Open-Source Hackathon Patterns: First Cut

This is my first cut at identifying process/organisational patterns we’ve used and evolved for running hackathons at Osmosoft. Many are regular agile patterns, specialised for the Osmosoft-style hackathon context.

I described one particular hackathon in detail a few months ago. We’ve done about half a dozen of them now,for a range of different customers, with requisite navel-gazing in between the events, so we have begun to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully, these patterns will help to broaden the conversation and help us further evolve our practices.

Preparation Patterns

  • Skeleton Project – A live skeleton project is prepared before the event.
  • Functional Plugin – Certain generic plugins required for the hackathon should be identified and built, if time permits.
  • User Stories – Team and customers agree on user stories, with priorities.
  • Fixed Duration – Team and customers agree upfront on finishing time.
  • Customer Agreement – Customers agree on their obligations and expectations.

Development Patterns

  • Open-Source Code – The hackathon develops open-source code, to be placed in a public repository throughout the day (proprietary features can be integrated via plugins and configuration at a later date).
  • Continuous Integration – Everyone checks into the central repo and builds/tests on their local machine.
  • Public Instance – An instance, continuously built from the repository, is available to the customer (speculative).
  • Dedicated Integrator – One developer supports code integration and continuous integration, instead of developing to user stories.
  • Customer Liason – One developer is primarily responsible for engaging with customers before, during, and after the hackathon.
  • Stand-Up Meetings – Periodic stand-up meetings throughout the day, with each meeting deciding the time for the next meeting.

Post-Development Patterns

  • Walkthrough – Developers walk through final product Screencast – Final product is captured as a screencast, to be published online.

3 thoughts on Open-Source Hackathon Patterns: First Cut

  1. I think your experiences with these hackathons are pretty interesting, as with most of your blog posts.

    I’m somewhat turned off by the lack of formatting in your posts, however – that enumeration of patterns looks like a stream of thought exercise. Making it a bulleted list or whatever would make the post much more readable.

  2. Thanks Arne. I fixed the formatting here. Inspired by my Posterous blog, I set up inbound email for this blog too, and sometimes I “fire-and-forget” without noticing formatting problems when I do a cursory check later on.

    Posterous makes it easy to just write what’s on your mind, in an email. WordPress, even with Markdown, makes it tough.

    I’m not aware it’s happened elsewhere, but it’s possible as I’ve been doing more of these posts via inbound email lately.

  3. Super! Much easier on the eye, and a more useful post, to me at least. Thanks for listening 😉

    Having a dedicated integrator sounds like a great thing, but I’d hate to have that task for any stretch of time. Merging my own changes around is troublesome enough.

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