Preparing for a hackathon

Hacking:
Whether this is your first hackathon or your 50th, here are a few suggestions to keep things running smoothly.

Plan and Delegate – You only have one day to hack, so think carefully about what you’re going to build. Communicate with your teammates so that everyone knows what they’re doing and how it fits into the whole picture. Don’t underestimate the value of planning with pen and paper (measure twice, cut once!). Caveat: planning is important but do not come in with an app you’ve already built, add a feature, and call it a day. It is not fair to everyone else and if you do this, you should feel embarrassed and ashamed. Also there is no way you would win so stay honest! :)

Work Backwards from the Demo –  Once you’ve got an idea, it can be helpful to think about your demo and work backwards to prioritize features. In no way do we expect a complete app, but we can only judge what we can see (this is probably the time to put aside reservations about fast and dirty code). Stay tuned for our judging criteria, which we’ll post on this blog.

Leave Time to Practice – We will have conference rooms you can use for short periods as well as volunteers floating around that you can practice presenting with.

Have Fun – ‘Nuff said.

Sharing:
You’ll probably want to share code and assets with your teammates. Have accounts set up and ready to go as necessary.

Front-end Styling:
Build on top of boilerplate to quickly get cross-browser and mobile-friendly components like forms, tables, buttons, grids. Options include: Twitter Bootstrap (spruce up the defaults with Bootswatch), Html5 Boilerplate, Skeleton, and Foundation. Pick one you like and be familiar with its features and limitations.

Deploying:
A live site makes it easier to share your project with others. Heroku (Ruby, Node.js, Clojure, Java, Python, and Scala), PHPFog, and AppHarbor (.NET) provide easy to use, fast, and free services for deploying your code.

Partner APIs:
We will have short demos from these partners on Friday and developers familiar with their APIs will be available on Saturday to answer questions. Using these APIs is entirely optional but the developers are on hand to help you hit the ground running. Check them out to familiarize yourself with their features and setup, and apply for a developer key to get started with the API.

  • Sendgrid: email deliverability
  • Twilio: voice and SMS
  • Foursquare: location, venues, real-time check-in notifications
  • Yipit: daily deals
  • Mashery: network with over 50 APIs including Netflix and Rdio.
  • DotGo: SMS content
  • Temboo: shortcuts for common functions across over 70 APIs including Instagram, DropBox, and FitBit

Other APIs you might be interested in:

Data Resources: