Monday, March 28, 2016

Hackathons for fun and profit

Last update: Monday 3/28/16
As the reader will see from the short list at the bottom of this page, this is my fourth note about making real world events more accessible to online viewers via Twitter and other social media, and it's my second pass at hackathons. Whereas my first note ("Disrupt Hackathons") offered suggestions to the organizers of hackathons, this one focuses on the Millennials who participate in hackathons.

By now most ambitious Millennials who intend to pursue careers related to software, as tech staff and/or as entrepreneurs, understand the importance of posting their interests and accomplishments on LinkedIn and their code on GitHub. For the immediately foreseeable future, that's where most of the people who will hire you or invest in your start-ups will be looking.

Some of you have also recognized that hackathons are not just good fun; they are also good arenas for you to be seen in action. Unfortunately, the way most hackathons are run, the only prospective employers or investors who will become aware of your participation will be the few who attend the hackathons in person. But you can use social media to change this.  

To be sure, the organizers of the hackathons will produce enough tweets with attached photos to document their successful production of these events, but their tweets and photos will probably give scant mention of your participation. So this note offers a few specific suggestions that stem from a fundamental insight:

  • Hackathons are multi-player mind games. The action is inside the players' skulls. So nobody's going to know what you're doing unless you tell them.
In other words, if you want to convert your participation in hackathons into valuable career assets like your LinkedIn and GitHub pages, you should use Twitter and other social media to tell the world what you're thinking at various times throughout the hackathon. Fortunately, most hackathon organizers specify one or two official hashtags that define the hackathon's official communication channels; so you just have to include these hashtags in your broadcasts to reach people who are interested in the hackathon -- including corporate recruiters and/or potential investors. 
  • Just before the hackathon begins -- Tweet the fact that you're participating and express your ambitions/excitement about being there.
  • When the hackathon starts -- Tweet your own announcement that the hackathon is starting, and attach a photo (not a selfie) to show what things look like from where you're sitting.
  • When your team is selected -- Tweet a couple of photos of your team (not a selfie), together with a note as to who/where you are, e.g., "me in center" "me on far left", etc. Encourage other teams to tweet photos of themselves ... show that this is a real competition with real players on the teams.
  • When your team makes its first presentation -- Tweet an announcement, then broadcast video streams of your team's clear presentation of what it's going to build  ... Encourage other teams to send out and record video streams of their presentations.
  • Late at night/early in the morning -- Tweet a couple of photos of your team working long hours  on your winning app. And again, encourage other teams to tweet about their own extensive efforts. Include brief descriptions of the specific features you're working  on at the time to keep it real.
  • When your team makes its final presentation -- More video steams and recordings. 
  • When the winner is announced -- Tweet your congratulations to the winning team ... and if you win, tweet a fun photo of your team with smiles all around ... include big thanks to the hackthon's organizers and sponsors.
Good luck and great hacking !!! ... :-)


Related notes on this blog: