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Hackathon Planning Guide 

Why Organize a Hackathon?

Because it's a fun way to contribute to your city, meet people and build relationships. We all care about the place where we live and your event will resonate with everyone in your city. People - from students to business owners and from NGO workers to the mayor - will be pleased that you are trying to help your community. Some might offer direct support. Others might contribute their time and effort. The hackathon is also an opportunity to learn about urban issues. Besides, it offers a chance to have hands-on experience with the latest technologies. Often people who meet at hackathons form groups and continue working on their projects and tackling the issue after the event. So your hackathon could set off a long-term innovation process.

Basic Guidelines

Each local organizer is responsible for the fundraising and logistics associated with hosting their local event. The organizer is also responsible for developing and maintaining relationships with local partners and sponsors; this includes publicity and the use of logos.

Overall Organization

The website of the Datafest serves as a general organizational and collaborative platform. Please check the other pages to find out more and feel free to ask questions. At the same time, organizers can use other tools to handle logistical details specific to their location. Similarly, we’ll be using Twitter hashtag #SmartCityHack to communicate globally. For the discussions specific to your location, please use a different hashtag.

The Logistics

The Venue
The place needs to be sufficiently large for the expected number of participants. The venue also must be available throughout the weekend and have a reliable electricity supply and adequate Internet access. Don't overlook the "low-tech" stuff: chairs, tables, extension cords, bathrooms. Ideally, you would have a large room for the opening ceremony and presentations. It's also good idea to check that the building is accessible on the weekends. An easy-to-reach location is a big plus. Hacker, maker and coworking spaces make for good venues. Once you've reserved the space, start preparing for the post-event logistics. Find out what the building requirements are and whether you you may need volunteers to help you with the clean up.

Food and Drinks
As a rule, hackathons offer 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and a dinner over the course of a weekend. A sufficient supply of snacks and beverages (especially caffeinated drinks) is important. Your participants will also appreciate fresh fruit, nuts and other healthy options.  An overnight supply of snacks and drinks for those who may stay up the entire night is a big plus. Consider approaching local businesses for sponsorship: They are interested in supporting the local community that supports them. Restaurants may be interested in donating meals in exchange for publicity that can generate more traffic for them. Retailers may likewise donate food and beverages and they can also help you bring in more sponsors, namely, those companies whose products they sell.

Electricity and Internet Access
Must haves include (a) A power strip per table and at least 1.5 plugs per participant, (b) sufficient bandwidth to allow everyone to be online at the same time, (c) adequate number of pre-set guest passwords for Wi-Fi if open access is not an option, (d) separate wired (fiber-optic) connectivity if you plan to live stream the event. It's a good idea to ask your participants to download as much data and tools as possible prior to the event. You can also offer datasets on USB drives. If possible, have Ethernet available at the desks in case Wi-Fi fails.

AV Equipment
The essentials include: a projector, a screen, a microphone and amplifiers, a camcorder, a camera, a laptop for presentations, a set of adapters for video outputs (HDMI, VGA, DVI, Thunderbolt, Mini DisplayPort). It's nice to have a videographer and photographer. Consider asking your participants to bring their own photo- and video cameras to capture the event and share the images on Picasa, Flickr, Youtube, Facebook and so on.

Miscellaneous Supplies
Your participants will also need USB drives, whiteboards (or large sheets of paper), pens, pencils, highlighters, markers., disposable utensils, beverage cups, plates and napkins, cleaning supplies, paper towels and garbage bags.

Suggestion & Observations

  • Participation: On average, around 50% of those who register tend to actually participate.
  • Teams: Mixed teams made up of subject matter experts and technologists tend to create better projects
  • Judges: Similarly, a mixed panel of judges, consisting of subject matter experts and technical specialists tends to provide a better evaluation of projects.
  • Presentations: Standard times for presentations are between 1 and 5 minutes. It’s a good idea to use a half-time visual signal to inform the presenters of the remaining time.
  • Prizes: A winning team needs be able to share the prize among its members.