Why Conduct a ‘Hackathon’?

February 4, 2015In Development2 Minutes

In attending the events surrounding Portland Startup Week over the past few days – one subject has been buzzed about over and over – the ‘Hackathon’ or ‘Hack Fest’.

Defining a Hackathon
The name is often misinterpreted, and is regularly abused by the media referencing a menacing connotation referring to criminal activity – however, a ‘hackathon’ is far from the well-known and maligned ‘hacker’ description.

Hackathons aim to offer a creative venue for breakthrough innovation through technology, specific to programming or development, while striving to be inclusive of all team segments to provide the best outcome. A group comes together, forming teams around one idea, goal, or problem to solve. The outcome is generally a website or app.

Company team collaborating

Traditionally, as the name implies, ‘hackathons’ have been a marathon event involving a 24-48 hour sprint to complete the project – fueled by team spirit, adrenaline, and sometimes – beer. Recently, however, companies have adopted the structure that uses the hackathon model, bringing milestones, scaling the project for sustainability, and actual rollout.

While they have been around for some time, the prevalence of these ‘hack-marathons’ are really gaining ground with both start-up and seasoned software companies and creative agencies, extending as far as well established companies such as Facebook and Google.

To Hack or Not to Hack
These events are truly an ingenious way to get teams, both internal and external – to collaborate and can foster a truly innovative culture.

Hackathons, no matter the structure, provide a team with opportunities to problem solve while building camaraderie. This allows out-of-the-box thinking that can be transformative to a project that may be at a stuck point.

Many times, the outcome of a hackathon is a prototype, but can often lead to the development of a bigger idea, a better way to analyze data, or a problem solved.

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