It looks like 8 kids running around after a leaking bag of marbles. It’s gymnastics. It’s short lived. It’s team work.

“Team work is great unless it devolves into the dynamics of a University “Group Project”.

Here’s what I learnt from our recent 3 day hackathon.

  • When the goal is within site and clearly defined, everyone is good at team work.
  • Team work requires a huge amount of support and background work.
  • If your team know what they are building then it’s easy to work together.
  • 3 days is all you need to build great stuff.

What does success look like? (today)

That’s the question. What does success look like today?

Whilst on this 3 day hackathon we would ask ourselves that question. “what does success look like today?” and the response was always to the point. It’s a great way to cut the bullshit. 1 day is basically 3hrs talking and 5yrs work. So really. What can we do in 5hrs from now?

Having a boundaries on time and requirements helps. It helps focus an otherwise open ended conversation. Building software is a waste of money when time frames and requirements are vague.

Interestingly. Since the hackathon has ended we’ve stopped asking that question. What does success look like today?


Pragmatism is a powerful word in software development. For a bunch of guys who love to create, explore and challenge ideas, pragmatism really takes some getting used to. There are books on the topic to help our pea sized brains come to terms with the idea that the real world has limitations.

Working with a team to get a solution together in 3 days really does help develop a keen sense of pragmatism.

What really needs to get done? What can we park?


It’s funny. I tend to be weary of people in general. I have a big heart and enjoy being with people but when it comes to making decisions and being organised things get a little weird for me.

Somehow that all goes out the window when I’m stuck in a small team and pushed off a cliff.

A 3 day hackathon does wonders for building trust within a team.

Time frame

In our retrospective the team mentioned that having a restricted time frame made a huge different.

Rather than a piece of work dragging on for a couple of weeks, only have a few days made it much easier to handle.

“I reckon we got more done in that 3 days than we would in a normal working week.”

The timeframe also makes me realise that team work is to some extent unsustainable. Everyone needs a break from the team at some point. Close up dynamics are fleeting. It’s inconsistent.

I don’t believe in patterns and practices.

The best products are hacked together from the ground up. In my opinion, every great piece of technology is a hack.

I firmly believe that if you have a product or a business idea and you can’t get it together and online within 3 days then it’s not worth doing. You probably haven’t yet really figured out what it needs to be. Oh, and while you’re trying to figure out what is really needs to be, throw out all those patterns and practices.

Having said that, if you have lots of money to waste then patterns and practices are a great way to spend it. It looks good on paper.