Virtual Hackathons

A virtual hackathon happens exclusively online. It is based on the traditional co-located hackathon principles, but the online medium requires different process and tools to plan and facilitate such event.

Pros
Reach wide audience, geography not an obstacle
Output quantity, this correlates with higher participation numbers
Cost reduction – reduced attendee costs for travel, no venue and catering costs
Faster, easier organisation, no venue/travel/catering/on-site-staff, etc planning and management
Good for teams that already work together
Good for idea generation as oppose to production
Cons
Lower output quality
Lack of engagement
Lack of changing culture and habits
Atos standard tooling (Skype, Circuit) falls short for effective hackathon remote workflow
Potential trouble of consistent team-work i.e. getting everyone online at the same time, articulation, brainstorming, etc activities are harder whilst remote and heavily rely on quality tools and internet connection
Loosing out on f2f benefits (relationship building, knowledge sharing, etc)

When to organise a Virtual Hackathon?

Consider organising a Virtual Hackathon in scenarios where:

  1. Hackathon’s target audience is geographically diverse
  2. Achieve huge numbers of participants (focus on quantity), e.g. from 600+ people onwards
  3. Keep the organisational costs low

Things to consider when organising a Virtual Hackathon

In addition to the general considerations of organising a hackathon, the Online medium is introducing extra considerations. Mostly around the Tooling and Process.

The tooling

Accessibility:

  • Platform: as in a collaboration platform accessible for all participants, no matter their OS (Mac, Windows, Linux)
  • Cost: as in either a free/paid tool that’s equally accessible to all

Equipment:

  • Audio: as in the headset available to the participants
  • Video: as in the web camera available to the participants

Internet

  • Speed: as in capability to transfer large files
  • Consistency/stability: as in capabilty to ensure quality conference calls

Tool feature-set:

  • Chat
  • Voice
  • Video
  • Advanced Collaboration features (real-time whiteboards, screen sharing, polls, etc)
  • Channels (private team channels, general hackathon channel, etc)
  • Supported number of participants on a call, chat

Prototype sharing / pitching

How will the final pitching happen? Depending on the scale of the hackathon, consider teams doing presentations over video conference or pre-recording their pitch and submitting to the jury.

Code sharing platforms

Ensure the code sharing platform has been agreed, i.e. bitbucket, github, etc.

The process

To ensure a quality communication process and people management/enablement remotely, consider the following:

Communication process:

  • How will you deliver hackathon’s core communication (theme, problem statement, etc)?
  • Hackathon signup (participant registration)
  • Hackathon idea evaluation and team forming
  • Webinar delivery
  • Conference call delivery
  • Team collaboration tooling (file transfer, chat, voice, video, collaborative whiteboard sharing, screen sharing, polls, on-call notes, etc)
  • Final solution evaluation method

People enablement:

How will you ensure people are enabled, eg:
  • Available information (research, customer-validation, etc)
  • Available tooling (collaboration covered above)
  • Knowing where to seek help

People management process:

  • How will you check and ensure all teams progress freely across the hackathon?

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