[HCS] Hackathon! Saturday, 9/19 from 2pm on, in SOCH 307! (Today)

Joshua Kroll jkroll at fas.harvard.edu
Sat Sep 20 01:31:23 EDT 2008

HCS will be running a hackathon in our office, SOCH 307, from 2:00PM
onward tomorrow. The idea is to follow up our introductory meeting
with real, hands-on work on our many projects to help people get
involved (otherwise, we don't normally meet quite this often). If you
came to the intro meeting, or even if you didn't, this is a great way
to see what we're up to, to start getting your hands dirty with
interesting technology, and to build something that will actually be
used by thousands of people at Harvard, and maybe even beyond. You
don't need experience or an idea for a project to come, just
enthusiasm about technology and particularly about using it to make
life better.

Hackathon: Saturday 9/19 @ 2:00PM in SOCH 307.
Bring a laptop.

If you can't make it in person, contact us and we'll help you attend remotely.

In case you're still on-the-fence about coming tomorrow, here are some
FAQs we often get about our hackathons:

Q: What is a hackathon?
A: The term hackathon is a portmanteau formed from the intellectual
slang hack and the word marathon.

Q: You stole that from Wikipedia, didn't you?
A: Maybe. And by maybe, we mean it comes from the Hackathon article.
This proves we aren't completely crazy.

Q: OK, but seriously, what's a hackathon?
A: In the context of HCS, it's an event where we all get together to
work on projects. Each project might be worked on by anywhere from 1-5
people. We ask each other questions when we get stuck, help each other
figure out the best approaches, and give each other ideas about the
ways in which a project or its features can be most useful. Projects
involve everything from inventing new software to doing complex
systems engineering (examining failure modes and failover, for
example, or finding the safest, easiest, or most efficient way to
manage our user-supplied data) to simpler scripting to knit pieces of
software together or make administration easier. We'll have snacks and
at some point we'll order dinner. We'll also have a list of
hackathon-sized projects for people to work on or you can bring your

Q: I'm new around here and I've never done anything like this before.
Is that OK?
A: Absolutely! We don't require that you have any experience, but you
do need to be excited about whatever you come to work on. Whether it's
a project we've suggested or just something about technology at
Harvard (or technology in general!), you've got to be interested
enough in it to see it through from a pipe dream to a real
application. Even if you've never programmed or never worked with our
systems, we should be able to teach you what you need to know or at
least point you to the right resource to learn what you need to know.

Q: Should I bring anything?
A: A laptop. Power cords for that laptop. Ideas for projects. Your CS
problem sets (maybe not).

Q: Do you "hack" things at hackathons (that is, break into them)?
A: Not really. But if security is one of your interests, we have a ton
of security-related projects that you can work on. Also, we tend to
talk a good game about actually deployed security systems, which is
fun to do since so many of them are poorly designed. This got us in
trouble last year. You should ask us about it (unless you came to the
intro meeting, in which case you heard the story).

Q: Really? No hacking?
A: Various three- and four-letter agencies have informed us that we
are not allowed do this sort of thing.

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