New Blog Series: Hackathon Edventures

Hi there, I’m Ed. I want to take a quick post to introduce myself and talk a new blog series that I’ll be posting here. This post is meant to give you some insight into my background and influences to help explain some assumptions I’ve made (intentionally or unintentionally) throughout this series.

Super blurry photo of me and a winning hackathon team
Super blurry photo of me and a winning hackathon team (Photo: @INHIMSS)

I have been working with developers and developer communities for over 8 years. I’ve worked with online and in-person communities as a community leader and manager, program manager and participant. I love to build and support passionate communities. In my current job, I produce in-person, community-building events all over the US.

I work for a large company that has a strong developer evangelism program. I produce anywhere from 10 – 15 events per year. I realize that most people are not running that many events per year. You might be looking for some tips for an annual or semi-annual hackathon, trying to start a hackathon program at your company or start a hackathon tour/road show. Either way, I hope you are able to gain something useful from this blog series.

Some recommendations I make are geared towards someone who runs multiple events per year (or is involved in multiple events as a sponsor or staff member) such as using Pelican cases to ship things. If you are running a local hackathon once a year, you probably don’t need a Pelican case. However, they are super cool and crazy useful!

I want to share some biases and advantages that I have which seep into my advice and viewpoints. For example, I view some things through a corporate filter. However, I’ve tried to include other ways of doing things at hackathons that I have seen be successful and that extend past my goals of brand visibility, attendance and NPS.

I work for a large company which provides a number of advantages for hackathon planning.

  1. I have an event budget that I work with for every hackathon. My event budget isn’t enough to fully cover the cost of an event, so I rely on sponsorships to make up the difference.
  2. Our team also has a hardware budget. Having events that are accessible and provide learning opportunities for participants is important and having loaner hardware available helps to meet those goals.
  3. I am part of a broader team that can assist with very specific parts of hackathon planning and execution.
  4. Our program has built strong developer communities in several markets. Because of that, our email promotion can be very effective.
  5. I get to use a corporate shipping rate. This makes shipping large Pelican cases all over the country vastly more affordable!
  6. Finally, there is travel budget for the event owner. We are able to travel to each hackathon location for the final event execution.

I love to run well-planned, smooth, enjoyable events. I want attendees, sponsors and staff to have the best experience possible at one of my hackathons.

No matter how many events I’ve planned, every event is a different. Every event will have hiccups or something that goes wrong at the last minute. I firmly believe that failing to plan is planning to fail. Even if you don’t follow the plan exactly, having a plan gives you a framework to make adjustments should the need arise.

I wanted to share my developer event knowledge and I thought this would be the best way to do it. I am often asked for event advice. I wanted a place that could serve as a reference for this information. I know that this is a lot of information and not all of it will be relevant to your role at a hackathon. That’s fine! Skip over what doesn’t interest you.

I hope you are able to find something useful out of this series. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.

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