A few weeks ago, I have the pleasure of attending and speaking at MLH's Hackcon VII. This was my second time attending the conference and this time, having semi-retired out of the McHacks organizing team, I was much more focused on making connections and appreciating the people there than frantically attending every talk I could. The hallway track turned more into the campfire track and before I knew it we were already packing our bags to head home.
After attending last year, I was pretty certain that I wanted to come back as a speaker this year. Something about going to a camp site and being surrounded by ~400 people that have been through a year of hackathon planning and face many of the same problems we do. It was so weird to be in a space with all these people that despite having never met before, all understood the problems I was facing immediately and some of them even had solutions to those problems.
This year, I decided that I wanted to speak at Hackcon instead of just attending. After a little bit of thinking on which parts of hackcon planning I really had things to talk about, I decided I wanted to talk about project managing in a hackcon context and some best practices that I developed along with the process we employed for McHacks 6.
My talk went over a bunch of the details of how we project managed the entirety of the McHacks 6 organization using systems and carefully selected tooling to maximize productivity and minimize time spent waiting on others.
Finally, the most important part of Hackcon for my is the so-called "hallway track". Talking to the people that are there outside of sessions is by far the most valuable part of this conference. I ended up skipping most of the talks and spent more time just speaking to interesting people informally. Building on my network from last year I got to talking with organizers from HackMIT, Hack the North, TreeHacks, and more. The lessons learned from merely being in discussion with these people is of immeasurable value and regardless on your feelings on MLH and being an MLH member event, I think it's critical for every big hackathon to send one or two organizers to Hackcon every year.