The Road to Hack Manchester

What is Hack Manchester?

It’s a 24 hour coding competition located in Manchester that started in 2012. This year (as it was last year) it’s held at the Museum of Science and Industry and is on the 26th and 27th of October 2013 to kick off 2013’s Manchester Science Festival. Props to @ruby_gem and @theallseeingpie for their hard work in organising such a great coding event.

Hackathons

Getting top developers working and collaborating together on innovative web and/or mobile apps is always going to produce great results, make it into a competition and the results are even better :). I used to contract at NICE in Manchester where they’d have hack days for the dev team within the organisation to drive forward creativity and new ideas. It’s a fantastic way to work and there should be more of them.

Winning in 2012

If you know me, I’ve probably mentioned once or twice (more?) about winning the 2012 Thoughtworks Hack Manchester challenge. My team developed an interactive “What’s On” app for the Museum of Science and Industry. The app had interactive map animations, the ability to find your current location within any of the museums buildings and showcased Google Calendar powered events. Users of the app were able to find events occurring at locations around the museum and create a personal “day planner”. There’s a video here if you’re interested.

The team is back

I’m not Justin Lee Collins but I’ve brought the team back together. Myself, @edhiley and @ryansroberts have thrown some preliminary ideas in the pot and we’re waiting for all the sponsor APIs to be announced.

Lessons learnt

We learnt some things from last year that I’m happy to share with you:

  • Idea planning. Don’t do any coding before the day (it’s against the rules) but having some ideas of what you’re going to code and reading any documentation before hand will save you time (and fighting) on the day.
  • Have your tool chain / dev environment ready. Last year one of our team members tried to download xcode right at the start of the coding session.
  • Be realistic about what you’re building. Time flies, it’ll be 4am before you know it and you don’t want to add extra stress to the caffeine + no sleep equation. Make sure you’re realistic about what you can achieve, review this constantly and have contingency plans.
  • Know the sponsors. If you’re using a sponsors API, it’s crucial that you have a relationship with them if you’re going to need help. It’ll save you time and they’ll be excited to see what you’re doing.
  • Have breaks and enjoy it. We found that coming back to things after a short break made us more productive. Fortunately the nice guys at Hack Manchester organise food and snacks etc for you. It’s your free time, take the time to meet other people and find out what they’re up to. I always meet great people at hack events.

Tickets

Tickets for Hack Manchester 2013 went on sale yesterday and were selling pretty fast. I scooped up 3 tickets for my team, if you missed your chance to get yours there will be other opportunities, so I suggest following @HackManchester on twitter to find out when the next wave will be released.

Shhhh

I’ll probably not be discussing any preliminary hack ideas here, but I like Guinness and if you’re around Manchester…