PHP high on the list. Good to know it isn't going anywhere anytime soon, especially with all the work FB is putting into it.

Maybe students are doing a lot of NGINX stuff ?

<Wages Of A Misspent Youth>World of Warcraft addons.</Wages Of A Misspent Youth>

Yup, its the defacto scripiting language for games.

In general Lua is pretty popular as a scripting language within larger systems, especially games.

Also, I don't see percentages anywhere. For all we know by the time it's down to Lua it could be something like 0.5% of all projects.

Sad to see PHP high on the list, it would be good if it could go away anytime soon. PHP is crap. I am rather surprised to see things like Ember not even making the list in JavaScript frameworks. The Microsoft weighting of this data is also peculiar. But, I suppose universities tend to represent academia as opposed to the cutting edge of the real word. There also seems to be a heavy bias against Ruby compared to the popularity of ruby in the real world.

I'm surprised to see MongoDB as #1 in the db list, is it really now taught at colleges?

My favorite article on MongoDB: http://nyeggen.com/post/2013-10-18-the-genius-and-folly-of-m...

It's not taught at colleges.

It's popular for a few reasons

- insanely easy to set up with hosted providers, many of which market at hackathons

- mongodb markets at a lot of hackathons

- many hackathon projects prefer fast-to-write above all else

- schemaless is perfect for an environment where iterating quickly is a must and you don't really care about migrating data

- works well with node through mongoose, and node is also popular on the hackathon circuit

Mongo and MySQL - it's like hackathon participants don't really care about data integrity at all :)

Yeah, I mean it's not like anybody has ever built anything useful with either of those datastores before, amirite?

At least nothing with Mongo that hasn't completely imploded into a raging inferno at some point in the project's lifetime. I have never heard of a project using MongoDB that didn't at some point sting the developers with some pain points and make people wish they'd never used it in the first place. I really, really wish it wasn't the case, because I like a lot of MongoDB's design ideas, but from a production standpoint, it's crap.

JSON is not a programming language. C'mon, folks. :|

Nor are OpenGL, and WebGL, and AJAX, and JSP. And you could include XML and XAML in this if you're being picky.

And number 1 is HTML...

Welcome to the hackathon scene! Where everyone can be a hacker, even if they do "business development".

I know this is in (semi)-jest, but I don't think it's a bad thing that technology seems more accessible than it may actually be.

I don't think it'd be exactly productive if only the most technically capable people felt like they could even start to enter the industry.

That's not a bad thing. What I don't like (I don't know if it happens in the USA, but here in Barcelona hackathons it often does) is teams submitting just a PowerPoint presentation to the hackathon, and sometimes even winning.

That's a valid concern for sure, I've seen exactly what you're talking about.

Interestingly enough though, college hackathons are the only hackathons I've seen actually reward implementation over concept and the actual technical work done by teams over future potential.

Right. And college hackathons are the ones the dashboard is about.

The "extra" programming languages may not share the cause with that phenomenon.

It's more because they're doing these rankings based on the self-reported languages/Frameworks that people put on their ChallengePost projects. The reason why HTML/CSS is the highest is because the web framework share is divided between many different languages.

With all of the frameworks and compilers used today to make HTML and CSS more complicated, I guess maybe it "feels" like a programming language ...

Though I wish there was more innovation happening in real estate, a part of me is pretty happy to have approximately 0 college students building apps in our vertical. That's the perk of building software only older people care about for an industry where you still have to talk to adults all day to get anything done (luckily I have some great adults on my team who do most of the talking).

This is Devpost's, (formerly ChallengePost - oh yeah, we also changed our name today), Student Hacker Report. We looked at & ranked project tags from a sample of 13,281 student hackers who participated in 160 student hackathons and submitted 9,898 projects, either in hackathons or on their Devpost portfolios.

As someone who's spent a lot of time with both developer relations and Hackathons in general, here are my top 5 insights from this analysis.

1. The Major League Hacking hardware lab is HUGE for hardware companies. Top 5 have all been there since day zero. New additional are all rising. http://mlh.io/hardware-lab

2. In every API category, the companies with the best developer relations programs are in the top 3 performers, usually #1 and #2.

3. There are big opportunities for companies in the Geo, Music, Database, and Game Engine spaces to win with student hackers.

4. Now is a great time to be in developer event marketing. We're heading for a data revolution no other event marketing industry has.

5. Node.js IS actually the one true dev language (JK)

awesome startup and team.... stoked to have angel invested in this one five years ago and watched them go 100% dev (they used to do all kinds of challenges). lots of great stuff coming as well!

I "mentored" at hack beanpot in Boston and was totally surprised by how much native mobile development was happening. Nearly every entry was a native mobile app.

I'm surprised C/C++ was so high and ruby so low. I assume the C/C++ position is due to hardware hackathons mainly.

This is awesome product

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