HacKAthon 2013 recap

Last weekend a friend and I attended this years HacKAthon organized by nerd-zone. This was my very first hackathon and as such I didn’t really knew what to expect or how much to get out of it.

After a short “pitch” (serious people seriously take that serious!) on Friday evening, Daniel and Max displayed interest for a collaboration. After some back and forth, we halfway completed a web application that helps getting to know people in a restricted spatial and temporal environment by visualizing common interests. For this, everyone is tagged by anyone and the larger the conjuctive subset between two persons, the fatter the connecting edge.

A real-time update mechanism helps visualizing the login and tagging processes. If you are interested, you can have a look at a live demo and the source on GitHub. For the demo, we used Python, JavaScript, CSS3 and HTML5. The backend was realised with Django, the front end is a combination of Knockout.js and Cytoscape.js to visualize the network. Last but not least, we deployed the app on Heroku.

What was good

Getting to know new people with a different background than myself, was probably the most interesting part of the hackathon. Moreover, hacking on things that is usually not part of my daily work has some positive side effects.

Also, working focused in a team on a particular project in a very short amount of time is an interesting experience. Maybe, the same is happening in a corporate environment but I doubt it generates as much positive stress as it does on a hackathon.

From an organization point of view, most things went smooth: The wireless was fast and without hiccups, but that should actually be no big deal for one of Germany’s larger ISPs. Also, there was an endless stream of free caffeinated beverages and stereotypical but good food (pizza & schnitzel).

What could’ve been better

The topic of the hackathon itself was clearly stated but not restricted in any meaningful way. It was so broad that the final decision who won was a bit arbitrary. Nevertheless, it also brought in a huge variety of apps.

Althought it didn’t affect us, the hackathon itself was not a true 24 hour coding marathon but the place was locked from 1.30 am until 8.30 am because 1&1 missed to prolong the security guard’s duty. This should’ve been organized better because there were people willing to pull an all-nighter.

My conclusion

Overall, it was fun and I would definately attend such an event again.