20 February 2023

Code, Social

Also Known As: GiveCamp. Startup Weekend.

Problem: A community of developers using your product/service helps to generate the feedback and engagement that your DevRel team needs, but there doesn't seem to be as much as you'd like. In some cases, you have a community, but they're using an older version, or aren't using the product/service for certain scenarios.

Context: Developers are a notoriously fickle lot, in that trying to tell them what to build will often generate resistance and/or pushback. The creative aspect to building software is what draws many to the field, and many developers aren't given much opportunity to exercise that creativity in their workplace.

For some products/services, the target personae are those that are entrepreneurs or innovators, particularly those that are in a city well-known for its startup "vibe" (such as the Silicon Valley, New York, Seattle, and a few others). These are locations in which developers leave the comforts of corporate life to pursue the statistically-risky space of startups, and are often looking for products/services that will allow them to get-to-market more quickly and get their product out in the hands of users.

Solution: Create, or sponsor, an event in which developers come together specifically for the purpose of "hacking" code to build an application or system. Usually such events are open to the public, and the teams that are formed are entirely temporary, made up of those who found a pitch idea to be interesting to work on. The events typically last anywhere from 24 hours to 5 days, and the shorter timeframe often implies an all-night kind of exercise; many of the original hackathon events were weekend events, beginning with pitches on Friday night, then "hacking" continuously for the next 48 hours and concluding on Sunday evening.

Consequences: Many events are public, Sponsorship by various vendors and/or other interested parties, and many offer prizes to teams whose hacked project ranks best in one of a variety of categories. The top prize often depends on the intent of the event--at Startup Weekend, for example, the top prize was an opportunity to meet with VCs and pitch them on the startup idea "hacked" together over the weekend, while at GiveCamp, "prizes" are often more celebratory in nature, offering up rounds of praise for those who "hacked" projects together on behalf of charities.

Company participation in a hackathon can come in many forms: direct sponsorship of the event as a whole, sponsorship by providing one or more of the prizes, sponsorship by providing free licenses or credits of the product/service, providing coaches and expert advice (either around your product/service or across a broader range of topics), and/or your company's employees' participation in the event itself. (Participation in the event is highly suggested for charity-centric hackathons, as it generates good feelings toward the company, gives the developers a good feeling of helping those in need, and generates good PR for the company.)

Some Hackathons provide time and space for presentations by sponsoring companies and/or experts/coaches that are volunteering their time at the event; these are essentially Conference Sessions but for the Hackathon audience instead of a conference. Many of the presentation slots are given to Sponsors. It is common that less than 10-15% of the attendees will come to a talk, but those that do are often extremely interested in using the topic as part of their hacking project.

Hackthons are also a great place to hand out Swag, and/or have a Booth (more like a table) as part of the company's Sponsorship of the event.

If the Hackathon is internally-facing, it is often done in conjunction with an internal Conference, to help the company foster a culture of training and innovation. "Vendors" in this scenario are often company internal services or platforms, and "coaches" are often the senior developers, architects, and SMEs who assist the ad-hoc teams working on ideas that may or may not be company-related.

Logistics management will be important for a Hackathon depending on the degree to which the company chooses to participate: attendance will require physical presence (travel and hotel, if the hackathon is not local to the participants), and sponsorship will require greater work, depending on details. Consider having an individual on the DevRel team serve as "point of contact" for all logistical issues around the Hackathon.


Tags: devrel   patterns