I'm writing this the week after TADHack finished, and all the prizes have been
cashed. However, all these thoughts were had during the hackathon itself, before even
the local prizes were announced, so the results have not coloured or bias my
Things that were good
- Sponsors had thought about what a hackathon entails. That is, empowering hackers
to use their tech to do interesting and creative things. This means that we didn't
need to spend Saturday morning writing a Node library, reverse engineering a broken Swagger file,
or re-inventing some other necessary tooling, before we can write the obligatory "Hello
SMS" code. (On the down-side, there was no easy money to be made by doing so!)
The docs were, on the whole, better this yearas it looks like the PMs are realising that
documentation needs to be treated with the same respect as the (code) product
The chat and support channels were staffed. This might seem strange to mention, but on previous years there have been
sponsors who simply neglected to turn up. (I really don't
understand that!) A remote hackathon will never have the immediacy of a real-world event, so
knowing that support is on-hand makes things a lot better.
- New sponsors arrived to throw their tech (and money!) into the mix. This is a sign
that the field is not stagnating, and innovation is still possible at the
It produced some wonderful hacks, including ones where sponsor code was being
fixed, improved, and given back to the community during the event.
And finally, it's still going! For many folk, comms is not an attractive technology, and
doing a hackathon in lockdown is not necessarily the best way to spend a weekend.
But Alan and the organisers have put in the effort to make it happen, and were rewarded with
over 1,000 sign-ups, so I'm hopefully for more events.
The less good
- Some sponsors are still a little tone deaf. Hackers want docs, examples, and
immediate gratification from their tech. So not sharing details about your product
ahead of time, or requiring onboarding phone calls, are going to limit the uptake.
(I'm sure sponsors could write great docs, or make videos, in the time it takes to have ten, 30
minute, identical conversations.) At least those devs are rewarded for that time and
effort by being very likely to win a prize.
As a collorary to the above, some consider the attendees as invisible, since they'll
send emails the week after asking "can we help you get started" having not realised
that they're emailing the folk who have already started using it, entered TADHack with it,
finished using it, and (in some cases) already won their prize!
The telecoms tech stack is become increasingly involved (notably with tools like Symbl.ai) making it
more difficult to work on the software, as opposed to with it. Consequently, anyone
looking for a job in the field might find themselves out of luck. (FWIW, I've created 12 prize-winning
hacks over the years, and not even been offered a job!)
It was mostly remote. Nuff said.
Do it for the fun! You get to mess with tech and APIs you never normally would. It
won't necessarily get you a job with the sponsors (see above) but it's a nice CV
booster, and a way to focus your skills.
Do it for the future! Hackathons are better in a venue, period. Even if you work
alone, or in a predetermined team, just having other hackers around to talk with
over crisps/beer/cola is a wonderful experience. So, to ensure TADHack can continue
to exist for another year, and return to physical meetings, it needs our support.
Do it for the lulz! The field might appear large, and full of experienced hackers,
but that doesn't exclude a good idea, and a keenness to experiment, from winning.
One of our team's little projects managed to win out over those by professional telecoms
engineers! And if I can do it - anone can!
This started out as my worst experience, but quickly became the best.
Worst, because I couldn't spend any time in the preceding week(s) investigating the tech. So everything was
an uphill struggle. In fact, even at the half way stage, the only code that worked was a hacked sample to send
and receive SMS! That's so elementry that it's not even worthy of being called a "hack"
And best, because our team won both a local prize, and a global prize, becoming the overall
winner in terms of prize money won.