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Tech Tuesday: Hackathons & Building a Tech Community

23 August 2016 | About a 3 minute read
Tags: communities, community, hackathon, Learning, teaching, tech, Tech Tuesday, technology


hackathon is frequently described as an ‘invention marathon’. Anybody with an interest in tech can attend a hackathon to  learn, build and share over a period of between 12 and 36 hours in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Most of the time, they’re not seen as competitions – more like learning events.

On 24th of June, I flew out to Denver, Colorado to speak at HackConIV – a conference for hackathon organisers run by Major League Hacking. Not only was it great fun to give a talk in front of around 400 odd attendees, it was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about how people organise events focused around enabling learning in tech, and an interesting insight as to how this happens over in the US.

Major League Hacking provides support to the community of hackathon organisers / attendees by helping organise over 150 events worldwide every year – providing logistical support, as well as bringing things like their Hardware Lab, and organising events like HackCon so that organisers can get together and share in building the community.

Long flights and snapbacks make for bad hair days

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been lucky to be involved in helping build the student hackathon community in the UK and Europe from pretty small beginnings. Just a couple of years ago, there were only 3-4 hackathons running in a year over the UK. Now, we frequently see that many running in a weekend – it’s incredible to see the growth not just of people who want to learn about tech, but also people who want to enable others to learn.

During my time organising these events, I’ve seen people do incredible things. I’ve seen complete beginners build a full web application in the space of 24 hours – something I spent 4 years at university learning how to do. I’ve also seen an incredible capacity for creativity through running events that are focused on learning by building, including a Twilio application that would translate texts for you as you sent them, or keyboards for the partially able using the Myo armband.

This got me thinking about what we do for the tech community at AND Digital. 

At AND Digital, our aim isn’t to build a product for a client. Rather, we have a very strong focus on building with the client, and enabling them to eventually build for themselves. Our fantastic Professionalising Digital team work to build a digital strategy, and then our Flexible Resourcing service then help our clients in hiring full time staffWe have our ANDacademy service where our coaches will give full courses to our clients in order to help them build their skills or practices.

When you consider our line of work, it may seem counter-intuitive for us to ‘teach the man how to fish’, right? But I think it demonstrates that our goal isn’t just to take over the world ( that’s more long term ), but to build towards a better future in digital by sharing both what we know, and what we build with developers.

Right now, we’ve got some interesting ideas for building that community – we already have our monthly ANDchat Meet Up, but this month we’re trialling more technically oriented speakers, as well as maybe even building towards a hackathon of our own…

Watch this space

If you’re interested in hackathons or the hackathon community, then I recommend you join the Hackathon Hackers EU Facebook group. If you want to know more about Major League Hacking, then you should check them out here.

 If you’ve got any questions / disagreements / general opinions then feel free to post them in the comments or throw me an email at [email protected] Digital.com. 

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