What’s a “hackathon” anyways?

It’s a rush! a blast! a buzz! a smash!
An inspiration! a sensation!
A real life celebration! caffeine!

Don’t sleep! trust me, you’ll see! it’s free!i

If you’ve any buddies who are brogrammers, you’re already familiar with the concept of a hackathon, but if you’ve never looked critically at the products of these substance-fueled flurries, you’d be amazed at their combination of impracticality and inapplicability in the marketplace. The results are things like heat maps of demographic data. I shit you not. So why all the fascination ? Why all the fuss ? What’s the big deal anyways ?

As recent experiments have brought to light,ii the point of your run-of-the-mill hackathon turns out not to be coding at all, despite the propaganda, at least not anymore than the point of go-karting or skiing with your office colleagues is about improving your lap times or cold tolerance. The point of a hackathon is – at least in the ESL world – team bonding, cohesion, and the development of the necessary glue that allows average people to agglomerate in physical workplacesiii Monday to Friday so that they can be told what to do and when to do it in a purportedly self-determined manner.iv

Obviously, these sorts of interpersonal forces have little direct value for self-determined and self-sufficient individuals who don’t spend their lives in co-working spaces, which is pretty much exactly why the latest Eulora “hackathon” fell on completely deaf ears. To no one’s great surprise, not even MP’s I suspect, and despite a generous 0.85 BTC up for grabs, there were exactly zero official entries during the two-day time period in which the competition was opened to the public.

Not for lack of readership was this result foreseeable but for lack of qualified readership was it so. English as a Single Language readers, even putting aside the notoriously tough skin needed to tolerate Trilema, are still too well fed and too busy chasing fake paper to bother showing up on time.v It’s as simple as that. And this isn’t news. They all want to make it as vloggers and vijazzlers, not engineers and innovators.

This therefore leaves a few things regarding hackathons apparent :

1. Hackathons are partiesvi
2. Hackathons aren’t immediately productivevii
3. Hackathons aren’t coding competitions and vice versa

Coding – as we know it today – is far more about survival than progress, and even Survivor, which famously offered $1 mn in cca 2000 bucks to the winner, only succeeded in selecting for a very specific kind of narcissistic idiot.

It should also be pointed out that personal invitations make all the difference in the world when targeting the self-determined.viii The scatter shot approach, as online advertising in general well demonstrates, is for the birds. And last I checked only old ladies in parks cared about feeding those.
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  1. If you’ve no friends in the field, you might be excused for thinking that a hackathon is a multi-person version of the funniest scene in Swordfish. It’s ok, that’s what the guys who actually do hackathons think it is too.
  2. The most notable of which was MP’s recent Eulora “hackathon“, which was ultimately little more than an inexpensive “I told you so” with a dash of “oh and fuck your dumb mother too” than an actual concerted effort to encourage bot development for the fledgling game. But guy’s gotta make lemonade, y’know ?
  3. Particularly, or perhaps even exclusively, those that snub hierarchy in favour of holacracy. The effort put into making unequals appear otherwise is astounding, isn’t it.
  4. Holcratic dictators call this process “nudging,” a term popularised by charlatan-davosist Cass Sunstein, and which is entirely exemplified by n=43 experiments that move the fruit basket to the checkout counter in the cafeteria in order to encourage healthy eating. I shit you not. 
  5. Lest you think I generalise against ESLers too hastily, go ahead falsify my theory! Please! What, you think I want to be right ?
  6. And you’re invited! Yes YOU!! No, there won’t be girls, but who needs the cootie risk ?  
  7. Though you could argue, if unconvincingly, that the long-term benefits of an improved collegiate atmosphere exist and may even be positively calculable.  
  8. Yes, those old things.

3 thoughts on “What’s a “hackathon” anyways?

  1. […] attempted to engage the wider community with a financed hackathon ; this attracted some commentary, as well as some effort, but ultimately fell short of achieving any of the stated objectives. […]

  2. […] yet vastly different in management styles – the contrast between the hands-on father and nudging mother is all too real, too profound, and too influential on the final products of both the […]

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