Hackathon/HowTo

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Howto Hackathon

This is a howto that contains the necessary steps to organize a hackathon at Metalab.

Short list of Steps

Check for a date

To be precise: There should be no events for an entire weekend (Friday to Sunday).

This means that you will probably have to start organizing weeks (if not months) in advance, at least if you want to organize a general-purpose hackathon that uses the entire Metalab.

Metalab's event calendar is here.

Create the event

Find the number (and wiki page) of the last Hackathon. You should find a list of previous events on Hackathon.

Assign a new unique name. Also fill the form field for "wiki page" (with just the name, not a full URL).

Set up the wiki page

Create the wiki page you just entered. A convenient way to do this is to just follow the link generated in the calendar and to create the page when prompted.

For the content, simply find the wiki page of the last hackathon and copy/paste/adapt the content over. Given that many parameters tend to be the same, this saves a lot of work. For obvious reasons, before you save, double-check that potentially misleading information specific to the last hackathon is gone.

Make/Organize Stickers (optional)

Stickers are awesome! (tbd: Insert sticker howto here)

Make an announcement

Announce the Hackathon. Usually it makes sense to have two announcements: One far in advance so that potential participants can save the date, and one reminder a couple of days before the event.

It is recommended to post the first announcement only on intern@, for the second one, promoting the event via metalab@ also makes a lot of sense.

Before the event

Buy snacks/refreshments/anything else you can think of to keep people hacking and happy. Plan for enough time to do so. Also, (re-)read the rest of this howto.

Introduction and Presentation

Introduction

Usually, Hackathons start with an introduction where everyone can informally introduce themselves and their project (if they want to). Explicitly encourage people to talk about skills they have that might be useful to others.

A number of people won't arrive on time, so it isn't important that you start on time - rather, offer tours of the lab to the people who arrive on time (many of them will be new), and set everything up to start 20-30 minutes later.

Getting the projector ready is a good idea, but most people will just want to talk since they have nothing to show yet.

Presentation

This is similar to the introduction, except that more people will want to actually show something (and that it's the closing event). Usually, nobody complains if they have another half hour to get their project into a state where they can demonstrate it - unless someone really wants to show something and needs to leave, just extending everything for a while can actually be something people are grateful for.

Operational Wisdom/Tips

  • Don't burn out as an organizer. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't participate, but get enough sleep to be ready to respond to people's requests/problems.
  • Don't worry too much about food. If someone plans an awesome meal, that's awesome and something you should encourage from the start, but if they don't, the worst case is that people have to order pizza. And surprisingly often, someone will decide to make something spontaneously. Billa at Praterstern is only a couple of U2 stops away, and is open on Sundays, so organizing groceries is only a big problem at nighttime.
  • Be there for the important parts - namely, the introduction and the presentation. The more you are present during the rest of the event, the better, but see above regarding sleep.
  • Take enough time to buy snacks/refreshments/other things for the participants!