iOS Dev Scout began with a dream to bring all the iOS developers in Singapore together. We wanted interactions, updates about iOS technologies and tools, and hacking sessions together to build great iOS apps.
Started just six months ago by us (Subh, Michael and Mugunth), the Hackathon was the first of such a big event that we ever organized other than our monthly meetups. Sayanee and Chinmay joined the team to help us in organizing and promoting the event.
During the organization process, we made connections with many developers (both iOS and from other programming languages) and picked up valuable advice on how to organise fruitful hackathons whereby participants not only learn, but also meet new friends in the developer world while most importantly, having fun. We were honestly dead tired when we went home after the hackathon, but looking back every minute of it was worth it!
Below are our individual experiences, development as well as feedback that we’ve gained throughout this organisation process. We hope other teams who want to have such a similar event will also benefit from this post.
Running the Hackathon
Keep it small and simple the first time. Our aim was a tight number of a cosy 50 participants, with little budget. However, as the demand increased, we expanded the capacity to 70 participants.
During iOS Dev Scout
We wanted to encourage young students and people who don’t have prior experience of iOS or Objective-C to pick-up the technology and build something over 24 hours. Hence, we started our day with few basic iOS and Obj-C tutorial sessions. We had close to six coaches who helped the participants whenever they were stuck.
In the true spirit of motivating developers to learn, break and make great iOS apps, we purposefully did not keep any prize money for this. However, we rewarded a few teams and individuals with Amazon Gift Cards who showcased remarkable attitude and built great apps within 24 hours.
The organizer’s favorites were Alan’s Shadow that was done by a group of NUS students and Thumbatar developed by Daniel, Elisha and Akira. We also had a wonder kid Yan, a polytechnic student, who picked up iOS on the same day and built a working twitter client in 24 hours. Almost all the teams have plans to launch their apps on AppStore after small modifications. We have planned to get developer certificate for the group to encourage more developers. The complete list of notables is available on our blog: http://iosdevscout.com/an-awesome-hackathon
Get a good venue with ample lighting, access to fresh air and wifi and power! The venue was awesome for us and this was important in order to have a conducive environment.
Make a schedule and announce it to the participants before the event. In this way, we had the flexibility of arranging timeslots for mentors and coaches to come in and also pace the teams to do their progressive Show & Tell
Organise fun activities right in the middle of the night. The programmers not only had a breather from their coding, but also fresh air and huge laughter playing some simple games and stretching and messages for them!
Have plenty of fruits and drinks. We bought plenty of drinks and fruits as snacks for our programmers and that gave them boosted energy throughout the hackathon.
Have a realistic view of the attrition rates. We tracked it through our pre-hackathon survey and got an approximate estimation about the amount of food we need to order for supper and breakfast.
Have progressive show & tell throughout. We had multiple show and tell throughout the event. That not only gave confidence to the participants but helped them to track their progress. Yabber was one such team who pivoted their idea after the first show and tell.
Code together in one big hall. We took extra effort to setup the venue to accommodate everyone in one big room. We had all our demo, show and tell and announcements in that room. The coaches were always available to help the participants. We had more interaction and collaboration. And the idea of coding together in one big hall really worked.
Our next steps for iOS Dev Scout
We noticed a huge demand for learning iOS and Objective C. Thus, we will organize multiple workshops in the future that will be a launchpad for developers who are willing to learn iOS and Objetive-C basics. We will continue with our monthly meetups and coffee break sessions to engage interaction between our group members. The next Hackathon would probably be held in the next 6 months.