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Virtual Hackathon Tips

Set up your challenge on the Hackfest

Thank you for choosing Hackfest to share your challenge – now we tell you how to set it up and maximise your participation on the Hackfest to ensure you get the most people taking part. Don’t panic though because you can go back and edit your challenge after you have set it up, including adding judges, additional prizes and extra pages.

1.    Adding a header image

This is vital to helping your challenge look professional. Ideally we need your image size to be 1680x240px to prevent tiling. Having a unique header image will allow your challenge to stand out from the rest but if you don’t want to create your own you can use one of our standard headers.

2.    Challenge logo

Creating a challenge logo is another great way of making your challenge stand out from the many others on the site and ensuring entrants remember you. This could either your company logo, or if you are feeling creative we’d also encourage creating a logo specific for the challenge you have set. Do choose a logo that will work well in a square format.

3.    Twitter hashtag

Once you have set up your challenge you will want to maximise your exposure on social media too – both before and during the hack so set a hashtag you want to be used and encourage people to use it. Start a conversation about your hack on Twitter and keep it going by interacting with your participants online – it’s a great way of keeping them engaged and getting additional exposure.

4.    Add some tags

Maximising exposure requires you to add tags to your challenge too – choose words that are relevant to the subject of your challenge that will allow your challenge to be better found in searches and which allows us to also suggest relevant challenges to the hackers on our database.

5.    Choosing and invite your judges

Choosing the correct judges for your challenge is almost as important as how you set the challenge itself. Ideally you want to choose from a pool of respected industry experts that your hackers will respect and admire. Not only does this help your challenge to look more professional but entrants will be keen to showcase their work to the people that they respect. Don’t forget you can choose anyone from those in relevant media to industry experts in their fields. Ideally you will need between two and five judges but remember not everyone may be available so have a longer wishlist to hand.

You can invite people you know by entering their email addresses and they will receive an invitation to join Hackfest or simply enter the username of people who already on Hackfest and they will be sent your request if they are available for judging.

6.    Set dates

Once you’ve set your challenge the next important step is setting the start and end dates (to the hour) for your challenge. All projects must be submitted  by the deadline and the project will be live as soon as you reach your start date meaning that you can set up challenges in advance of going live.  The length of your challenge will of course depend on the complexity of the project but as a guideline we would recommend between 3-6 months to allow time for people to sign up and discover your hack and to get to work.

7.    Setting prizes

Here the classic adage points makes prizes is truer than ever. Our scoring system means that the points on offer are as vital as the prize itself since this gives your entrants the chance to move up in the Hackfest league. Add points to every challenge that you set even if offer a cash prize as well. Prizes can be cash amounts or physical prizes – from small (such as mugs or t-shirts) to big (a car!). Remember the obvious point though – the better the prize the more entrants you are likely to attach. Try to make your prizes relevant to the type of challenge you are running through and your audience demographic. Uploading a photo of your prize  will make it standout even more to entrants in the listings. Please be aware though that you will be legally obligated to provide any prize you offer to the winning team and if you do not select a winning team within two months we may select one for you and you will still be obligated to provide the prize. You cannot remove prizes once the challenge has begun.

8.    Description

And finally is the chance to truly sell yourself. Use the wsywyg editor to enter details about your challenge and include general information about you and why you’re running the hack as well as what sort of outcomes you are looking for. If you are only running one brief it can be included in this section. If you have multiple ones give each its own page. You can then link to prizes on the homepage. In this section you can also introduce any evangelists mentors who will be helping with the challenge.


Once your challenge is setup you can add additional pages to it by visiting the challenge page. As a logged in creator of the challenge an extra menu appears in the left column of the site. Here you can click ”Add a new page”  which will give you a wsywyg editor with which you can add content for each page you need.

Pages we reccomend

9.    Brief

As we’ve already said if you have multiple briefs then put each one on a new page. You should explain your goals –such as connecting with developers, creating a community around something, a finished product or simply inspiration. Be detailed and interesting however – remember this is your chance to capture the hackers imagination and make your challenge be the one that they choose to enter. However remember to be realistic about what can be achieved in the timeframe you’ve set.

10.    Rules pages

This is where you have to get serious and set the rules for your challenge. Make sure you stick to them and create a standard set of rules that you clearly document before launching your challenge. Any amendments should be highlighted as early as possible but you can tailor the rules to the outcome you want.

11.    Judging Criteria

You will also need to explain your criteria for judging and how entrants will be assessed. Remember to include reference to technical achievement, innovation, how well it solves the problem and how well it meets the brief as an example.

12.    Interim deadlines

We will also be adding the functionality to the site to allow you to set interim deadlines. This function will allow you to request that certain tasks be done by a set time – allowing you to message people to remind them. The beauty of this function is that it allows you to maintain the momentum of your challenge, ensure people are heading in the right direction and that the interest in your challenge is maintained. You may also want to offer the chance of smaller interim prizes through this function in order to keep participants hooked.

13.    Submission requirements

Having set the challenge and explained your brief in this section you get to dictate your submission requirements. What are you trying to achieve? What files do you want to see and what is the level of completion you are after? Are you simply after proof of concept or a finished product. If it’s the latter please bear this in mind when setting both timescales and prizes for your challenge to ensure the adequate incentives are in place and that your challenge can, realistically, be achieved. You may want to provide examples, request a video demonstration or use a Github repository if the entry has a coding element.

14.    Supply any relevant data

You need to also ensure you supply the relevant data for your challenge – such as access and links to relevant APIs or SDKs that you want used in your challenge.

(Further) Useful Tips

15.    Ownership of hacks

It is usual and recommended that the rights to projects remain with the competitors since retaining the rights can put off entrants since a hacker community believes in open source. However you are free to, independently of Hackfest, negotiate with the entrants to work with, or buy the rights to, projects after the event and of course great prizes help too!

16.    Private challenges are available get in touch for more information (Enterprise)

By default all challenges on Hackfest are open to the public but an Enterprise challenge can...

a.    Be a platform for internal company hacks
b.    Run a closed challenge specifically for your employees or invited entrants
c.    Retain all rights to what is produced (if required)
d.    Challenge can be hidden from public (if required)

17.    Keep in regular contact

As we have already said it’s vital to keep in touch with participants to ensure that you retain their interest and enthusiasm. Provide regular updates, useful information, hints and tips etc- anything that makes contestants feel like they are truly part of a live challenge rather than a static event.

18.    Remind of deadlines

Reminding them of deadlines are a good way of doing this. Auto deadlines are 1 week and 1 day before deadline, but it’s also good to remind them of deadlines more often to keep them on their toes and to get them moving. Some of the best work comes from people under pressure so don’t be afraid to push – they will thank you for it! Remind them too that entries must be uploaded by the deadline to qualify – especially since you don’t want hackers to waste what may have been weeks or work simply because they ran out of time or forgot a deadline towards the end.

19.    Evangelists / mentors

We encourage you all to appoint evangelists and mentors to your challenge – these are experts who will be able to answer questions from entrants, provide help and support, oversee what’s going on and generally ensure projects are moving in the right direction. They will be a great tool for ensuring momentum is maintained.

20.    Getting sponsors

Getting sponsors for your challenge is also a great idea since it can help with costs, they can provide prizes, evangelists and advisors and help you promote your challenge to a wider audience too. We recommend that you approach companies relevant to the subject and any contacts you have in the relevant industry. You can link sponsors to particular prizes.

21.    Marketing your challenge

In order to maximise exposure you need to market your challenge too. Are there people / employees you want to invite? Use the system if you have an email address. You could also contact developer groups to let them know about your challenge, post an announcement to the blog or contact relevant bloggers to let them know what you are up to as well as posting in a sub-reddit group specific to your area.

22.    Follow up

And finally, once the challenge is complete make sure you follow up with entrants too to ensure that even those who didn’t win felt it was worthwhile taking part. Post a thankyou, message entrants and write blog posts to explain how the challenge went.