Last weekend I flew to Zurich to attend my second "Hack Zurich", the biggest hackathon in Europe. Overall that was the fifth time I went to a hackathon and while I got on the plane I found myself thinking, "Why do people go to hackathons? What is it that makes people want to spend their whole weekend working on a project they've just come up with?" So during the weekend I tried to find out several reasons to got to a hackathon.
1. Meet cool people.
At a hackathon you don't just get to work on a project for the whole weekend, but you can meet lots of different people. People might think that when you hack you're just absorbed in your own task, but hackathons are really quite social events. I've met a lot of smart, interesting, and passionate people at hackathons and for me it's definitely the number one reason to keep going to these events.
2. Learn new things.
Hackathons provide the perfect opportunity to learn something new. If you are, for example, a back-end developer you can try doing some web design. Or you can design an app for a specific cause you don't know that much about yet and learn more about a topic while researching it. If you work together with people you've only just met you will probably discover new ways of solving a problem. And you will most likely learn something about yourself, about the things you like to do and how you work in a team with new people.
3. Get inspiration.
I find hackathons very inspiring. I get inspired by how driven people are to work on something for 48 hours straight. It's really cool to see people work with so much passion and it makes me excited to work on projects myself. Moreover, you hear and see lots of cool ideas during hackathons, which can help you come up with project ideas of your own.
4. Challenge yourself.
A hackathon is also the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself. Of course, going to a hackathon in the first place is already a big step for most people, but once you're a regular hackathon goer you can still step out of comfort zone by trying to do something new. Instead of using the programming language you always code in, you can try out a completely new language. Or if you're not a developer you can try to do a hack focussed on a topic you don't know that much about.
5. Win prizes.
If all the above reasons can't convince you to go to a hackathon, then maybe the prospect of winning a cool prize can. Most hackathons have lots of different sponsors that provide (technical) challenges and give prizes to the best hacks. I personally don't care too much for winning something, but if you're set on making an award worthy hack, you should probably already do some brainstorming in advance and get together a strong team.
Of course, these reasons don't just apply to technical hackathons. Two of the hackathons I attended were Empowerhacks
, where you focus on solving problems faced by female refugees rather than winning a prize. And a friend of mine recently pointed out that she thought a hackathon sounds a bit like project runway where you have to make a piece of clothing in a limited amount of time. So yes, actually you can hack anything and in my opinion everyone should go to a hackathon or do some hacking every once in a while.
Have you ever been to a hackathon and what did you like about it? Or would you consider going to one in the future? Let me know your experiences and thoughts in a comment :)
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