A while ago I wrote a post about my first hackathon experience at HacknRoll by NUSHackers. Just yesterday, I participated in Emirates Travel Hackathon, co-organized by Web In Travel (WIT). The experience this time was much more fulfilling than the previous. From the ideation to execution, there were key takeaways in every phase.

We built Big Brother, which aims to improve your travel experience by making use of beacon aided geo-locational marketing and gamification. It seemed like a good idea to everyone and up till now I still believe it is. Despite not winning anything in the end, the knowledge and experience we gained from this 24-hour was remarkable.

Here are a few of the takeaways from the Hackathon.

Start with the idea.

I think we spent two/three weeks in advance brainstorming for ideas and we didn’t really know what to do until three days before the actual hackathon. It was a great idea that we could all decide on, but we could’ve decided on it earlier. Having an early idea means more time for refining, rather than coming up with brand new ideas.

I’m pretty glad that we had Regina on our team, despite her not being a developer, since she contributed most of the ideas and design. If there’s one thing I should learn from her, it would be the ability to present and speak in front of an audience with such confidence.

Decide the technology stack based on the team’s capabilities.

We went with Android development initially, but switched to iOS at 2am because the Android app just wasn’t working as well as we wish it would. Half of the time (which was a day) was spent on making the Android app work, and it could have been a smoother experience if we went ahead with iOS from the start. We really didn’t expect Android development to be such a hassle, but at least we got a working iOS demo up and running.

Many times I found myself useless.

This happens all the time after I finished fixing a certain bug, or pushed a new feature out. I’ll be left wondering “what else can be done?” It’s pretty easy to run out of things to do, but at a hackathon, it’s a free learn-fest. I am consistently amused by the speed that I am able to learn at, and how much I can learn in 24-hours. The context of learning is also different since we apply the knowledge to practical situations on the spot. The learn-by-doing principle kicks in pretty fast.

Similar to army experiences, I tried to make myself useful. I recall this phrase which came into my mind when I ORD:

Even if the most ordinary of situations, some choose be extraordinary.

Go beyond and find more things to do. If there’s one thing that I regret not doing is realising this earlier on. I could have gotten more done over 24 hours. I spent at least half of the time trying to figure out how else I could contribute.

These are the three main takeaways that I had from the hackathon. Despite our team not winning anything, I still think it was an enriching and fulfilling event. Or as we put it, it was an undeserved loss. 😀 There’s just so much out there to learn and environments like these are very well catered to train the mind to learn, and learn fast.

Looking forward to the next (BattleHack Singapore), and many more hackathons ahead!

UPDATE: We actually won TripAdvisor’s API prize. Didn’t know that until the organizers sent us an email. Yay! 😀

Anyway, just another thought while on the bus today.

Ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again, fail better.

That pretty much concludes what I feel about this hackathon. Here’s a picture of the team without Yiwen.

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