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10 Useful Things We Have Learned From 2GIS Hackathon

On last February weekend, a small but very brave Enterra developers’ team took its path to the neighboring Novosibirsk city where the first 2GIS hackathon was to start. 2GIS is a major Russian city mapping company providing desktop and mobile maps for all the country.

Important notice: the initiative was the team’s own. There were three code masters: Vitaly Basov, Ilya Tretyakov, and Sergey Otmorsky. Marketing manager Ekaterina Nebogina helped them to make a project unique, put it in the front of the jury, and overall was an ideal ambassador of the “Lost” (that’s the name of our application).

From Friday night and to Sunday dusk, our team was coding, designing and fixing with almost no breaks – and finally, they’ve realized the very touching idea of an application. “Lost” (“Poteryashka” in Russian) is intended to help people find their lost pets in a big city.

Coding with Polkan
Coding under Polkan’s guidance. Who’s Polkan – read further. Photo by Ekaterina Nebogina

Every 2GIS website visitor might vote for the apps ideas and the expert jury evaluated each project. The evaluation was complex: technology, value for the users, business idea potential, UX quality.

Our team’s project has received a special prize from the Vector institute – free city projects creation learning course. In addition, we had the maximum number of likes at the website – guess we have found the idea that needs to be realized, according to the people. Moreover, the hackathon experience was so valuable that we could not stand to share.

So, what we have learned from our first hackathon?

  1. A team work under a single project with a strong deadline is very cool and inspiring if doesn’t last too long. The developers that usually work in the different office rooms and have multiple tasks to complete, get their second and even third breathe when their actions are completely synchronized. The ability to turn to a colleague, knowing he is doing exactly the same thing as you and this thing only, significantly increases the overall team productivity.
  2. The faster the jury and the competitors remember you and your project the better. It gives a chance to get closer experts attention. Make a project pitch bright, clear and powerful. Our project was very recognizable and easy to remember. We started a pitch with the intrigue: “Hello, I’m Lost”; named ourselves as “Lost” on the badges instead of usual “Designer” or “Senior Developer”; brought a team mascot – plush Polkan. The code is crucial but without a branding and a presentation, it is nearly useless.
    Ekaterina makes a project pitch
    Here Ekaterina Nebogina makes an unforgettable project pitch. Photo by organizers.
  3. The project idea gives you only 10% of success. It might be stolen. Someone may find the same idea while you are waiting for the right moment. 90% of success and a fast and quality idea realization.
  4. You need to have a great domain name. The great domain name is vital!
  5. Never miss a chance to discuss your idea with an appropriate expert. We have come to the hackathon with a very clear idea of what to do, but after consulting, we have taken a different approach. The initial idea was technically interesting but it would fail in user experience, and our advisors had reasonable arguments why.
    Discussing Lost with the experts
    Olga Polischuk from Vector institute helps us to look at the app as a project for the urban society, not as a technologic challenge. Photo by organizers.
  6. In Novosibirsk, they say API as Api. Learn local developers slang!
  7. Don’t even go to the hackathon if your idea is not original. We were sharply critical during our own ideas assessment and excluded every one that had something similar done yet. At the end, the prizes went to the teams that had offered unique projects, with no analogs.
  8. Get ready not to sleep or sleep a little. We took about 2-3 hours of rest each. Most of the teams were at work for 24 hours a day: when one went to sleep, the other one came back to coding. It is an extreme schedule – but also a way to get the maximum of productivity. Just remember not to do it for too long, or you’ll end up the most productive developer in the hospital.
  9. The visual project realization has the same value as the technological one. If something is not working but there’s an attractive patch for it – that does not downgrade the assessment result. Some people wouldn’t even notice the missing functionality.
  10. To change MacBook layout during the presentation, you need five developers.

Are we ready for another hackathon? Ask in a week, when we’ll finally get enough sleep. Well, most probably yes. Hacktahon is an unusual experience wakes up hidden developing reserves and helps to evaluate your own skills from an unexpected and a new viewpoint.

So we do recommend it. And thanks to 2GIS for great hackathon organization, tasty dinners, and cookies.

You know, the tastiest cookies are those that you gain by the hard coding.

Yummy!

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