DevFish’s Tips to Surviving and/or Winning a Hackathon


  • Bring your own PowerStrip. I love squids cause the fit all the funky power supplies we all have.  Yeah, sure, the organizers will have enough, power strips, right.  But you'll have two laptops, a phone charger, and lord knows what else.
  • Bring energy food.  Typically the food served is carb heavy crud (read nap time).  Gotta keep the energy up.
  • Don't like coffee or water?  Bring your own beverages.  Stock up on whatever beverage you like and keep some in a cooler in the car.
  • Bring business cards.  You will make new contacts.  Who knows what an event like this can lead to.  Networking is key benefit to an event like a hackathon.
  • Hackathons are noisy, bring some headphones and some think music.
  • Wireless internet will probably die at a hackathon. Bring your own Internet access, like a cell-carrier mobile access point (ala mifi or whatever) or even better a Windows Phone that can serveas a wireless access point
  • Wear comfy clothes.  Wear socks.  Yes, your feet smell.
  • The place could be cold, have a sweatshirt
  • Come in with a couple friends and have a team formed ahead of time. It can be frustrating to hunt for teammates at a hackathon.  I used to get picked last at recess, it sucks.
  • Bring a designer - decent graphics by a real designer will smoke away visually anything done by normal developers.  Bring toys for the designer so when they get tired of devtalk they have someplace to hide.
  • Game plan - once your team is formed, work out your gameplan.  Assign responsibilities and work items.  Setup a timeframe.  Stick someone with the managerial/monitoring/coordination duties.
  • Bring some paper stencils or a small whiteboard to work with. I like the MerryCode stencils
  • Bring a pen or two to sketch with. Really, yes. Check your bag now.
  • Pre-deploy a web/cloud service for use in your project.  Good starting point is setting up something like Azure with WebAPI site setup and ready to go with base services before you get there. This will save you a ton of time. Have echo, postsomething, and hello working. Time saver, why not do it ahead of time
  • Have a simple Windows Phone / Win8 / Web Template (or whatever) project ready to go to access those web/cloud services ahead of the game. Have echo, postsomething, and hello services being consumed. Again, a time saver
  •  Map out good resources you can leverage, such as starter kits, graphics, and audio resources . Don't want to spent a ton of time hunting. has some goodies to help you.  Search around
  • Know the judges.  Find out what they are looking for.  Do this early.  Tailor your project to the judges if your goal is to win.
  • Pick a spokesperson.  They're going to have around 5 minutes to present your project.  Make sure they're good.
  • Bring a toothbrush and deo - a change of clothes, and varoius other personal goods if its overnight event.  Pillow and sleeping bag help for naps but sleep really isn't recommended.

Comments (2)

  1. Damian Montero says:

    Did anyone take any pictures? Great event. Amazing apps. (Especially that good looking guy that came in third) but no pictures? How can I show off to my co-workers and boss if there's nothing to prove 😉

  2. jhealy says:

    Got pics.  Haven't posted yet.  Sooo buried.  Will hopefully update soon but keep hitting me with it.

Skip to main content