Online Hackathons—Accelerate the Development of Low-Code Solutions

Online Hackathon

When a company allows writers to contribute guest blog posts, their goal is not just to get an in-depth researched article for free on their blog. They focus on:

  • Getting backlinks

  • Encouraging writers to share their work

Result? To increase their website’s traffic, be seen by their target audience, and increase brand awareness. The same is true for companies that organize hackathons.

However, many companies still don’t understand how online hackathons can help improve a product’s development.

Let’s break the ice and understand:

  • How participating in hackathons can improve automation by re-using code.

  • The common mistakes companies make while hosting, which you can avoid.

What is a hackathon?

According to Techopedia, a hackathon is a gathering where programmers collaboratively code in an extreme manner over a short period. In simple words, a hackathon organized by companies brings experts together from different domains to drive innovations.

Modern-day hackathons include:

  • Sponsors

  • Partners

  • Recruiters

They engage with participants through interactive workshops and presentations.

For example, HackerEarth organized a global hackathon called Web3athon. It was a 2-month long event sponsored by 16 crypto and web3 brands with different themes and multiple prizes for the winners.

There are two types of hackathons that you can host:

  • Internal hackathons: They give companies’ employees a chance to experiment with upcoming technology and stay up-to-date with technology.

  • External hackathons: They are organized by the company where they engage with people outside the company to change company culture, improve customer experience, and find new talent and revenue opportunities.

How can participating in an online hackathon improve the development of new solutions?

Participants in hackathons develop code based on the problem statement provided by the company.

Hackathon prototypes and coding solutions can be used by the company hosting the event to create a new solution in the future-either partially or fully functional. Ensure to have a clause in the terms mentioning that the IP belongs to the company, which means it owns all the code created at that event. You can then store all these coded solutions in a common repository and later re-use them to automate any existing or new processes. This way automation becomes easy and you do not have to build a product from scratch, making the code more efficient.

For example, a 36-hour hackathon was conducted to address 6 IoT-based challenges. For this, each team was provided with an educational IoT kit that consisted of cloud computing services and IoT templates that the participants could access and represent the specific architecture for digital solutions. When the results of the event rolled out, one of the sponsoring companies decided to use the digital solution to upgrade their legacy refrigerators making hackathons a cost-effective and innovative asset

Another option to use online hackathons to your advantage would be to organize internal hackathons within your company. This would foster creativity, produce new solutions that are stored for future use, and when needed, tap into your common repository of code to further create a different solution.

However, you need to be mindful of what code you are planning to re-use as directly copying code snippets from public forums like GitHub or StackOverflow is considered unethical.

Common mistakes to avoid when hosting coding hackathons

While conducting hackathons is the gateway to developing the prototype of your product, hosting the event requires a lot more effort—which sometimes leads to certain mistakes.

Here are 5 mistakes you should be aware of and prepare yourself for before hosting a hackathon.

Mistake #1: Not setting hackathon goals

Without a goal in place, you cannot expect your online hackathon to be successful. Before you host the hackathon, it’s critical to be clear on your goals and your expectations of the event.

  • To build brand awareness

  • To keep your developer community engaged

  • To help developers keep their skills polished

  • Is it to hire candidates?

Decide what you want to achieve with this hackathon. Then, outline every detail of the hackathon: time frame of the event, sponsors, guests, type of event (internal or open; virtual or physical), and specialty of the project.

Mistake #2: Lack of extended support for participants

Because participants are working on comprehensive projects that require brainstorming, ideation, and execution, you need to provide developers with well-aligned team support.

This could be as simple as conducting a workshop or a virtual webinar before the hackathon. This will give them an overview of the rules and the relevant resources that you can offer them.

For example, for the Web3athon hosted by HackerEarth, participants were provided a Web3athon toolkit inside which a detailed set of guidelines was shared with them on how to register for the hackathon, how to form a team, and how to submit their idea. Images and videos were used to help participants understand each step.

Web3athon toolkit inside which a detailed set of guidelines for online Hackathon.

Mistake #3: Using multiple tools for online hackathon management

Imagine using 5 different tools for managing a hackathon. One for chatting with developers, another for managing teams, and the other for rules and instructions and presenting the pitch. Developers working on product development may have to jump from one tool to another. This may leave them confused and frustrated. If you don’t want that to happen, choose a single tool where you can organize every task—a win-win for both you and the developers participating in the hackathon.

We at HackerEarth have conducted countless hackathons in the past decade. And can confidently say, we offer an advanced platform for organizing hackathons. From end-to-end management of the event to getting your company in front of 7M+ qualified developers, we enable you to increase engagement and foster innovation through these events. Go on, try it out for yourself here!

Mistake #4: Set the hackathon time frame based on your expectations

Your expectations of the hackathon are directly proportional to the event’s time frame. If you expect to get a full-fledged product from the hackathon, know this: you can see such results in hackathons with a longer time frame i.e.,1-3 months.

Take a look at this timeline map by IBM which showcases the exact time frame (and dates) based on the stages of the event—gives participants ample time to understand each phase in advance and prepare accordingly.

Timeline of online hackathon conducted by IBM

Mistake #5: Not choosing a realistic online hackathon theme and problem-solving statement

If you want your hackathons to lead in a specific direction and aim for projects that bring you results, you need to decide on two things:

  • The theme of the hackathon

  • A problem-solving statement you want a solution for

Theme: Select a broad theme since a narrow theme requires much digging and restricts the participants.

Problem-solving statement: To find a real problem-solving statement, ask the organizer to understand the business’ daily struggles and pain points, and come up with a real-time problem-solving statement.

For example, Connecting the Arctic Hackathon by Cassini had the theme “Sustainability” with three different challenges (problem-solving statement).

How to come up with a theme for online hackathon

How do online hackathons benefit developers and help them stay creative?

Helps validate their product

Hackathons help developers gain confidence by giving them a platform to test their product. In an article by YourStory, Ramesh Logathanan, Professor of Practice in Co-innovations at IIT Hyderabad says,

A hackathon gives participants a very good chance to validate their ideas, give it some initial shape, and get some mentor eyeballs on the idea.

Helps them upskill

For most developers, a hackathon is an opportunity to learn and upskill themselves by both trying out new code solutions and interacting with like-minded teams. Since the companies invite experts and conduct workshops and webinars, developers get a chance to learn about various topics—which is an add-on to their learning experience.

Helps connect like-minded people

Hackathons allow developers with diverse backgrounds to share and exchange ideas, which shape their thinking and lead to innovative solutions. In the same article by YourStory, Kolla Krishna Madhavi, Head of Alliances and Strategic Partnerships, School of Accelerated Learning adds,

Hackathons help diverse individuals with varying skills come together as teams to interact, ideate, and collaborate while coming up with disruptive solutions.

Ready to enhance your product development with hackathons?

No doubt why hackathons can feel so much like a battle. From coming up with a theme, to defining the problem-solving statement, to inviting partners and sponsors, everything feels like a daunting task.

But, once you organize each phase, the expectations for the hackathon will make sense. Decide on the themes and problem-solving statements and have the participants build prototypes of the software.

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