Hacks/Hackers: Refugee hackathon

4-6 February 2016

A Lab, Amsterdam


How to get most out of a hackathon

While a hackathon can seem ad hoc, getting most out of it involves planning and managing the project carefully. This is a short guide to help you set up a good environment for collaboration before the hackathon starts and to manage the project well during it.


Digital collaboration

Like working together offline, digital collaboration needs to be structured. There are different applications that can help you do that. Because there isn’t much time during the hackathon, it is best to set up the structure that you prefere beforehand or at least be aware of the possibilities so that you and your team can quickly decide on a method together.



Everything happens quickly during a hackathon, and to make sense of what happened when it’s over, it is advised to get participants to document what they are doing while they are working. This can be done with for instance:


File sharing

Different participants will be working on the same documents during the hackathon. To avoid deleting someone elses work or not having the most recent version of a file, it is important to set up a good system for file sharing.

  • if your team consists of programmers and other people familiar with digital collaboration, the best tool to use is Git (https://github.com/).
  • Git requires some getting used to and some people find it hard to understand, especially in the short amount of time available, so if you expect to work with people that aren’t familiar with it: set up a different system. A Wiki could be used or, although not open source, Google Drive or Dropbox. Alternatively a shared external hard drive might work. Be aware in all these systems that you’ll have to make sure people are aware of the documents teammates are working on so that no conflicts between versions occur. This is something to discuss with your team.


Managing a hackathon project


Managing the project

Doing a hackathon is not just arriving and getting to work: someone needs to manage the project, divide roles and tasks. There are many ways of doing this, but a much used structure is called Srum, read up on it here: http://www.scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html. One of the most useful aspects of Scrum is the way it devides end goals into small goals that are quickly achievable.


In any case be aware that you might run into disagreements and it will be good to set up a structure to get out of these. For instance, define a project leader, who can make final decisions in case of disagreement.



To keep track of what needs to be done and who is doing what, set up an app like Taiga (https://taiga.io/), Kanboard (http://kanboard.net/), Wekan (https://wekan.io/), or non open source Trello (https://trello.com/). You can prepare some to-do’s that you know already to get the project started quickly.

And finally: prepare, familiarise yourself and test whatever you decide to use BEFORE the hackathon!