Hackathons are a popular mechanism for bringing together developers in a creative environment to build something new. However, they are not universally loved. Alex Bayley discussed her reasons for not loving hackathons in a recent blog post.
Her reasoning covers some of the obvious points, such as the physical demands of a 24- or 48-hour event (Bayley is 39 years old). This also brings with it health concerns involving poor lighting, ventilation and diet, as well as excessive caffeine intake to stay awake for an unnatural number of hours. There are also serious time resources that must be invested in a hackathon with very little financial return, if any at all, for a project that is essentially a toy.
Age-related exclusions result from older potential participants often having too many real-world responsibilities to take part, but the exclusions seem to extend to gender as well. There has been a lot of talk recently about the gender imbalance in programming, and this gap is highlighted at intense technical events such as these.
It seems that a major problem with hackathons for Bayley is the evanescence of the projects, with very few, if any, showing any activity beyond the hackathon that spawned them. She would rather cultivate events with a more welcoming environment accommodating mixed skill levels with opportunities for learning and mentorship, maintained on ongoing projects over several years. Bayley holds a monthly get-together to support her main project, Growstuff. This event is bringing in regular contributors working on long-term projects of their choosing, and Bayley would like to set up a similar civic hackathon in her town.