Hackathons

Guide to running or supporting your own NEAR Hackathon as a Core team member, with applicability to any community leader looking to host their own hackathon to drive greater engagement.

NEAR Owned Hackathon

Pre-Hackathon

Things to do before the hackathon:

  • Build out the NEAR Hackathon team:

    • This could be from NEAR Core or community, ideally spread out across time zones to help with technical questions from community members.

    • Engineering Resource

      • Involve the engineering resource in all stages of the planning process and have them inform everyone in case of product/engineering changes that might impact the hackathon.

    • Community Resource

      • Community resource to liaise with different stakeholders and keep community moderators and guild leads/members informed about the hackathon.

    • Marketing Resource

      • Marketing resource to help with pre, during and post engagement activities.

  • Discuss Prizes & Referrals

    • Are we giving prizes entirely in NEAR or a mix of NEAR and DAI?

    • Are we setting a fixed NEAR reward amount or in USD equivalent of NEAR?

    • Projects that come through guilds get a 10% winning bonus and the guild that is referring also gets 10%.

      • Set up a referral system that can track referrals.

    • Ideally, have multiple prizes which increases the odds of winning and encourages more people to participate.

    • If we’re giving away prizes for non technical contributions, set very specific categories/requirements so that the submissions are valuable and there’s a process to judge.

  • Set up Hackathon repository/microsite:

    • This could be a github repository with all the links to get started(potentially near.org/learn).

    • Include all the steps for someone to get started with screenshots, videos, link to docs and links to communities(Discord/Telegram) to ask questions.

    • Some workshop or an interactive site that takes people across various steps to start building in a progressive way.

    • Set up hackathon discord group

      • General hackers channel

      • Team building

      • Announcements

      • Random watercooler

  • Set up Calendar for important dates that participants can view and “subscribe” to

    • hackathon start date

    • Submissions open

    • Deadline

    • Judging

    • Workshops

  • Define rules for the hackathon

    • Define team size

      • Define prize distribution criteria for teams formed during the hackathon-

      • Who gets the prize, who distributes it etc.

    • Are previous projects allowed? If not, how do we check that if people start a new repo?

    • License & IP of the work done during the hackathon.

    • Can one team submit multiple projects?

    • Judging criteria:

      • Innovation of the idea, Execution, Usability, Design, Community vote etc. could be some sample criterias

      • We could also do it based on tracks- DeFi, NFT, Tooling, smart contracts etc.

      • We need to make this transparent.

      • If we’re doing a community vote category, we need to figure out if people are trying to gamify by running a bot etc.

  • Outreach

    • Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Discord, Newsletter, and individuals who might be able to help spread the word from the ecosystem.

    • Introduce hackathon hashtag so that it’s easier for people to share and receive updates that are linked to the hackathon. Also, an opportunity to network with other participants and find interesting people. Work with the marketing team on this.

    • Hackathon aggregators and meetup groups: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13i451OrNjujj4ao4vHQGZ5kJhcZR6WfFiWT8f_kmNhc/edit?usp=sharing

      • With Meetup groups, these tend to be mostly communities. The bigger ones usually get a lot of messages like this every week, so if they are from a region, like Blockchain New York or SF etc, reach out to someone from the team that lives/might know people there to see if they’ve worked with that community before. Chances are, they would have. Always best to approach such communities through an internal reference than cold outreach.

      • If a meetup group/community agrees, prepare copy and send them a personalized email inviting their community to join this hackathon. Make it as easy as possible for the organizer to share- from email copy, to social media tweet links.

    • Reach out to blockchain incubators, accelerators etc.

    • Work with marketing on PR initiatives based on hackathon prize amount, high profile judges/mentors etc.

    • Contact universities and blockchain clubs.

  • Partners:

    • A partnership could be a paid partner or a community partner that does it for branding in return for a logo and backlink from the hackathon page and social media+newsletter mentions

    • If you have partners for the event, make sure they have the assets & resources to promote the event.

    • Share with them tweet drafts, twitter handles of mentors/workshop instructors, affiliated organizations etc. Also make sure you amplify/RT & engage with their tweets.

  • Assemble a team of mentors, workshop facilitators and judges.

    • If possible, get them to do a 30 second video and send it over to us about why they’re excited and we can make an announcement post.

    • Alternatively, we could jump on a quick 15 minute call with them and ask the same set of questions and have an editor professionally edit these videos.

  • Schedule introductory workshop, office hours, mentorship sessions with stakeholders.

    • Introductory workshop:

      • Introduction to hackathon theme

      • Team members who will be active and what their roles are- eg. engineer, education lead, community team etc.

      • Sample ideas that people can build and brainstorming and generally discussing ideas amongst the team and involving community members to participate.

    • Design graphic for intro workshop

    • Plan and design graphics for individual office hours or workshops

    • Get a 30 second to 1 minute video with the following details and schedule it one day before the workshop:

      • Quick intro about the workshop facilitator

      • Name, Title, Organization

      • Key takeaway for the workshop and why people should attend.

      • Usually for lower profile speakers.

      • Drip feed tweets with event hashtag and key takeaways of the workshop along with CTA.

    • Share tweet drafts and templates that the speakers, judges and mentors can use to share on twitter or linkedin along with the graphic, ideally different from the one used by NEAR.

      • Encourage mentors and speakers to share on social media along with the CTA to join the hackathon.

  • Marketing & Social media:

    • Create a schedule to post about swags, tshirt, stickers, winning prizes $$ etc with CTA to join.

    • Encourage participants to use hashtag on twitter to share project updates and to find interesting projects they can be a part of.

    • If we want to go all out, search keywords- “Ethereum hackathon, blockchain hackathon” and other variations of that, to see tweets from people that participated in hackathons before and invite them to participate.

  • Outreach to improve participation:

    • Reach out to local blockchain clubs, ETH meetup series etc inviting them to participate.

    • Reach out to university CS and Crypto clubs to participate.

    • Blockchain accelerators and incubators

    • Partner channels like bootcamps

    • [Paid] Major League Hacking has a good audience.

    • [Paid] Event listing and ads on channels like coindesk/cointelegraph and paid newsletters

Team Building:

  • Discord Channel: Start a #team-building channel for people wanting to join a team. Pin a template message with details like project idea, timezone, area of expertise - rust, c++, solidity etc.

  • Discord bot: Can we have a discord bot that groups people in a group with some seeding questions if they selected “looking for a team”?

  • Start an introduction channel: During the on-boarding, ask people to join the #hackathon-intro channel to post a message on what they’re working on etc. This helps us build a crm in a way, or people to just browse through and reach out to specific people in case they want to join a team.

During the Hackathon

Things to do during the hackathon:

Project updates from participants:

  • Ask for participants to share project updates as a ritual, say every Thursday.

    • If possible, incentivize project updates sharing- t shirts or a swag pack for every team that posts updates every week and submits a “valid project”*.

    • This creates peer pressure and encourages more people to share updates of their hack.

    • Share project update blogs on dev.to like this (could provide an additional incentive for this part)

Feedback:

  • Product/Platform feedback etc. to be collected in one single place- preferably Stack Overflow, where we can monitor and respond to queries.

  • This also helps us quantify how much a hackathon was helpful in giving us feedback and highlighting dev challenges. It also acts as one source of truth that participants can refer to and understand if an issue has been fixed.

  • Post feedback on hackathon sub category on our forum.

    • See “Tools retro”

Gather Data:

  • Try to gather as much data as you can about the profile of participants & feed it into our community CRM. If possible, figure out ways in which you can involve them at a later point with the projects through Guilds, OWC, Kernel or other projects.

  • Build relationships with individuals and teams.

Engage lurkers:

  • It’s common to have people sign up and not do anything. Try and engage with them better to figure out what you can do to improve their participation

    • Share their skills in case any other team is looking to add a team member- the NEAR CRM can help here if we can create a “section” for hackathons.

    • Match them with other teams who can use their skill

    • Encourage them to reach out to interesting projects and share how they can add value.

    • Invite people to contribute to discussions based on their interests and tag them and see if they can add value.

Post workshop and office hours session:

  • Gather the data of community members who signed up for the workshop and send out an email with a recording of the workshop along with a CTA to join the hackathon if they haven't registered yet.

    • Eg: Hi Jack, here’s the recording of the workshop <link>. We did this workshop as part of the Rainbow hackathon. <INSERT CTA to join the hackathon with prizes and mentors etc>

  • Post interesting and controversial bits from the workshop as a Twitter native video along with CTA to join hackathon.

  • We can also livestream the workshops and sessions on Twitter from Crowdcast.

Post-Hackathon

Things to do after the hackathon:

Judging:

  • Share a judging template with the judges and give them a clear deadline & setup reminders.

    • Ensure people are aware of judging criteria and timeline

      • Sample judging criteria: Innovation, Usability, Execution, Design

    • Create a view detailing how the judges can fill the scores and mentioning what are the key details you want them to look into.

    • Add one key/star project in every judging panel for them to judge.

    • Adding judges to a cohort adds peer pressure and is great for networking as it encourages interaction between judges.

Swags/Tokens- Reward

  • After receiving the submissions, if you’re sending swags to people who have shared weekly updates and submitted a valid project, share an image of that on social media and with the hackathon hashtag to continue engagement.

  • Encourage winners to order swags with their discount code and post a photo and tag us when they receive it. We should reply with NEAR twitter account and engage with those tweets.

After winners have been selected:

  • Share sample tweet for all the judges: Excited to be part of the judging panel for rainbow hack, here are the winning projects.

  • Send the winners a from to fill with the following information:

    • Full names

    • Twitter handles of all the team members

    • Headshots of all the team members

    • Project name

    • Emails of all the team members

    • NEAR Wallet address

  • Share out winning projects in a tweet thread and link to them and tag team members using NEAR.

  • Interview Team members and ask them to share their experience working on the hackathon- can make a video compilation if team has a bandwidth.

  • Encourage & empower winners to share their victory:

    • Create a PR kit for them.

      • In some cases, these hacks can be really big. Might even be their next full time job working on this project. So empower them with a PR kit to share their victory as NEAR picking their project as a winner is a validation.

      • Share with local media groups, tech blogs etc.

      • Talk about it at meetups.

      • Add a “Winner of NEAR 2020 Hackathon” badge with backlink to their website.

Get winners to speak at NEAR community call & NWTN:

  • Cultivate a community among winners so that they can now forget the competition and see if they can collaborate with each other.

  • Get them to speak about their project on NEAR community call.

Exclusive winner perks:

  • Can we offer mentorship from the NEAR team. For example, a great project might need engineering, business or marketing advice. Can we connect them for exclusive office hour sessions with NEAR engineers or marketing teams for a 30 min call to offer advice and ask questions. This could be valid for a month after the hackathon.

  • Can we introduce them to other projects or individuals in this space that they might want to get connected to? Networking can be a great benefit and we can route them through guilds.

Winner social kit:

  • Social media template and kit for winners to share their project and winning announcement. We can amplify that using NEAR channels.

  • Post winning projects with social media and graphics with their team’s headshot.

Close loop with winners:

  • Get them involved within NEAR.

  • Enter their information into the NEAR CRM.

  • Ask them if they’d like to mentor new developers or agree for mentoring next hackathons.

  • Connect them to existing guilds or encourage them to start a new guild.

  • Plug them into educational opportunities if they are interested in teaching people and are capable.

Hackathon Metrics reporting:

  • Number of registrations

  1. Number of teams

  2. Number of submissions

  3. Effective referral source

  4. Who are the winners

  5. How many repeat participants registered

  6. How many repeat registrations submitted

  7. How many repeat registrations won

  8. How many repeat winners

  9. Data about the registered participants:

    • Location

    • Email

    • Area of expertise

    • Affiliation

  10. Are they guild members or contributors?

  11. For the future-

    • Do these hackathon participants or winners go on build on or hack around with NEAR?

    • If they do get involved, do they graduate to OWC

Winner Announcement Blog post

  • Number of sign ups

  • Number of projects

  • Winners

    • Names, Links to social profiles, video submission, github link to profile

  • Geographical spread

  • Diversity metrics

  • Sponsor, judges, mentor shoutouts

  • Wrap

Tools Retro

  • Request anyone who is willing to compile their notes from during the hack into a blog post about their experience and post it either publicly on their blog or on the forum.

  • We document the feedback as issues in the tools that they mention

NEAR Supported Hackathons

Evaluating a Hackathon proposal

If you get a request to participate in a hackathon, here are some things we should consider.

  • How much involvement is expected from NEAR?

  • If a community member is representing NEAR, please get on a call with them to better understand what they’re planning for.

  • If we can offer swag codes, figure out a way to distribute it to the attendees.

  • If the contributor is planning on delivering a talk about NEAR, always do a dry run before the event. This could be over a call or a recorded version.

Request for funding

Follow up post hackathon

  • Send out follow up Thank You emails to the attendees.

  • Put together a report on the hackathon and its impact.

Inspiration: