Twenty hours of non-stop hacking. Coders locked in a space, dead focused on their projects, smelling like Red Bull by the end of it. That was the situation on the wee hours of 31 July at HackWeekend, where 60 of KL’s best programmers challenged themselves to deliver a product in one overnight session at The New Straits Times office in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

We got Brian Ritchie, who was there from the start until the tiring finish to give us his take on what HackWeekend was all about.

HackWeekend started out as a concept purely to scratch an itch that we as Malaysian techies had. The local scene was bustling with energy and passion but there wasn’t an event that was able to collectively harness all this potential under one roof. This became the underlying foundation that powered the event. Hackweekend went from zero to reality in under two months thanks to a very diverse team of ten and it took a lot of back and forth between all of us especially with regards to ensuring the quality of the event not only for the sponsors but for the participants as well.

In order to make this happen, we needed to define rules that would ensure we got the correct people under one roof. People with a drive to execute, a drive to begin and actually finish. Thus we set up the only two rules for Hackweekend, which was, 1) No assholes/Only awesome people and 2) No Powerpoint Presentations.

Everyone had to have a working prototype at the end of the event. This helped set the mindset of participants who applied or were invited and functioned as a deterrent for those who were half-hearted or not serious enough and prevented them from applying to begin with. Suffice to say, this model, which was one of the first ever done in Malaysia, worked very well to our advantage.

Programmers hard at work in the wee small hours of the morning. Photo courtesy of HackWeekend.

The other key thing that HackWeekend emphasized very strongly which differed from most other hackathons was that, we insisted that the teams where possible, consists not only of hardcore developers but instead, also include top notch designers, and idea generators. The results completely blew our minds.

Teams that adapted this model produced more all rounded applications that looked extremely polished due to the parallel work between all parties. Most of those invited who came to Demo Day was taken aback by the apps and the fact that they could instantly sign on and start interacting with them as the Demo was taking place.

Some applications wowed the sponsors and invitees so much that they got funded within one week of Demo Day with numbers amounting up-to RM1 million — among them was Workpad, an online work distribution and collaboration application that breaks down projects into programming tasks that programmers can bid on, with a small gaming element to it. As people take on and successfully deliver on more projects, their warrior avatar on the site is upgraded and gains access to more skilled projects.

All of these achievements were added upon the fact that everyone who participated in Hackweekend had a blast. Having constant food that was not good but great, a masseuse to de-stress, and constant checkpoints with the participants ensured that everyone was at a hundred percent and was able to give us their best and thus allowing their skills to shine through.

Gathering all of this was equivalent to running a really successful AB-Test on Hackathons in Malaysia and tabulating the results gave us a rush like no other. As organizers, our only issue right now is, how do we make the next one significantly more awesome and, we have ideas. Tonnes of them.

South East Asia, here we come.

Those who are interested in applying to be in future HackWeekends may do so here.