back to article Go ahead, stage a hackathon. But pray it doesn't work too well

Fidget spinners may be the biggest thing since the yo-yo, but they can’t hold a candle to the latest fad to sweep the business world: hackathons. As is the case with any fad, lots of people jump in overnight and some end up looking a bit ridiculous. Hackathons have their uses because they give people permission to solve …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Hackaton ideas - sure, hackaton code - no thanks

    There is nothing wrong for an idea from a playground to challenge the organization.

    Provided that the idea does not come attached to a pile of spaghetti code produced in a bout of junk food and caffeine induced stupor.

    Unfortunately most organizations fail to realize that hackatons should produce ideas and the attached code is usually a PoC to show the idea works. Instead of discarding it and rewriting it from scratch they attempt to sanitize and productize it. In fact, this is actively encouraged at most hackatons I have seen (It is also why I refuse to participate in them).

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Became clear that their idea flagrantly flouted all of the relevant commercial law.

      Big deal. Uber did that years ago.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hackaton ideas - sure, hackaton code - no thanks

      "Instead of discarding it and rewriting it from scratch they attempt to sanitize and productize it."

      Its been happening for a very, very long time, and didn't suddenly start with hackathons. Coming from an extremely LARGE closed source shop, I can tell you that you just described how a LOT of commercial closed source code escaped into the wild. It also results in a good chunk of the security defects, crashes, etc etc etc, and its not actually engineering's fault (typically). Product Marketing after seeing the PoC demo will say "it works doesn't it?" Your response: "Yes, but its quickly slapped together code solely for this demo". Product Marketing's response? "From what I've seen here, it works fine, the main customer wanting this will love it. You are a perfectionist who is just being too cautious, SHIPIT!" Weeks/Months later, customer defects start rolling in and the same idiot who told you to ship, is now on your case for the high bug counts and the bad metrics are going against your performance review... *sigh* (oh yeah, and that guy got a bonus for having the feature out early while you lose your year end due to the bad review resulting from from high bug counts...

      Moral of the story, have all objections documented in emails, Product Marketing long ago has replaced Lawyers in my "who's going up against the wall when the revolution comes" list

  2. jake Silver badge

    "Hacking as a scheduled event".

    The concept is mentally jarring, and has always seemed particularly unhackish, at least to these jaded old eyes ...

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: "Hacking as a scheduled event".

      Spontaneity needs proper planning in advance. Now, put on your nonconformist's uniform and get cracking, we are on a schedule here. And don't forget to fill out the informality tracking forms this time.

  3. trevorde Silver badge

    Corporate Tick Box

    Most hackathons are just so the organisation can point and say "See - we *are* innovative". Ideas are then ranked, judged and ignored but the box has been ticked.

  4. Baldrickk


    As this is basically how Kerbal Space Program came into being, I can't really complain about this.

    Yes, it is a good example of something that has, pretty quickly, taken over the company that spawned it, a company that originally had no designs in that direction, it's also a pretty great success story.

    1. Sgt_Oddball

      Re: Kerbal

      And surgeon simulator too if memory serves (that's why the controls are notoriously difficult.)

  5. Paul

    I'm not sure what the point of this article actually was.

    1. Just Enough

      The vaguest of points

      "I witnessed something illegal happen once, but, probably for legal reasons, I'm not going to tell you what it was.

      Don't do illegal things, like this unspecified illegal thing."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I read it as...

      way out of garden variety bullshit, and into more agile bullshit and it made some sense. Then, after coffee, I read it again and was lost.

    3. defiler

      The point?

      Something something hackathon... Something something complete.

  6. James 51

    We had a hackathon at my work. However it doesn't match the description here. The manger in charge solicated ideas from the organisation (to be fair including the IT department). A small group of managers including the board looked at the ideas and pruned them down to six. We were broken up into teams and given one of those ideas and then we could go forth and code for a day and a half. It was a useful exercise but the IT department already has a backlog of work that people are pushing for and while some ideas might get cycled in over time (and it was nice to use some new tools) it wasn't somethig that threatened to overtip the cart.

  7. Chronos

    So, in conclusion...

    We should stifle innovation and stall the betterment of humanity for the "corporate good" and, if we can't, we should use the law to nuke ideas from orbit. I see. Now I begin to understand why large organisations tend to become such a morass of bureaucracy, paranoia and incompetence, why their output often ends up sucking massive donkey balls and what is horribly wrong with the patent system and employment contract practices (all your brain are belong to us).

    There are literally no words that do the depth to which this philosophy sinks justice.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    "Their attitude was that if you don't like a law, why not ignore it and force regulators to catch up."

    Isn't that a clear signal that law enforcement isn't doing enough on the enforcement part?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Uhm...

      When Uber started up, it was not immediately clear what laws Uber was not respecting.

      If Uber had been respectful and paid its taxes, it just might have gotten away with it, but the condescending, then insulting attitude of its management just incensed the wrong people (along with the seemingly endless list of in-house shenanigans), and now the law is very much being enforced.

      On the other hand, there does need to be a bit of breathing space for innovations to appear and prove their usefulness. If the law cracked immediately down on everything that wasn't crystal clear, many things we have today would not exist (i.e. aspartame - which may or may not have been a good thing).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Uhm...

        If Uber had been respectful and paid its taxes...

        And since we're talking about San Francisco, greased the correct palms.

      2. GrapeBunch

        Re: Uhm...

        "When Uber started up, it was not immediately clear what laws Uber was not respecting."

        When Uber started up, it was not immediately clear how many laws Uber was not respecting.


        1. Nano nano

          Re: Uhm...

          ... which laws ... - surely

  9. Old Handle

    I'm not the only who thinks this article is kind of bizarre without any examples, right? Just something simple like "We all remember when Foocorp released Barbot which became sentient and tried to assassinate the president of Bazistan, but you may not have known... Yep that was a hackathon project."

    I mean... there has been a real example of what the author is talking about, right?

  10. Nano nano

    Where's Page 2

    - giving the detail ?

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