The Hackathon Comes of Age With Social Media
Any great hackathon requires plenty of coffee, energy drinks and lots of sugar, but for a purely distributed event, competitors need more than just a few jolts of caffeine. As hackathons grow in popularity, organizers and competitors alike are making use of a plethora of social media tools to plan, execute, promote and deliver new and exciting experiences.
The Rails Rumble, which kicked off Oct. 13, pits teams of between one and four developers against one another in a 48-hour race to design, build and deploy a brand new web application. While the Rumble itself is exclusively for Ruby on Rails applications, its success has inspired several companion competitions in other developer communities, such as the Django Dash and the Node.js Knockout.
Traditionally, competitive hackathons take place in centralized, physical locations. However, Rails Rumble and competitions like it are a new breed of event, conducted entirely online with the aid of social media. This year, teams from 40 countries collaborated to produce a stunning 300 new web applications over two days. Contest organizers provided competitors with private GitHub repositories to host their source code and private servers from Linode on which to run their finished applications.
They didn’t limit themselves to just team communication, though. Many teams used Instagram to show off their workspaces, collectively tweeted about their progress more than 3,000 times during the event, and even used Meetup to coordinate mini-meets during the hackathon.
Once their entries were complete, teams used sites like Hacker News to get immediate feedback on their projects so they could address bugs and get live feedback even before the event was over. Many created demos and walkthroughs, which they published to YouTube and Vimeo to show off their products with a little bit of extra polish.
The above video shows off the Dear Friend entry, built by a team in Brazil. Their application is a fantastic way to send handwritten letters while supporting great causes.
Like many hackathons, the Rails Rumble entries are judged by an expert panel, including YouTube personalities Ze Frank and Hannah Hart, startup experts Garry Tan and Cyril Ebersweiler, and Mashable‘s own CTO, Robyn Peterson. However, unlike many hackathons, the Rails Rumble also considers public voting when determining the winners. If you’d like to see what the Rumble teams cooked up this year, you can check out all the entries and vote for your favorites.
As the world grows more connected, massively distributed events like the Rails Rumble are becoming more and more popular. The flourishing social web is playing a key role in enabling some of the Internet’s most passionate people to create new and beautiful things for us all to enjoy.
Check out the video below — the “Caffeine Maniacs,” based out of the UK, uploaded a tutorial on how to use their entry SplitPay.At to collect pizza money from your friends. Be sure to browse the entries, and let us know your favorites in the comments.