5 reasons to hate hackathons

What’s not to love about hackathons, right? Well, here are a few things

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Hackathons are the greatest thing ever, right?

Image credit: flickr/Sebastiaan ter Burg

It seems like everyone these days is holding hackathons. Facebook just revamped their hackathons. The White House is now holding regular hackathons. Heck, my mom just called and said she’s holding a hackathon this weekend. Actually, she’s not, but, at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.

And why shouldn’t everybody be holding hackathons, anyways? They’re awesome, right? Get a bunch of smart programmers (and sometimes others) together for a day or a night (or both), break out the energy drinks and pizza, and let them hack away and come up with some brilliant new apps or products. It’s fun and productive for all involved, yes? Brilliant!

Except, maybe there are things about hackathons that aren’t so great. Maybe they aren’t the be-all and end-all. Maybe some people don’t enjoy them as much as others. 

Here are five reasons to not like - ok, to hate - hackathons:

1. Bad food

Hackathons that provide the aforementioned loads of soda, energy drinks or coffee, along with equally unhealthy (but, sure, tasty) pizza, candy and other kinds of junk food aren’t doing anybody any good. Sugar or caffeine overload, or even a food coma, isn’t optimal for doing your best work.

2. Lack of sleep

Like hackathons that serve junk food, ones that ask people to stay up and work all night, or well into the night, may not be welcome by all. Just like too much junk food, lack of sleep won’t help you to think more clearly or perform optimally. 

3. Too many men

It’s no shock that there aren’t nearly as many women as men at many hackathons as there are men. That’s obviously partially the result of there being more male programmers than female. But still, if you like a little chromosomal diversity in the people you’re working with for a short but intense period of time, a hackathon may not be for you.

4. Cheaters

The whole point of a hackathon is to come up with and develop an idea within the defined time period of the event. If people show up and present something they got a head start working on, it’s not fair to the others who didn’t (particularly if prizes are on the line). You know what they say about cheaters (hint: pumpkin eaters).

5. They’re not for introverts

Hackathons are social events, but not everybody is comfortable in those situations. Extroverts may love them, but introverts, not so much. Plus, not everybody loves working collaboratively in a group. Some people much prefer to noodle away on a problem on their own - and that’s not necessarily a bad thing

Of course, not all of these apply to all hackathons. They’re all created differently, and many people love them and find them very useful. But if you’re one who doesn’t, some of this may ring true. Are there other reasons to not love hackathons? Please share in the comments.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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