CMP Series: How to Plan a Hackathon

Once synonymous with high-tech, hackathons have gone mainstream, multiplying and morphing into new models — bringing a new wave of innovation and interactive learning to conferences and meetings.

The hackathon — an amalgam of “hacking” and “marathon” — surfaced about 15 years ago, around the time that Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) sponsored its first one at the 20,000-attendee JavaOne software developers conference in San Francisco. But the popular image of hackathons born in that era — a windowless room filled with coders pounding on keyboards for hours on end, ankle-deep in empty Red Bull cans and pizza boxes — is due for an upgrade.

Hackathons have gone mainstream, popping up at conferences in sectors as diverse as museums, retail, and health care, and incorporating participants’ non-technical experience and knowledge along with their technology skills. 

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