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Tips to perform well at hackathons

Hackathons have long been much talked about events, they have been established as superior tests of wit. With over 100s of participants, amazing prizes up for grabs and soaring competition, the hackathon is a great ground for ideas and innovation. Hackathons are usually accompanied with lots of excitement and stress levels are high too, owing to strict timeframes, lots of competition and performance pressure.

As developers, we all think that we have all the skills required for being great developers and we have portrayed them at several occasions but why is it not us on the winners list of the hackathon.

Here are some ways that can assure good performance at your next hackathon.

  1. Avoid unrealistic goals: A hackathon is time bound, expecting to build a functional product with too many features will be too much and excessive stress will hinder performance. A minimum viable product that works well without glitches may work well to secure a winning position at the hackathon.
  2. Select your team Intelligently: Even a great idea cannot be executed well in a limited timeframe if teamwork is not in place. The selection of a team should be based on some basic criteria that aid the success of a team:
    • Teammates must be equally passionate about coding and the prospect of victory in the hackathon.
    • The selection must encompass expertise in different areas. Try to get people with different skills, both tech and non-tech.
    • All members must be tolerant towards pressure. Morale loss under strict deadlines is a deterrent to performance.
    • The vision of each member of the team towards the result must be congruent.
  3. Take inspiration from other in the community: A thorough insight into the tactics that other hackers employed at previous hackathons can be advantageous. Their experiences, successes and failures will help in coming up with a good plan of action.
  4. Use Source Control tool: Just imagine, you are into a long process of building your product, hours later you spot a malfunction and you don’t know where you made a mistake. There definitely isn’t enough time to go through piles of code to spot the error. Hence, it’s wise to use a source control system like git that can help in keeping track of each change and identify the change that caused the error.
  5. Use existing libraries and frameworks: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t spend too much time in writing code for functionalities that can be implemented using open source libraries and frameworks. Just focus on implementing the core idea you are working on.
  6. Use quick deployment solutions: The core idea of a hackathon is to build a working prototype of your idea. Don’t spend too much time in hosting the app. Figure out how you can quickly deploy applications on cloud hosting solutions like AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud. You can also use PaaS solutions like Heroku, Openshift or IBM Bluemix can be used for deployment and hosting: We are not doubting your skills at being a superior sysadmin but in the given time limit, using an easy deployment solution will help the team to concentrate on coding, building, deployment and testing.
  7. Presentation is crucial: It is wise to spare some time to prepare for the presentation because everything that you have done in the hackathon depends on how correctly you can demonstrate your hack. Make sure that you cover all aspects of the hack including important points like – problem being solved by the hack, scope that the current hack covers, why it is different from existing solutions and work that can be done in future.
  8. App should be interactive: During the presentation, an interactive app is more likely to catch the attention of judges and create an impression than a rather dull app. It should hence be kept in mind that there should be  a scope for user interaction.
  9. Socialize and network: Hackathons are not just about competition but also about networking, meeting interesting people and making some friends. Make sure competition does not come in the way of having fun. Winning is not the only thing that you can take away at a hackathon, you might even find your love.

You are sure to rock your next hackathon if you follow these steps. There is no rocket science in a hackathon, after all we demonstrate our coding skills each day, it is all about planning and executing effectively.

Stay tuned to know how you can conduct a successful hackathon

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