Getting excited for the weekend? Want to win some prizes? Or is it the taking part that counts? Everyone’s motivations are different. Some want to win at any cost, some want an excuse to work on a project idea they’ve had for ages (which has been known to turn into full-time businesses before!) and many do it for fun.
Whatever your motivation, it is possible to ‘win’ at the Rumble. We have prizes and awesome expert judges ready to pore over your entries. So let’s assume you do want to win, how can you improve your chances this weekend?
Hackathons are nothing new and the Rails Rumble itself has been going for years so there’s plenty of wisdom to extract from earlier winners. And in a nine part series called How to Win a Hackathon, Brian Burridge has done just that with his own experiences.
Here are the core areas Brian addresses:
- make sure you really want to take part.
- be clear about your idea.
- be careful, but don’t waste time on, choosing a name.
- consider your team members wisely if you want to be an ‘A-Team’.
- how to communicate and collaborate effectively.
- know what the judges are looking for.
- plan to succeed.
- stay healthy during the 48 hours.
- several miscellaneous bits, including setting up analytics, deploying early, and creating a blog.
Getting the Presentation Right
I’ve taken part in several hackathons, online and in real life, and the biggest thing I’d add is that presentation is everything! I’ve seen potential winners go down in flames because the sign up system didn’t work, the live presentation bombed, or the UI was arcane. And I’ve seen quirky ideas like ASCIIPoint send an audience into spontaneous applause when presented in the right way.
Getting the presentation right online is different to giving a speech in-person. You won’t be able to use your charisma to give a 5 minute demo (unless a screencast is part of the mix) so your app will be speaking for you. Be sure your app’s homepage clearly explains what your app is and why it’s useful with the fewest words necessary or, if possible, launch straight into an interactive experience with no formalities at all. Keep the sign up process simple (this is crucial for judges to get into your app quickly) and focus on building a great experience rather than on arcane features buried away where few judges will reach.
Don’t Forget The E-mails
Last but not least, Adam Howell shares some Rails Rumble tips of his own with the significant suggestion of collecting people’s e-mail addresses. If you ever plan to turn your creation into a fully fledged business one day, having e-mail addresses and the permission to contact them could provide a handy shortcut to success.
Good luck and, most importantly, have fun!