At their best, hackathons have long been a solid tactic for companies / developers and ecosystems to accomplish many great things:
- Do problem-solving
- Kickstart a budding developer ecosystem with decent-quality apps
- Innovate on stagnant technology / biz models
- Foster an intensive and accelerated exchange of ideas and talent
- Many more positives
However, I am afraid that as of late, and increasingly so, hackathons have been turning into big, fat, archaic corporations’ way of saying to the rest of the world: ‘look, we are innovative too!’. This recent trend, in addition to the heated, fast-paced and ephemeral nature of the events leads me to compare them to one-night stands:
- Your developers, designers and business development-people are the proverbial hormone-laden revelers. ‘Getting it on’ on the dance floor
- Aforementioned ‘corporation X’ sponsors the night (with copious amounts of free Red Bull instead of, or even in combination with, cocktails and shots) and loosely ties the event to their corporate identity — then,
- The atmosphere, close quarters, scent of sweat, time constraints, several lines of code and taurine influence conspire to generate a high- energy exchange among participants — who create things that, for the most part, will never be used again or looked at. Except for the sponsors, who love making sure PR get all the material they need to prove how forward-thinking they really are!
The morning after (read: the next week) — team members split back up and return to the real world. Rarely does something lasting come out of the events; although I have seen odd, great exceptions to this rule (hey, some people find love from one-night stands, correct?).
Perhaps I am being a bit cynical here, but next time I join another hackathon — I will do it for the right reasons and save myself for ‘the real thing’.