The hackathon, also called codefest, is a coding and programming event that brings together computer professionals and other interested people to improve or create a new program.
The word hackathon is from the word hack, which means a smart programmer, and a marathon, an event marked by endurance.
Concept of a hackathon
The concept of a hackathon, also called a hacker day or hacker festival, was born from the open source community. The first event, called the Hackathon, was the OpenBSD Hackathon in Calgary, Canada, June 4, 1999.
Today, engineering departments involved in programming use this practice as a way to introduce in-company training at the enterprise. Hackathons are sometimes undertaken to achieve a specific goal, but often they enable companies to implement ready-to-work and ready-to-work ideas in low-risk environments. Employees are given the freedom and support to collaborate with colleagues in other departments for a certain period of time and without the need to produce a viable product.
— Jay Corless, senior director of innovation at the U.N. Foundation
“In my view a hackathon plays a specific role within the larger ‘taking solutions to scale’ trajectory,” Jay Corless, senior director of innovation at the U.N. Foundation, told Devex. “Hackathons — as with much of the innovation movement — are being borrowed and translated to the development context, so there has been some trial and error. We often see hackathons used as idea iteration exercises, which I think is fine, but there are better ways to use them knowing what we know now.”
Some see the hackathon as a way to let development teams work on selected projects. Non-screeners see this as a meanness of the concept, given that the company owns the results of the work. Such critics cynically take hackathons as an easy way to get free work for developers on weekends or holidays.