3 Tips for Hack Day Success

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Recently, I was fortunate enough to be part of a team that participated in NYC Game Hack Day. In ~24 hours we were able to produce World of Fourcraft. We describe it as Foursquare + Risk + WoW + NYC. If you’re interested, some very nice people wrote a bit more in-depth about it. Marketplace Tech Report was kind enough to do a brief radio interview with me about it too.

Having been through 5 hack days, I’ve started to see patterns that lead to hack day success. So without further ado, here are my “3 Tips for Hack Day Success.”

Build a Team

Yes, we all know that one is the loneliest number when it comes to love, but the same thing applies to hacking. The first two hack days I participated in I tried to do it alone… it’s safe to say the outcome of each was nothing to write home about. As I saw the other projects, I noticed the ones I was most interested in were built by a team (2 or more hackers). Whether you go with friends, or link up with new people at the event, building something as a team has many benefits. Not only can you get more done, but it’s also a lot more fun. You’ll be especially thankful for it when you hit that 4 am wall.

Make Friends

Hack day success is about more than just building a cool hack. It’s about becoming a better developer too. One key to becoming a better developer is talking to other developers. I’m a nerd, I can admit that. I also can admit that as a nerd sometimes I have an easier time talking to people on the internet than I do in real life. But at a hack day it’s not as hard as it sounds, just ask someone about the project they’re working on… At Game Hack Day Myles Recny went around General Assembly asking people this question and recording it. The results are here. I know that Myles made a lot of friends that day (definitely the World of Fourcraft team) and had a more successful hack day because of it.

Have Fun!

After GroupMe’s hack day success there has been increasing buzz about the potential of turning a hack day project into a real startup. Is it possible? Definitely. Is it likely? Definitely not. If you’re going into a hack day just trying to create a business you’re probably going to be disappointed. Hack days are about having fun! You get a chance to challenge yourself and build something that you would probably never build outside of the context of the hack day (prior to Game Hack Day none of the World of Fourcraft team had ever launched a game). I’ve also seen a direct correlation between how much fun a hack day team had with their project and how well it is received by the crowd. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Do you have have a hack day tip that I missed? Think I’m totally wrong about something? Drop some knowledge in the comments. And remember, EDU Hack Day is just around the corner.