Organizing a Hackathon

We are trying to organize a hackthon at office in this month. Thinking around this has been going on for a while and finally decided to pick a month where people will be available and release pressure will be moderate and then work backwards to arrive at a schedule.
As usual, we need to be clear about the following while organizing a hackathon.

Agree upon the goals
This is the first and foremost important step. You are asking employees to spend one or more days to work on something they are passionate about by leaving their regular work. You will also have to articulate the goals very well to get support from the management. Employees planning to participate in the hackathon should know what they should achieve in these days and what they can demonstrate. I called it as their acceptance criteria.

Pick a Date
Many teams will have releases scheduled continuously. Its important to choose a convenient date to ensure maximum participation. As always more the merrier. We looked at various release schedules, local and remote holiday schedules and other local events such as school holidays, community events etc. before choosing a date.
Once the date is chosen, work backwards that helps you organize logistics such as:

  • Organizing team needs time to review and finalize proposals, organize T-shirts and other goodies.
  • Pick a demo day. It could be on the last day of the hackathon or the next day depending on convenience and number of participants
  • Provide enough time to your admin and IT teams to organize logistics such as hacker’s dens, networking and power infrastructure and lots of food and caffeine.

Market the EventHackfest-Flayer1
Though this is an office event, it is important to market the event sufficiently to build the momentum. We have been sending frequent flyers, pasting posters and encouraging managers and other senior members of the teams to help their team members come up with good ideas. We are also planning short videos that can be streamed to various monitors in the common area. Authors will talk about their ideas and how it adds values to our customers.

Event Rule
Participants should be well aware of the selection criteria. Though the genenal practice is to encourage everyone to participate (its a community event), there has to be some rules laid down for judging to be effective. There will be people participating for the spirit of the event and others who are serious about what their contributions are. Most probably the juding criteria will include:

  • Imapct to our customers
  • Innovation
  • Achievements


Next important step is the schedule. This includes detailed schedule for the hacking days and other milestones that help you to start with the hacking. This has to be clear to everyone to manage the logistics and also to maintain the sanctity of the event.

Our hackathon is planned for 20th and 21st of this month. Watch this space for more details of the event.