Hackathons: Not What You Think They Are
How they help businesses and developers alike.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: September 20th, 2012
A hackathon is a marathon coding session, usually ending with a winner.
f you saw the wildly popular movie The Social Network, you may remember the scene in which the creators try to bring a new person onboard and their method of choosing involves an extremely competetive "hackathon" in which the person who creates a solution to a problem first "wins" the job."
Hackathons in real life, though, are becoming more and more ubiquitous, as companies realize the value in having multiple people or teams come up with ideas for how certain applications or codes should work on their websites; they're not meant to show off who can "hack" into the website the fastest (that is, who can break through security on the website), but rather to create new functionalities. And since they're becoming more and more common, let's talk about what they are, why they're so useful for everyone involved, and how you can become part of one if you want to be.
Hackathons typically consist of a block of hours during which developers hammer out solutions to a company's problems—through marathon coding sessions, fixes are thought up and showed to the company. The TechCrunch Dispatch hackathon took place in May 2011, and attracted hundreds of developers who showcased their apps and won prizes based on how good the apps were. Of the winners, apps included one that bookmarked sales on Gilt, one that allows users to share and sign legal documents, and one called "Doach"—the dating coach.
The Dispatch hackathon is a big one, but they're becoming more common all over the world. They're beneficial to companies because they get to see the work of several different developers and decide which methods they'd like to work with, and they're beneficial to developers because many times, they don't have to sign away the rights to the coding they create. Instead, many times the company they are hacking for will choose to hire them on to do work or buy the coding from them—they aren't working for free, either way.
And it's not just tech startups that host hackathons—Google and Facebook have both held them. In fact, that "Like" button on Facebook was conceived in a hackathon. They're also used to make video games, or are offered only to certain demographics (college students or women, for example) to help them hone their skills.