Brandon's Blog

Salesforce has announced an event that they are positioning as a hackathon with a million dollar top prize. That sounds pretty cool, right? Show up with your laptop and your team and an idea, see who can make the best mobile app in a limited period of time, and try to win a million dollars!

But the rules allow any projects to be demoed as long as they have not been previously launched. In fact, they encourage working on something ahead of time.

“$1 million is going to bring out the best of the best. So don’t wait until Dreamforce, you’re going to want to get started now.”

That’s a demo day, not a hackathon. And you, the real hackers, aren’t going to win, because you’re not competing with other scrappy developers who are staying up all night scrambling to get their app working. You’re competing with funded startups and established businesses who can pour thousands of dollars and countless work hours into projects and then launch them at the event. And they will, because the amount of publicity that comes from winning the million dollar prize will undoubtedly be large.

This isn’t a hackathon. It’s a dog and pony show crafted purely for marketing and hype, and it hijacks the concept of a hackathon to achieve those goals. And that really sucks. It cheapens the idea of hackathons in general. To me, real hackathons are not about the prizes, although it’s fun to have something to show for your efforts. Hackathons are about the challenge, the learning, meeting new people, and being bold enough to demo your half-baked idea to a room of really smart people. They are an opportunity to push your limits and feel good about yourself.

If you disagree, that’s fine. Good luck at the Salesforce demo day and the TC Disrupt demo day events. I’ll see you at the genuine hackathons, with my fellow hackers.

Update: The rules do state “The application you or your team submits must:… have been developed solely as part of this Hackathon.” But according to Salesforce “the hackathon challenge begins today.”

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