Lowdown: Hackathons

Nick Hirst

Some of the most interesting gifts the digital world has to offer are in the world of process. One such is hack days.

Mixed teams, with a focus on doers rather than abstract thinkers, assemble to develop new mobile or web applications. Tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft have been doing them for ages. Some brands – like Tesco – have managed to run their own. Specialist agencies are appearing which can help almost any commercial brand (even those with no hacking culture or experience) develop tangible, prototyped ideas, at relatively low cost, in relatively little time.

It started in the public sector, when agencies like Rewired State and Good For Nothing helped national and local government organisations use them to improve services. This year, Good for Nothing helped Cancer Research UK develop an app that turned the search for genetic mutations into a crowdsourced game. Rewired State has gone further, creating a commercial offshoot called Rewired Reality which will organise entire hackathons for a flat fee. It (along with other, newer start-ups) is keen to work for big brands.