“There seems to be a hackathon every weekend now,” web designer Cemre Güngör told Betabeat with a hint of weariness. He’s wrong: Often, there are two—last weekend, some programmers trekked to CUNY to build news apps for the Hacks/Hackers hackathon while others headed to Pivotal Labs in Union Square for the education-focused HackThink.
The hackathon craze is fairly new, set off in part by the A.P.I. goldrush. But there is some concern that the hackathon, once an excuse for shy techies to socialize, is being sold out. “The cute, indie, ‘hey let’s get together and build something’ is being replaced by ‘hey, I heard you can make money doing this,” Mr. Güngör said. Red Bull is sponsoring a hackathon in New York this summer, for example.
It doesn’t help that the hackathon has taken on the gritty glamour of a reality T.V. show. “People are knocking down my door. Everyone wants a hackathon,” said John Britton, a local developer who attends and organizes hackathons for his job as developer evangelist at Twilio.
But at some point, the hackathon bubble has got to pop. There just aren’t enough developers to supply multiple hackathons every weekend. The events are fun, but they’re also exhausting. And the hackathons aren’t just getting more frequent; they’re getting more extreme. There is a scene in the movie Swordfish where a brash Hugh Jackman hacks into the U.S. Defense Department with a gun to his head, while being fellated by a vixen who is apparently quite expert. We’re not quite there yet, but Startup Weekend and the Lean Startup Machine hackathons have entrepreneurs building whole companies in a sleepless weekend, and in March six cities launched a hackathon on a cross-country bus. So what’s next? One hand tied behind your back? Over a volcano? Nerds in space?
Mr. Güngör, for one, won’t be attending a hackfest in the stratosphere anytime soon; he’s a bit burned out at the moment. He left two hackathons this month early to go dancing. “That’s what was good about the Startup Bus hackathon,” which he, Mr. Britton and Betabeat are all veterans of, he said. “You couldn’t leave.”