Review: the app@night hackathon at LMU

Two days ago I wrote about the app@night hackathon at LMU Munich which I was about to participate in. There was no chance for me to write something in the meantime, so let me briefly sum up and discuss the last two and a half days.

First of all: there were a lot of interesting people, young students and hackers who wanted to get in touch with other people and new technologies, who wanted to code or to spend a fantastic and fun weekend. All these participants had been grouped into several tasks, e.g. Google Android Smartwatches or F24 Google Glass task. I don’t want to list up all of these as you can easily find out about them at the event website. Each task group has been further divided into groups of five students who should work together to use the given mobile technologies and fulfil a specific requirement. The students had different roles, corresponding to their sign up: hackers, designers and business people.

Our group had the chance to work with Google Glass, this new and absolutely beta wearable technology projecting Android views in your personal view. As Google Glass is not out for sale, it is quite difficult for students to get in touch with that new technology. The company F24 brought four devices with them so that we were able to put them on, to play with its functions and to connect them with our computers in order to programm our first applications and functions for a future technology. Furthermore, F24 gave us the task to create an application concept for some specific situation. As F24 is selling software to other companies, to banks, insurances and many more in order to prevent, avert and solve crisis situations (keyword: crisis management), we were told to build an application (as a concept or via coding) which would use Google Glass (and its advantages) to help people in crisis management.

Sounds great – was okay. As I had never been to a hackathon before, maybe I had some wrong imaginations about such events. I thought them to be much more about coding, about how to get in touch with the technology. The whole event was not restricted to computer scientists (and not every computer scientist is able to build up Android applications for an unknown device in a few hours), so I would have thought them to give a little bit more of advice and help. Or let us enough time to find out the solutions ourselves. Instead we spent most of our time to discuss about what a crisis might be (stumbling through several mental crises at the same time) and how Google Glass technology would be helpful in such a way that no smartphone, no other tool could fulfill that role. We managed to work out such an idea the first hours, threw it away, came up with several other ideas (none of it was good enough), went back and forth and finally came back to the beginning.

The planning of the whole event made the situation even worse. We spent many hours on Friday evening to think about the task, the company and possible solutions, but the first contact with those people from F24 was on Saturday morning. It would have been much better to get a short briefing right from the beginning, just to know what exactly you have to do. The same about all these other “scheduled lessons” like coaching or workshops: there was not much information about what these workshops would be, what we should learn or prepare and who would assist us. I guess the only information which came up quite reliable was times for lunch and dinner.

In the end our whole weekend was not about coding, but creating and presenting some concept business plan. Which is some nice task and definitely important! I had a course about how to create business plans last term and thought it to be really interesting. Nonetheless it was not the task I had expected when applying to a hackathon. Especially as the organisers themselves gave almost no information on their website or in their brief mails what to expect, what to prepare. Maybe all hackathons are like that. But personally I don’t think so.

All in all I had the chance to meet with other interesting people, lay my hands on Google Glass and have some thoughts about how to create functional and innovative apps for the future. Which is quite a good outcome, to be honest. A little bit more sleep between the daily sessions (I had 3 hours from Friday to Saturday which really was not enough for me) and a little bit more organisation and less thematic restrictions would have done better. But hey – it has been some experience. And I am really eager now for looking out for the next hackathon! 🙂