How not to: Do A Hack Day

It’s been well over a month since I attended science hack day and I’d thought I’d put out some notes on my time there. Rather than do a run down of the event, for which I’m sure there’s far more comprehensive blog posts available already, I thought I’d share my experiences based on attendance of a number of different hack events I’ve been to over the years. I went with the full intention of doing some hardcore hacking, but didn’t entirely meet my own expectations. Here’s my top tips, for now not to do a hack day:

  • 1: Don’t bother coming prepared – You’ve got 24 hours, and you’re bound to be the best coder at the event. You’ll have a unique idea and get that app finished in no time! No, far better to kick back and relax before setting on your way and conduct your research on what’s possible when you arrive.
  • 2: Arrive fashionably late – 24 hours is ages, and you know all the apis that presentations are going to cover. Nothing says “I’m superior” more than waltzing in a couple of hours late to the event whilst everyone else has been busy sweating it out already.
  • 3: Keep your distance from other attendees – Your idea is your own and you’ll want to claim all the glory for it after the event. Where’s the glory in letting people know you’re one of 10 people involved? Keep your app under wraps before that all important presentation at the end, the audience will be in total awe of you and flock to your side afterwards.
  • 4: Be sure to leave the event – You enjoy your sleep right? Why lose it by camping out on some office floor space, when you can head home to your comfy bed or to a hotel and return in the morning? This way, you also get to avoid all that small talk with big name, high profile coders who will belittle you with their outstanding knowledge of their own companies apis.
  • 5: Have your fill of the free refreshments – Free beer and pizza? Wow, these are a must for any late night software development project. There’s nothing better than feeling stuffed full of dominos and slightly rosy whilst trying to get your brain working at full throttle.
  • 6: Don’t prepare for your presentation – You’ll need every last second for building your app and the presentation is only a minute long. You might as well just attempt something of the cuff. Don’t worry about connections to your laptop, because those things always work and organisers like adactio are most amicable about trying to organise it for you along with 30 others at the same time.

I attended Science Hack Day and collaborated with a Mia, Prem, Tom Morris, Inayaili de León, Andy McMillan and Richard Boulton in order to build an app titled “The Revolutionaries”. Both Inayaili and Andy I never even spoke to and it was only through Prem’s organisation that the app came through in the end. I spent 2 hours of the event commuting to and from the guardian’s offices and 1 more stuck in a stationary tunnel in the dark. I’m glad that a made an effort though as the net result was a great app, which even won a little prize. I probably won’t be heeding much of the above advice at future events.

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