plans for the 2022 Hackathon Season

Choose your hackathon theme

Before you begin to plan your hackathon, you’ll need to choose a theme or a topic for it first.

Is there a specific business or social problem you’re trying to solve? An industry you want to reach? Technologies you want to explore together with your community?

Choosing the theme at the start is important, as it gives you a clear focus for the rest of your planning — which communities to reach out to, how to determine logistics, what materials to prepare, and other details. It also inspires your community to work on solving the specific kinds of problems you’re organizing around.

Decide dates for the hackathon early

With 365 days in a year, you’d think it’d be easy to find one on which to hold an event, but it can actually be a challenge to schedule even a virtual hackathon. The most important thing is not to rush the preparation. Ideally, you should schedule the hackathon at least two months out. This gives you enough time to promote and organize it and gives your participants enough time to prepare for it — whether it’s researching the hackathon topic or setting aside time for it on their calendars.

Here are a few quick tips when trying to decide when to run hackathons:

  • Avoid overlap with major holidays in the countries you’re trying to reach. If the event is global, then avoid major holidays in the countries where you have bigger communities.

Given the hackathon is online, there is also an opportunity to extend it beyond a standard 48-hour event. We have found that running a three- or four-day event, for instance, results in much higher quality submissions that are closer to completion.

Identify key team members to partner with during the hackathon

It is much easier to promote and organize the event when you have someone you can collaborate with. At a minimum, find one or two developers who can act as leaders during the event, mentoring newcomers and answering questions from the participants. They can also be your point of contact for technical support before and during the event.

You should also consider if you need a partner to run operations such as scheduling calls, and a partner to create the event marketing materials.

Moreover, once you’ve picked the theme and dates of your event, reach out to your community and ask if anyone is open to help. Many may be interested. Acting as a hackathon organizer and mentor also provides a great experience for community members themselves.

Produce a workback schedule

Start by listing everything you and your hackathon partners may need to do before, during, and after the hackathon. And I do mean everything — from deciding which platform to host your hackathon on to which video conferencing tool to use for presentations to what prizes to give out. The more comprehensive your workback schedule is, the better prepared you will be, and the more successful the hackathon will be.

To help you get started, check out the Mattermost “How to Run a Hackathon” playbook with key dates and activities that you can use for inspiration.

Create a code of conduct

Code of conduct is important to promote healthy behavior within your community. It establishes what is accepted by participants and helps create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.