What is a hackathon?

Hackathons are events of a duration of 1-7 days (mostly at a weekend) at which software for a given topic is developed together (see also en.wikipedia: Hackathon). For this purpose, programmers, designers (graphic, interface etc.), people with special knowledge about the concrete requirements and organising ability are working together.

Random Hacks of Kindness, 2011, Berlin

Random Hacks of Kindness, 2011, Berlin

Proven concept

There are often hackathons for charity. An example are Random Hacks of Kindness hackathons, aiming at the development of apps and services that are of use during catastrophies and humanitarian missions. Another example are hackathons developing applications using open data from public sources for meaningful purposes for citizens (e. g. Apps for Democracy).

Useable results in short time …

Despite their short durations, hackathons normally impress with their results: working in effective teams for charity, usually not only during the day but also half the night, can move mountains! 

Random Hacks of Kindness, 2011, Berlin

Random Hacks of Kindness, 2011, Berlin

… if you get the right input

Sustainable, meaningful results of a hackathon depend mainly on the information about the requirements the programmers and designers got, allowing them to know exactly what is needed, e.g. what the app should be able to do. Therefore, a hackathon is usually preceded by a definition phase involving all those people who know the requirements best. In case of the refugee hackathon, these are refugees, refugee organisations, grass root initiatives, experienced volunteers, public authorities in charge of taking care of refugees and so on.

Exact definition of ideas

The ideas are described as precisely as possible and published bit by bit before the start of the hackathon (in this case in this blog), so that all those who are supposed to implement the ideas can already think about it, maybe form teams before the hackathon begins and then start right away. The final wishlist with concrete descriptions should be finished the day before the hackathon, the 23rd October 2015, during a workshop.

Mixed teams leading to success

Also during the hackathon itself, mixed teams are critical: to get best results, the teams should include people with professional expertise (refugee context), design expertise (for usability and visual appearance), architecture expertise (for the functional design of the applications) and programming expertise to achieve best results.

Random Hacks of Kindness, 2011, Berlin

Random Hacks of Kindness, 2011, Berlin

After the hackathon

After the event, some applications are ready to use, others lack some subtleties or have been designed only for one operating system so far (e.g. the app works on Android, but versions for iOS, WindowsPhone or other operating systems still have to be implemented). Each line of code written at a charity hackathon like this one is open source and will be available on GitHub. This allows developers to further work with it and add extra functionalities – maybe during a following refugee hackathon.