Nadworny: Hackathon Challenge

Print More

Recently, commentator and digital marketer Rich Nadworny spent one
Saturday afternoon reviewing how much creativity web programmers can
squeeze into 24 hours.

(Nadworny) In October MyWeb Grocer
sponsored another Vermont Hackathon in Winooski. For the second year in a
row, they invited Web programmers and developers to build something in
24 hours and offered some sizable checks as prizes. Once again, I had a
front row seat at the event with the honor and pleasure of acting as one
of the five judges who chose the winners.

Last year MyWebGrocer
asked participants to use MyWeb’s own code, which drives Web sites for
grocery stores across the U.S. This year, the challenge was to use open
data sources, mostly government sources, to build something, a Web site
or mobile app, that Vermont state institutions could use. Adding this
social element made the competition much more interesting.

thing that was different was that the teams, this year, included more
"non-programmers" like designers or marketers. The idea was that this
would make the final products more well-rounded and people, not
programming, focused.

At the end of the day, the 32 teams
presented their work. There were a lot of Brewery Tour apps. If you
didn’t know anything about our state, you might assume by looking at the
entries that Vermont had a major problem with people not being able to
find our local breweries. Maybe that is a problem for some, but not for

The winners, a group of current and former Draker Labs
employees, built a tool that visualized, over time, the locations of
businesses and showed, over time, when they started and closed. It was
very well designed and was something that the Agency of Commerce had
expressed a need for. Second place went to a team that built a site for
people attending town meetings. It allowed people to pull in key data,
like school budgets, class size and other town information, and to
compare that with other Vermont towns. It seemed like something that
would make people much more informed to make local decisions.

was hoping we’d see more data mashups, that is, putting two separate
data sources together into something surprising. Like mashing up the
Brewery maps with data on DUI arrests. That might be of interest to
anyone on the tour foolhardy enough to drink and drive. But then again,
with the most common routes to the breweries in hand, the state police
might nab more DUI drivers.

But getting back to the Hackthon, w
hile the lack of surprise might be result of the short time limits, I
think it’s something to pay attention to as we try to innovate our way
to a better future here in Vermont. People embrace inventions that solve
real problems by using unexpected combinations. When you see them, they
usually cause you to smack your forehead and say, "Why didn’t I think
of that."

The Hackathon was a great event for our Creative
Economy . It shows that we need more events like this and more practice
in training ourselves to be more creative in both our approach and our

Comments are closed.