Yesterday, 11/9/2013, was the Microsoft Hackathon. The fact that this hackathon occurred just one week after the Intuit hackathon means that I can easily compare and contrast my experiences. I’ll start by talking about the nontechnical differences between the two (organizational, etc.), and then move into talking about the differences in my projects. I did not present at the Microsoft Hackathon.
Food-wise, the Microsoft Hackathon was slightly better. Intuit ran out of dinner, but Microsoft managed to keep it somewhat decent, even with certain individuals taking a lot of food back to their tables (thus causing a resource-allocation problem!).
Theme-wise, the Intuit Hackathon did a better job of communicating what they wanted. The theme was ‘As a student, I wish I could…’, which was fairly restrictive. For the Microsoft Hackathon, I felt that the only direction we got was that the goal was to make a windows App out of it. This is merely an observation of fact; there are benefits to both approaches. The first approach allows for a more direct competition (comparing apples to apples), and a comparison of different approaches to solving similar problems. The second approach allows for full creative license, and the opportunity to see some truly outrageous things.
As a side note, the restriction of the team members to one to two people by Microsoft really hurt this hackathon in my opinion. While people are very nice at UCSD, and willing to offer advice, part of having larger teams (3-4 people) allows for combining people of different backgrounds (perhaps one person that you know, and one person that you don’t), and allows for more interesting groups. The restriction to Windows platform hacks makes sense as this was a Microsoft AppHack, but I felt that this was a large problem, considering in the beginning even the provided Samsung tablets had problems, and the staff seemed rather confused about the whole scenario. Even though I think Microsoft had more technology problems overall, it was nice to see them handle the problems well. I was impressed with both aspects.