We need to talk about hackathons.


Today I watched Magento Masters Spotlight interview of the wonderful Magento master Sander Mangel. He was talking about hackathons. The funny and somehow crazy projects and modules we created. I saw the video with a community friend of mine and his first reaction was: “Oh, he is talking about the hackathons like they are a thing of the past.”

So since this morning, I can’t stop thinking about it. And I have the feeling we need to talk. Urgently.

Why we still need hackathons

When I talk to agencies or bigger ecommerce companies about hackathons and the value they bring, it isn’t easy to understand for them. We don’t measure the amount of PRs or lines of code. We have no rules what to do, our attendees don’t have to accomplish anything.

So why is it worth still supporting and organizing hackathons, when we have Contribution Days, organized by Magento itself and its Community Engineering Team?

  • Even if we build nonsense and kid around, we need to know what we do. It is a fun way to learn every detail and hidden gem in Magento.
  • Work is hard enough and full of competition, a hackathon is free of rivalry. We can relax here. Dream. And if we have a great idea, we try it out.
  • If we focus exclusively on issues and problems, we start to see only the imperfections of the software and probably start to dislike it.
  • Every kind of challenge is causing competition. It’s much easier to cultivate the community by building teams with joint efforts in projects. Without any measuring, counting, giving away rewards or creating competition.
  • Not everyone wants to contribute to Magento itself, doing something with or for the ecosystem and community has many faces. A hackathon provides lots of possibilities to do so and doesn’t restrict the attendees on certain projects.

Please don’t misunderstand me, the idea behind the Contributions Days is great. And the Engineering Team is doing an amazing job but they can’t care for the community. And I understand, that for an agency a Contribution Day and contributing developers are huge marketing tools.

But for freelancers, beginners, junior developers and alike a Contribution Day might be scary. Not the Engineering Team or the community, but the pressure to deliver. Of course, there is no open pressure, no punishment for underperforming, of course not. And I know, the team members are extremly nice and kind, they really are! But still especially for beginners doing their first steps in our community on a contribution day is tough.

And now?

A Hackathons is about the people. A Contribution Day is about Magento.

We need a balance, a place and room for contributions and a time and place for hacking, coding, learning, talking, laughing, meeting friends, finding friends, falling in love, making memories without pressure and goals. All the things that make our community so unique and lovable.

So my dear, dear community, please, don’t give up on hackathons. These small events far away from business, facts and figures.

I don’t want us to talk about the hackathons as something from the past with sparkling eyes how great the time was. We sound like old people:

“Do you remember…?”

Ah a long time ago we did….”


I believe that every new member of our community should have the possibility to enjoy the same valuable moments as we “oldies” did.

I am sure that there is room for both and there is a desperate need for both. I am convinced losing the hackathons is a big loss for our community.

To Magento and the Magento Community Engineering Team: Please, don’t see the hackathons as a rival to the Contribution Days, see them as a complement, as one puzzle piece of many for a healthy community.

To agencies: send your developers (seniors and juniors), send your PMs, support local hackathons and let your team attend. Or even better, organize one.

To Magento veterans: please, still support and attend hackathons. Don’t give up on on them.

The topic is really important to me, so it would be great, if it could be the beginning of a discussion, that reaches many different people. So leave a comment, share and discuss on Twitter and tell me what you think.


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