Hackathon [hak-uh-thon] noun
A usually competitive event in which people work in groups on software or hardware projects, with the goal of creating a functioning product by the end of the event: At the hackathon our team produced an app that helps you monitor your sleeping habits. (dictionary.com)
A Little Hackathon History
We’re eager to tell you about our own first-ever hackathon. But first, here’s some background information about hackathons. According to hackerearth.com, a hackathon is typically a time-bound competitive event where participants collaborate to build proofs of concept and minimum viable products for a specific pre-defined problem or to innovate. The site reports that over 80% of Fortune 100 companies conduct hackathons to drive innovation. More than 50% of the hackathons are recurring events, indicating that they are a reliable tool for sustained innovation.
Hackathons are a big tradition on the social network. Companies (such as Google, Whirlpool and Facebook) hold corporate hackathons to encourage new product innovation by their employees. For example, the Facebook Like button, chat button and timeline were created during the company’s hackathons. (This Business Insider article says Facebook wouldn’t be Facebook without hackathons.)
Why Participate in a Hackathon?
With these kinds of potential results, we wanted to try “hackathoning” at Parchment, too. And not just because it’s fun and cool. A hackathon is a perfect opportunity for organizations to promote a culture of collaboration, crowdsource ideas, promote intrapreneurship, and boost collaboration and employee engagement. At the same time participants get to:
- Take a break from everyday responsibilities
- Solve a problem by thinking outside the box
- Explore new tools and technologies
- Work on project they are passionate about
- Flex their creative muscles with low risk
- Build a working proof-of-concept in a short span of time
- Network and collaborate with like-minded people
Our goal was to create a program (proof of concept or prototype) in just two days that accomplished the objective of the winning proposal. And we did it for all three!
Parchment’s Inaugural Hackathon
Here’s our Parchment hackathon process. First, we decided on our theme: Make every day like at Parchment a little better. Then our employees posed ideas with the top 3 being picked:
- Lunch Rater: Parchies vote on the food they like best for our free Friday lunches.
- Member Logo Updater: A Central place to update member logos across multiple locations on the company website and application.
- Parchment Network Explorer: Easily see schools using Parchment in different regions of the U.S.
Not Just for Developers Any More
Hackathons are no longer restricted to just the developer community. Anyone who can contribute to building a product can participate in a hackathon.
And while a Lunch Rater project may not be considered company-critical, it’s only the beginning for Parchment. In fact, we plan to take hackathons from involving a smaller engineering group to all employees company-wide, and even on to city-wide participation.
Want to learn more about hackathons? Visit these links:
Ready to get your hack on?