Jun 27, 2012

Why you need to go to a hackathon today!

Last weekend, I was hungry.  So, I went to a hackathon.  And I realized, you need to sign up for a hackathon today. What's a hackathon?  And, why should you go?

First, let me set the scene.  If you're like everyone and their grandma in the Silicon Valley, then either you're a co-founder or dreaming about building the next Facebook, Twitter, or that fancy-app-that-lets-you-share-kittie-pictures-and-get-discounts-at-your-local-cafe.  But, if you're not quite Mark Zuckerberg (yet), or don't have a comp. sci. degree from Stanford, perhaps you need to spend some time learning, building, and honing your skills.  What to do?  Go to a hackathon!

A hackathon is a gathering (a day, or a weekend, etc.) where folks come together to "hack" or "build" something together.  I recently attended one called  #News Hack Day SF  that brought hackers and journalists together.  The goal was to build tools that would enhance journalism.  This is what hackers do.  They take some existing tools at disposal to manipulate existing systems to make it better (or easier, or more profitable, or whatever you want the system to do).  In short, hackers leverage tools to innovate and improve.  Here's a picture from the event.

This is me at a recent hackathon
You'll find curious minds, great vibes, and get your own brain cells firing.  Here's what I got out of it (and more importantly, what you can get out of it.)

1. You learn cool stuff.  I learned about tools like scraper wiki and soundcloud.  Sure you might find these using google, but how would you have known what to search for?

2. You grow.  You join others who want to build.  And you might surprise yourself and build something cool.  Check out this front-end I mocked-up for Paul Osmon from soundcloud.com.

3. The people.  You encounter cool hackers and curious minds who can help you learn.  For example, I enjoyed a presentation by a designer named Sha, who talked about "visceralization."

4. The energy.  There's something about the buzz in the air, of curious minds coming together to build something.  It's inspiring and you should experience it!

5. Freeeeee food!  Check out my instagram pic of a bad-as$ breakfast.  Free!  Hungry for a hackathon?

6. And free stuff.  For example, check out this cool T-shirt from a recent  @testthewebfwd session.

Look at this beauty from a hack event.  Want one? 
If nothing else, you can chill at a cool space.  Our hackathon was in a cool shared space called Hub SOMA.  Check out the awesome yellow leaf hammock in action by my friend Joe.

Cool dudes hanging out at cool hackathon
So, how much does it cost?  How do you sign-up?  Stay tuned for another post where I share some great tips to get you going.

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