My thoughts after attending a hackathon

  • I can’t do this often. Skipping one whole night of sleep to stay up for two days straight makes me feel horrible. And definitely don’t put me on the road after that. We will crash in short order.
  • Hey MLH, why is this limited to college students? I’m not in college anymore and I might like to do this more often, but it’s a stroke of luck that I was even able to participate in this one.
  • I need to remember next time not to eat constantly just because the food is abundant, because my mouth will grow weary of food while my stomach may not.
  • 24 hours isn’t quite enough time to make something great. I would say a more ideal duration would be 48 hours and have it start in the morning. This way, people can get a solid day of work in and still have one more ahead of them, so they will feel more free to sleep during the night in between, as they should be doing anyway.
  • I wonder what would have happened if one of our team members had begun to conflict with another on the direction of our project. Would we have needed to work through it or find a replacement? If the latter, where would such a replacement come from if everyone has found a team and been working with it happily thus far? And to what team would our outcast have gone? I’m just glad that didn’t happen, because 24 hours, again, might have been a bit short to accommodate that kind of happenstance.

  • A bit more organization was needed at this particular event.
    • They should have assigned each team to a certain floor of the building so that the Wi-Fi load would have been more evened-out (this would have allowed my team to get down to work faster and not have to relocate to another floor).
    • I would have liked it if they had some system, whether web-based or physical/in-person, to match up teams needing hackers with hackers lacking a team. We were, more or less, left to fend for ourselves, aside from a late announcement for all team-less hackers to stay put as everyone else was dismissed to begin hacking. We noticed two guys standing nearby and asked them to join us, and of course they said yes, because they just needed something to work on.
  • Lastly, I’m pretty proud of what we accomplished. Sadly, we didn’t win anything, despite having one of the more polished products out of all the teams IMHO. But if a few things had gone differently, we might have been able to accomplish more and end up with a more fully-featured product.
    • One major difficulty was the algorithm I had to code that was the core of our project’s functionality. It was very late at night and I was having trouble wrapping my head around everything this single recursive function was doing, compared with what it was supposed to do (which wasn’t matching up). I sought out help from some MediaFire coders who showed up to man their booth and give out swag and prizes, and they (two of them) were gracious enough to sit down with me and try to think through the code with me to find the bugs. But even with their help, it took hours for me/us to get that function working right, and while my teammates were most likely hard at work on the front end, I think they probably spent some time sitting around waiting on me too. (They got a bit impatient at one point. Sorry!)
    • Even before that point, the first room we chose in which to start setting up shop was a waste because once we were ready to go, we discovered that the Wi-Fi infrastructure for that floor was having trouble meeting demand, and thus as we were having packets dropped here and there, we could hardly load any webpage. And our entire project was going to be accomplished using browser/cloud-based tools. But I’ve read that Wi-Fi troubles plague almost every hackathon, so the more important thing is for the powers that be to have contingency plans in place, and I’m not quite sure what plans, if any, our staff had.
    • Related to the Wi-Fi debacle, when we first noticed our troubles, we started looking around for someone official-looking to complain to, and it was far from obvious who to talk to or even a standard location in which one might find them. I think there should have been a head staff member for each floor, with maybe one or two underlings each, to handle questions/complaints/etc., and in a predictable location on each floor.

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