As a developer evangelist, I end up attending a lot of hackathons. I have a ton of fun at these events, helping attendees get their apps working and writing code of my own. My parents were very excited to learn about SendGrid and what Developer Evangelism is, but telling my parents, that “I love going to hackathons” elicited a more alarmed response.

You what?!

I love going to Hackathons. They’re one of the most fun parts of my job! Getting to hack on things with other developers is rewarding and I always get to learn something new.

But, honey, hacking is illegal, we don’t want you to get arrested.

Mom, it’s not that kind of hacking. The term hacking comes from the early days of computers, really it just means working with and creating cool code and apps. At some point, it came to mean breaking into systems. Today, it really has two meanings: (1) coding and loving it and (2) breaking into things. When I say hackathon, I’m referring to the first definition.

Alright, so what are those hackathons, then anyway?

Hackathons are events put together to bring the coding community together. They’re typically over a weekend. “Hackers” get together and pitch ideas. People then split up into teams and work on turning the ideas into apps. At the end of the weekend, every team presents their apps. There’s usually some judging and prizes, but if you ask me that’s the least exciting part.

What good are these apps?

That’s actually a really good question! Most of the time, they’re pretty useful, because someone had a problem and made a solution at the hackathon. Sometimes, hackathons are organized to solve a problem, and better society. The apps that come out of those are fantastic as they usually help solve larger problems.

What are some apps that have come out of hackathons?

Well, there are a bunch, but you probably haven’t heard of a lot of them, as they’re small or fit very specific niches. I know we’ve used GroupMe to communicate, that came out of TechCrunch Disrupt. You may have heard of Zaarly, which lets you hire local experts, that was the result of LA Startup Weekend.

Can I go to a hackathon?

Yeah! You can and you should! I think everyone can be useful at a hackathon. You could propose people work on that idea you’ve been trying to get me to build with the Arduino Lilly Pad and heart rate monitor. Colorado GiveCamp and Hack4Colorado are two great hackathons where participants might be willing to do that for your nonprofit.

You can follow both my mom and dad on Twitter where they complain about me writing about them on the internet.

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