There have been a lot of technical hackathons over the past few years claiming to generate ideas to solve problems of the modern world and making it a better place. I would not like to present my views on the state of hackathons world wide because I certainly have not experienced those but in my career I have experienced a handful of them in India. I would like to bring them to light and majorly discuss why I am not ready to not attend one ever again. We will discuss major facts and figures in terms of an
expectation vs reality graph in order to visualize the details minutely.
Starting off with a rather controversial title, I would want to suggest that this post wont be a rant but a detailed explanation of my experience over the years. Hackathons are a major platform for a group of students to work on a product that targets at solving a modern problem. Solving a issue would essentially prove a team's worth of problem solving and even win them the prize money.
The hackathon is just a means to find a way for organizers to get the best solution and use them in their use case. I went in a hackathon organized by the government where an idea of online bus service was sold to a company who patented the application.
When you are selected for a big hackathon, and by "big" I mean those which are by the government, state, national or world wide, you normally would expect your solution(if selected) to be an end-product which would make a difference in the real world.
I wonder how many teams will be able to drive their products to reality in terms of production and marketing after the competition. Mostly, the teams are happy after a prize money and an entry in their resume.
We go to the competition hoping it's fair at least in terms of time limit. A 24 hour hackathon would essentially expect a team to solve something within 24 hours only.
Most hackathons expose their themes and problem statements before the competition where the teams come prepared with their products, an unfair means of competition. Also, most use modules already available on the internet.
Anybody would expect the judges to be focused more on the product than the presentation! Not nitpicking about
machine learning in a project, and should be aware of the fact that very few complex models can be trained overnight and most teams will use pre-trained models on the internet using APIs which is pretty easy. The correlation between a solution and the problem is what judges should be looking for.
In many of the hackathons I've been in, the teams try to make up their product with a good presentation at the end. And if you want to win in a hackathon, use machine learning just to beautify the project which doesn't add value either to the solution or the product.
I am not against any hackathons or competitions but to be honest, this is what I experienced. I would basically say that hackathons are mostly for the experience and community and a win or loss doesn't determine your worth. Thanks for the read.