I got on the phone (for the second time!) with Neal Shyam of Challengepost to talk about the hackathon game. Neal has an interesting perspective because Challengepost is a platform to power any sort of developer challenge - in person at hackathons, or online as a longer form competition. Brands like McDonalds and Coke have used the service, and many hackathons organziers lean on it as an event webpage. It preserves submissions, several hundred thousand projects are indexed currently.
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0:00 Brief overview of Neal's background
Mechanical Engineer at CMU
worked on engines at caterpillar
ended up in B school at NYU
0:48 - Brief overview of your ChallengePost
CP started as a competition platform
focused on building a community around hackers
CP is place for software developers and designers to show off their stuff
it powers registration, submissions, judging, sharing
Looking at CP’s data, you can check out each hackathon’s different set of sponsors - you can see the trends
2:45 - What does a dev evangelist do?
Evangelist’s main job is to keep hackers engaged
if they run into problems get them the help they need
regardless of your event’s location CP can help
4:18 - CP is a meta tool, what are unique challenges you have faced?
Civic Challenges are an interesting thing Neal has done work on that most evangelists never get into
Appquest is an example - ATT + NYC MTA
5:10 - What did you work on before you became a dev evangelist?
Got the opportunity to open - started up a plant in mexico
worked in adtech before as well
billboards are heavily regulated depending on the city you are in - LA they are prevalent, Seattle they are almost nonexistant and highly regulated
6:40 - How long has CP been running your Dev Evangelism program
have been operating for 5 years
about 2 years ago CP got involved in the hackathon scene
7:10 - what surprised you as part of this role?
Never expected to use facebook professionally was surprising
Hackathon Hackers FB group is a good resource
An Evangelist’s duty is to go where the community is
you have to be smart about which groups you are in and managing your notifications
PennApps project - tool to moderate the facebook feed - could not find in CP archives - please tweet me if you are familiar
10:44 - What is an API or product (not your own) that you love?
Textwrangler - does 80% of copywriting there
Cooking is a good metaphor for simplicity to other projects - instead of getting 100 tools, just get a good knife and a good pan.
Dev Evangelists need to be good writers - Neal does many copywriting projects - blog posts, wrap ups, marketing for a challenge, newsletters, etc
Evangelists can recycle your old content, link back to your old stuff - your new audience will never be the wiser - “evergreen content”
BufferApp is a good way to schedule posts
15:29 - What is your favorite hackathon format?
Competitive - pitch for big prizes (Salesforce, Disrupt, AT&T)
Collaborative - science fair expos, finalists demo (MLH)
what’s interesting about corporate hackathons
For evangelists corporate hackathon is almost the ultimate event
you can open the kimono very effectively
To do a good corporate hackathon, you need IP, problem statement, etc to be on point
Vooza spoof - contrary to what a lot of biz people think, hackathons are actually a lot of work
When leadership of a company is there, best results
19:05 - Tell me about a great event you’ve been to in the past year
it was different - a bit more than just a hackathon - it had more of a festival vibe
had a badge challenge - (similar to defcon badge challenge)
lounges - 3-4 different ones
darkroom - for sleeping :)
mini challenges by sponsors
just a solid mid-sized hackathon
23:20 - Throw a hackathon vs sponsor one - Which choice is better for a company who wants to get involved?
best thing is to sponsor one that’s organized by someone else - you should aim to be an incredible sponsor
put a lot of boots on the ground - be visible -
try to do a killer API session - optimize the developer experience -
soft tshirts are clutch :)
help regardless of the product - even if they aren’t using your stuff
26:10 - Throwing your own hackathon
do not outsource a hackathon!! - don’t get an intern to run it or bring someone in
Are you really ready to throw one? If you are …
hackathon.posthaven.com podcast is also :)
27:40 - Do you think hackathons will play a role in the future of education?
they are self directed - will be a great learning tool for students who have the internal motivation
opt-in at this point in the hackathon lifecycle
recognition and prizes - reward as many people as you can, versus rewarding a few high performers
hackathon seems to be a supplement to education, not a replacement
power of a hackathon is that it lets you quickly discover your strs, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, and to ship!
educators can absolutely use the hackathon model to supplement curriculum - you can’t force it, though
since they are viral, you need to be open to newbs and support learning
33:30 - Anything (product, API, idea) you want to plug?
Go to ChallengePost and create the portfolio - everyone wants to know what you are hacking on - gives you practice about talking about what you are doing
If you want to learn about an open source project - GitAtMe
PennApps winner which moderates FB comment spam - http://challengepost.com/software/mark-sweep
34:55 - Is there anything I forgot to ask that I should have?
Have seen a lot of accessibility related products - sign language, music, interpreters, etc - blurred lines between online and offline - this will continue to be a trend
@nealrs on twitter
- Go to a hackathon!