So, I've done it. I've been to my first hackathon. HACKED took place (well, it's still running now and I'm blogging from there!) and it's been an exciting experience, that left me with some doubts.
An hackathon it's all about creativity and skills. Some companies offer their devices to play with during the day - for example I've been sitting next to a bunch of guys that have created a small cool game with Philips HUE lightning (check it out on GitHub here). Ideas here come often before than quality, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. You have 24 hours to build something, and that something comes completely out of your mind. Devices may inspire you, but after all it's YOU deciding what to do. People code, hack, share their knowledge and socialise, in some cases all night long (I have to say I passed on staying all night long, I don't live too far from the venue), and the next day they present what they've done to judges and the crowd. Some pretty cool ideas evolved from hackathons, and I'm pretty sure it will be the same case here.
My day was more about learning, rather than building. I've never been in such an environment and I acted more like an observer (OK, I took the opportunity to hack a bit with Scala, but on some studying stuff!), but I grasped lots of positive attitude.
Talking with Chris we discussed how it's not easy to have the skills to be a great hacker and a great craftsman all together. Sometimes you can be focused more on creativity rather than methodology, and build up something very cool - but which can be a nightmare to maintain, or to expand. Sometimes you can end up working applying lots of methodology, but lack that creativity bit that will allow you to come up with ideas that worth some changes.
In my opinion, practicing and observing is one of the keys to achieve this. Observe, and you can grasp ideas. Practice, and you know how to make things better.
I'm definitely doing another hackathon - probably sleeping over there as well as I feel it's part of the culture. And hopefully next time by observing and practicing I'll be able to actually build something :)