[@OKau] After the hackathon: 4 classic recipes

Steve Bennett stevage at gmail.com
Thu Apr 23 13:22:22 UTC 2015

Hi all,
  I've been thinking for a while about the potential directions that a
GovHack hack can go (or not) after the event, and have finally written it


In the interests of easy reading and commenting I'll paste the text here
for discussion. (Obviously this version will be out of date if I have to
fix something...)

Hopefully more clarity around the different directions available to hacks
will lead to greater action?


Everyone loves hackathons. And almost as much, everyone loves asking “but
what happens to the projects afterwards?
There’s more than one route to follow. I’d like to propose four standard
recipes we can use to describe the prospects of each project.
#1: Start-up

The creators of the could form a business. The developers work very hard to
polish up what they’ve written until it’s a viable product ready for the
marketplace, and then try to build a start-up around it while probably
looking for external funding.
[image: Snap Send Solve - hackathon to start-up success story]

Snap Send Solve <http://www.snapsendsolve.com/>– hackathon to start-up
success story

This kind of result is very desirable for hackathon organisers because
there is such a clear story of benefits and outcomes: “a few thousand
dollars of sponsorship paid for a weekend hackathon which led to this $50
million start-up which makes the app your grandma uses, which is great for
the economy”.

*Ingredients required*: Start-up mentors, entrepreneurs, a business focus
from the get-go
#2: Government app
[image: OpenBinMap.org - a government app in waiting?]

OpenBinMap.org – a government app in waiting?

If you make an interesting and useful app with a government body’s data,
then maybe they’d like to take it on board. They might use the code base,
but it’s probably better to use the concept and vision and write the code
from scratch. Imagination isn’t a government strong suit, but once they see
something they like, they’re pretty good at saying “we need one of those”.

This also doesn’t seem to happen very often, but can we try harder? We
should follow GovHack up with serious discussions between hack developers
and the government bodies that sponsored them. Following my cheeky “
CanIBoatHere.com <http://caniboathere.com/>” category winner last year, I
did meet with Transport Safety Victoria, but didn’t really have the time or
motivation to pursue it. But they were very keen, so why couldn’t we have
made it work? Similarly, there was potentially money available from the
Victorian Technology Innovation Fund to support GovHack projects, but no
clear process meant that months of fumbling through paperwork might
eventually lead to nothing. Not so appealing to developers.

*Ingredients needed: *A solid process, government/developer wranglers,
pre-commitment to funding.
#3: Community project
[image: Eventable would make a great community project.]

make a great community project.

If a hack is interesting and important enough to other developers, could
it become a self-sustaining open source project? The idea seems plausible,
but I don’t know if I’ve seen it happen. The major blockers are the hackish
quality of the code itself which typically would require a major rewrite,
and the sense that the weekend was fun, and this would be a lot of work.
Hacks are a kind of showy facade. Once developers sit down to talk
seriously about onward development, all kinds of serious difficulties start
to emerge. And between the end of the weekend and the announcement of
prizes a lot of momentum gets lost which can be hard to start up again.

*Ingredients needed:* Post-hackathon events to explore projects and
establish communities.
#4: Story
[image: Living, Breathing Melbourne - still just a story.]

Living, Breathing Melbourne – still just a story.

And finally, let’s acknowledge that the most important part of many hacks
is their potential as an interesting story in their own right. Anthony
Mockler’s GovHack 2012 entry “Is your Pollie Smarter than a Fith Grader”
isn’t a failure because it didn’t lead to a start up – it was a great story
that captured a lot of attention. My team’s 2014 entry “Living, Breathing
Melbourne <http://melbourne.yuri.io/>” has been frequently referred to as a
model for actual open data dashboards, even though we didn’t develop it
further. We should try to extract as much value as possible from these
stories, and preserve their essence, even if only in screenshots and blog

*Ingredients needed*: Story tellers, blog posts, active engagement with
In summary

Let’s think of these different paths early on when discussing projects:
“This would make a great *community project*“, “I don’t see this going
anywhere, but let’s get the *story* out”, “It would be a shame if the
department doesn’t take this on as a *government app*“. And don’t write off
a hack just because it didn’t fit into the mould you were thinking of.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/okfn-au/attachments/20150423/f543042f/attachment-0003.html>

More information about the okfn-au mailing list