As an organizer of the upcoming Network of Biothings Hackathon at UC San Diego, I've been asked by a number of people what a hackathon is exactly. I'm repurposing one of those responses here (original posted on the San Diego iOS developers meetup group).
The main idea is that a variety of different people come together to meet each other and make something together - almost always something open source. In the case of our hackathon, the purpose is specifically to engender new collaborations. For the academics these could translate into new research programs and new collaborative grant proposals. For industry folks, these could turn into new products. Ideally, a hackathon can bring together the elements of a great new team. For example, I'm a back-end database guy with an understanding of bioinformatics. I'd love to find a front-end web or app developer to help make my data and algorithms useful to the rest of the world.
Here are a few questions I've fielded:
- why do developers pay to build apps for somebody else?
- why do developers put their time to do work for free?
- do the teams who paid to participate build apps and one is chosen as winner?
- are the rest thrown away?
- Am I too young/old to participate?
In conclusion, hackathons are fun, social events for people that like to build new things, meet new people, and perhaps the change the world. Sign up for ours and find out for yourself!