Lessons learned from APNIC’s first Hackathon

By on 23 Mar 2018

Categories: Tech matters, Events

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At the end of February 2018, APNIC held its very first Hackathon, co-located with the APRICOT 2018/APNIC 45 conference in Kathmandu, Nepal. Twenty-four participants, six females and eighteen males, from eight different economies got together and worked collaboratively on five different projects.

Learning from the best

As it was the first hackathon organized by APNIC, we wanted to involve people who have experience. APNIC was lucky to engage with Vesna Manojlovic from the RIPE NCC who has been nurturing hackathons in the RIPE community, as well as engaging with hacker spaces for a long time. Vesna flew in from Amsterdam and energetically helped us with ideas around ‘how to do it’ and keeping the groups focused and on task.

Breaking the ice

The Hackathon kicked off with a night start. When you bring together people who don’t know each other, it is usually hard to get them involved. So, we first had a round of introductions asking everyone to include a funny fact about themselves as an icebreaker. It was interesting to hear that we had a few singers, a poet and a dancer in the room. These skills could come in handy in stressful situations like having to wrap up when time runs out.

After the introductions, welcome presentation and Vesna’s presentation about RIPE ATLAS and other tools that could be used during the Hackathon, we encouraged the participants to share their project ideas. The three lead goals were to:

  • Keep it simple, and try not to ‘bite off more than you can chew’ in a problem. Get something working, let others add things after if you run out of time, and don’t try and solve all the problems in the space, all at once.
  • Secondly, don’t get caught up in a single phase and a single skill; play to the mix of competencies in your group and find ways to work in parallel, or at least cyclically without getting bogged down.
  • And last but not least, have fun! Do something that motivates you, interests you, and which you can see a purpose in.

Over some pizzas, the participants cheered up, lost their shyness and started sharing their ideas with their fellow diners. Food is always a good way of helping people open up.

After dinner, we did a second round of ideas-sharing and we wrote them down, listing the names of those who wanted to work on the different projects. We ended up with five quite well-distributed teams, working on ideas that were an interesting mix of eclectic and simple, serious and game-like.

Evaluation by the jury

According to the jury, the teams were a good mix, and everyone learned a lot. The evaluation made by the jury was based on the progress made towards the goals the team had, how much they learned, the benefits of the project for the community, how catchy the idea was, the quality of the team work, the cooperation with other teams and the quality of the results presentation. All the groups got some gifts, including stroopwaffels (Vesna made sure the hackathon tradition continued) and electronic gadgets, and were grateful for having the jury’s positive and negative feedback about their work, allowing them to get the most out of the activity

Not just concrete outcomes

The main goal of a hackathon is for the participants to experience the process of taking an idea out of the box, turning it around, and looking at how to develop something with it from the skills and resources available in the room. It’s a good experience for anyone: new entrants can learn some of the group dynamics that are a real force in rapid prototyping and product development, while old hands can re-engage with things without the heavyweight product assessment and project burdens they have in live deployment.

For most of the participants, this was their first hackathon and some of them were worried about not knowing what to do or not having coding skills, but they were pleasantly surprised by the friendly environment and the magic generated by everyone’s willingness to collaborate. They concluded the hackathon happy for having had this amazing experience (some of them even commenting that they fell in love with the idea of hackathons) and for having managed to create a synergy with their teammates, combining their skills with others and being able to come up with a great outcome. I think the nicest result is that there was no failure, because hackathons are about learning and sharing experiences, and everyone succeeded in doing so.

Apart from all the intangible outcomes like knowledge, shared experience, new friendships and funny anecdotes, the more concrete outcomes produced by the teams are listed below:

IPv6 Hack Team
  • Presentation of results

PokePrefix
  • Presentation of results

Telco Hackers (CDN ranking)
  • Presentation of results:

The Lord of IPv6
  • Presentation of results

Tunnel Vision, overcoming the tunnel addiction
  • Presentation of results

  • Repository with code generated [code to come]

We even had a member of the jury (Anurag Bhatia) learn something new about Facebook’s CDN. He ended up developing code to query all airport IATA codes and map all Facebook’s CDN nodes across the globe, and wrote a blog post about it.

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

4 Comments

  1. Farha Diba

    Heckathon is a fun! I am so fortunate to be a participant of APNIC IPv6 Heckathon! Thanks Sunny, the Jury, Sofia, Vesna and all the fellows of Heckathon. It was not only a contest, but also where we learn so many things regarding IPv6. Of curse meeting with different diversity of people was great!!!

    Reply
  2. Ziyam Abdeen

    Excellent Program learn plenty of challenges and how we can overcome those by doing proper research. Excellent Mentors whom guided and also motivated us until we reach our goal. These type of Hackathons will surely will build more tech research people to the industry. Thanks APNIC , all the mentors, Organizers and a special thanks to all the sponsors.

    Reply
  3. Subhashini Kadurugasyaya

    I am lucky to be a part of first APNIC hackathon event and it is really a great event.
    It guided us on teamwork and helped to combine the each and every individual skill into a common goal and to come with a successful outcome. Best thing is the team and the task both are new, and different skills, different community people with same interest get together here and its great experience how we work together understanding the everyone.

    Reply
  4. Thilina Pathirana

    Good Program APNIC. I was not a participant for this hackathon event, after reading the blog and after going through all slides that are shared, felt so bad for not participating in this. Great new skills and capabilities are tested on this event and glad those slides were shared. Hope the organizers did their job well by putting this in to action and like to congrats all who participated. Looking forward for another these kind of event.

    Reply

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