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Programming The Almighty Buck

Preventing Cheating At Hackathons 104

theodp writes "The fist rule of Hackathon Club is don't talk about Hackathon Club cheating. But ever-increasing stakes — the MHacks Hackathon at the Univ. of Michigan is offering over $30,000 in prizes — prompts Kevin Conley to broach the subject, suggesting it's time for some common-sense measures — including showing one's code or reducing prize money — to discourage Hackathon ruses, which can include pre-coding, faked live demos/videos, and the use of remote teammates."
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Preventing Cheating At Hackathons

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  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:22AM (#44863619)

    Complaining people are hacking the rules of a hackathon is a supreme irony. You're taking people who thrive on the idea of bending and breaking rules and trying to shove them in boxes and demand they follow your rules. That's rich. You clearly haven't met many hackers.

    Rather than bitching about "cheating", why not just issue the challenge and leave it at that. First one in wins, the end. No rules, no restrictions... and may the best person win. Or group. Or sentient AI. This is how hacking truly works -- it's all about finding novel solutions. It's about seeing how fast you can do it, how much skill you can bring to the table, how elegant the solution is... but at the end of the day, the only real judge is whether you passed the goal post. Few people anymore care about why or how... that's something to talk about after, as you bask in the glory of having done the impossible.

  • by themushroom ( 197365 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:30AM (#44863699) Homepage

    Hacking in and of itself is cheating. So if you can cheat at cheating, you're doing it right -- you're smarter than the beast you're facing.

  • by Phoenix666 ( 184391 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:31AM (#44863707)

    Some colleagues of mine recently participated in the NYC BigApps series of hackathons this spring. We went into our first one thinking you had to hack something together from nothing in 2-3 days after pitching your idea and attracting collaborators. In fact the CollabFinder site they set up to facilitate putting together a team "from scratch," and all the window dressing suggests that. But when you get to the "competition" it's mainly established teams that already have products that they're tweaking or putting some kind of new, minimal gloss on it. Plus all the palaver and marketing suggest that they're hoping to spur innovation that uses Open Data to make life better for New Yorkers. But at the final awards ceremony the game became clear--the judges were all Venture Capital guys, and the only apps that won were mobile apps that were Yelp/Facebook/Instagram clones, that could be capitalized by the VCs and flipped on unsuspecting 2nd round investors for some multiple, or a clone of something else that was already successful in the market. The app that took top prize in the Education category was a blatant rip-off of Scratch, the MIT-developed, open-source program that teaches kids how to program by treating code blocks like legos, and which is freely available on the Raspberry Pi that my kids play with.

    So, it's a bit silly to talk about cheating at Hackathons when the entire essence of these events is really "Pitch-a-thons" so VCs can find new crap to pass off on suckers.

    Call us when the judges are tech-savvy people who really know what they're talking about and what real innovation looks like. Then we can talk productively about cheating.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:55AM (#44863907)

    Actually, it is the art of deducing how a computer system *actually* works as opposed to how it is intended to work.

  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday September 16, 2013 @12:08PM (#44864045)

    Somebody needs to read The Mythical Man Month. Adding more hackers to a late hacking project just makes it later. If they can stay organized and succeed in a larger group in a limited time frame then they have truly accomplished something even most software engineers cannot do.

    I really hate it when someone takes that book to be an absolute when there are no such things. No, you can't produce a baby in one month with nine women, but at the same time you will find it incredibly difficult to produce nine babies in nine months with one woman - asking one person to build Twitter is an insane demand, adding extra people will only ever help even when the project is terribly late...

    There are loads of scenarios where adding additional resource will do absolutely no harm at all and the worst that you can come out with is no gain at all.

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken