Hackuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase!

One of the many reasons I love working at Simply Business is being given the opportunity to help organise events like our first annual Hackathon - Hackuna Matata 2012. It’s been about a month in planning and all the action begins this week, so I think it’s time to do a blog post on the process of organizing a Hackathon.

Hack logo

What’s in a name?

At Simply Business, we are almost obsessed with having funny names for our projects, processes and apps. Some gems (geeky pun unintended) include: ‘Enema’, ‘Detox’, ‘Adonis’, ‘X-Rated’, ‘Raging Rabbit’. So we couldn’t just have a Hackathon and call it… well … ‘Hackathon’. We are also not shy of expressing our opinions so I had a lot of suggestions on what the name had to be. I set up a vote on SurveyMonkey and the winning name was ‘Hackuna Matata’. Some of the other entries were ‘Hack to the Future’, ‘Hack Off’ and ‘What The Hack’.

Once we had our winning name, Matt (our design guru) came up with our logo for the event.

Life’s a pitch. (21st June)

We’ve decided to hold the pitch a week prior to the actual Hack Days. This is to ensure that any technical requirements, for the pitches that get selected, can be arranged in time.

Everyone that has emailed their ideas to me gets to pitch for 3 minutes. Since we’re big believers & followers of the Lean Startup methodology we’re encouraging people to pitch their ideas with Hypotheses and Measures and to limit the scope of their ideas to a Minimum Viable Product. Every pitch will be followed by a Q&A session after which people can organically form teams to work on their favourite ideas.

And, of course, there will be Pizza at the Pitch!

The Hack Days (28th & 29th June)

This is when all the magic will happen. The most important thing is to make sure that we don’t run out of food or drinks or servers! People who want to spend the night, hacking away, are welcome to glamp out in the office. People who want to hack away on the weekend are also free to make that choice. Of course there will be live tweeting, blogging, google hangouts, interviews and photographs!

All good things must come to an end. (2nd July)

Teams will demo what they’ve worked on today. There will be prizes for the best pitch and the best implementation. In the afternoon, life goes back to normal - which at Simply Business is usually just another fun day at the office.

Devil in the details.

There’s a hundred tiny details to think of and here is a small list of them to remember for when you’re organising an event like this:

  • Legal - Finalise who owns the product that ends up being developed.
  • Live Support - Decide who draws the short straw of doing live support if any issues come up. In our case, we’ve decided to stick with the team that is scheduled to be on live support that week. (At Simply Business, each mini-team takes weekly turns at being the support team.)
  • Live Releases - Make sure there are no releases scheduled on the day of the Hackathon. We are pre-poning our weekly release by 2 days so it does not clash with Hackuna Matata.
  • Tech Requirements - Ensure that people have access servers or software licenses or anything else tech related.
  • Food - Check for any dietary and allergy restrictions.
  • Social - Decide what social avenues you plan to use to discuss your event. We’re going all out with Twitter, Facebook, Google Hangouts and of course - blogging!

I’m sure I’ve forgotten about something but I’m sure it will all go well and we will have a blast while implementing some fantastic ideas! Stay tuned.

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