Mobile 2.0’s Hackathon – A great place to scout developers?

Feb 29, 2012
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Coming up in a week is Mobile2.0, the two-day Paris conference dedicated entirely to mobile. In addition to speakers, fireside chats, and the Appawards – a contest which has already closed and which will present 12 mobile applications with awards and prized – there is, indeed, a mobile hackathon. Throughout the 48 hours of the event, mobile developers will gather to hack some apps, primarily on Windows Phone and Android, according to the event website.

ALERT! ALERT! THIS IS NOT A PLACE TO FIND DEVELOPERS!

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself “oh, maybe i’ll grab an amazing mobile developer here – I’ll just see who wins and approach them with my amazing idea, my Next Big Thing (spoiler alert: it’s a social network for lost socks). Nevermind the fact that you shouldn’t develope your idea before your go searching for someone to build it for you (unless you want to pay them a full salary), let me tell you why this Hackathon (which will be pretty exciting, actually) is not the place to go farming for talent:

The Rule of 48-hour Thumb: Nothing mind-blowing can be developed in 48 hours. Unless you are turned on by very scalable and lightweight architecture, anything that you see as a result of a hackathon will most likely lead you to think that there are no good developers left in the world. The fact of the matter is, 48 hours is enough time to maybe create the shell of an idea, if you’re really passionate about it – so, unless someone “copied” your idea (don’t worry, you had it first – and that’s what counts), you probably won’t be falling in love with anything you see.

If you were talented, would you hack for 48 hours for free? The concept that biz guys tend to overlook is that good developers aren’t going to hackathons, just like good biz guys aren’t looking for developers – they’re already developing and they’ve already found their developers, respectively. That seems like a paradox – if you aren’t doing it now you’ll never do it – but it seems to hold that if you are fixed on an idea and have not developed your network before your idea, your chance of recruiting the highest quality talent diminishes. But then again, maybe you don’t need the best developer, maybe you just need a developer.

The real point is: talent-hunting isn’t why you go to a hackathon

It’s the same reason developers don’t go looking for their MBA CEO at StartupWeekend (or at least, they really shouldn’t be doing that) – the fact of the matter is, these events are for fun, and rarely is fun also immediately and easily profitable. Developers love developing, and they are likely to create something they know isn’t profitable, but think is a fun experiment – whether to test a new toolkit, improve their skills in a programming language: think of them as digital biologists. The reason you should go to the Mobile 2.0 Hackathon, and other hackathons, is for the same reason you might go to someone’s laboratory – you might just see something blow up.