My First Hack24

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It’s now Monday night and I still can’t quite piece together the last couple of days properly. I went from 7am Saturday until midnight Sunday without sleep, but I wanted to experience the whole thing at least once. Bottom line? I have no idea what I’m going to write – but I want try and write something about my first Hack24.

I totally made the right decision volunteering

I had the choice of either hacking or volunteering to take part. I think I gained a fantastic sense of perspective by being able to take in the event as a whole, rather than focusing just on my code. Being able to talk to people without thinking of my own project, see glimpses of their ideas and discuss their troubles with them was a huge eye opener in terms of the breadth and depth of experience that was contained within the one room.

Plus, the volunteering team are so much fun! I barely noticed the first 10-12 hours because we were getting stuff done and so light hearted throughout. Lots to learn and understand, but those who’d been doing this since the beginning or close to it were happy to explain and help me get to grips with things.

I’d spoken to one person on the volunteer team before, but the rest were either unknown to me completely or we’d only discussed things on Slack – everyone was just so damn friendly, they’re a great bunch of people.

Emma & Andrew

I turned up for a bit on Friday to help where I could and then I was there for the weekend. What I saw of their work was immense; the level of organisation that Emma & Andrew require is simply phenomenal. It’s an incredible feat and they just never stop, while at the same time making every hacker feel comfortable and happy to be part of the experience, talking to sponsors, handling anything that might need handling and understanding when something was a problem or just how it was.

And we only see the result, they have to live this for so long before the event, so many threads that have to be kept hold of to bundle up in this beautiful chaos of techy togetherness. I can’t begin to comprehend the rollercoaster they go on. All I’ve seen since the event finished is messages of thanks and praise in different forms and they deserve every bit of it.

The Atmosphere

This is truly the thing I didn’t expect. If you can, imagine over 140 tech people in a room and you telling them to work on a challenge in a set of teams. The challenge doesn’t matter, any challenge and you’d expect…an edge. Not necessarily competition, but still – deadlines and goals tend to bring that edge to things. I never once experienced it.

At the start there was just friendly excitement, there was an anticipation, an eagerness. It was a buzz just to be in that room. Then when it started, that eagerness just spread out, but everyone was smiling and chatting and getting stuff done.

As the day shifted and as the evening turned to morning, it ebbed and flowed but there was still that friendly game kinda thing going on. I’m not saying there wasn’t stress, or disappointment or frustration, I’m saying that there was – but what I saw of it was always a “bummer, how do we get on when that’s happened?” kind of response – everyone took it in the spirit of things and just wanted to do their best with the hand they were dealt.

As a volunteer I really enjoyed that, more so during the night, we were rubber ducks or sounding boards. People just needing to talk through the problem – to hear that they weren’t going mad, and it totally should work the way they were thinking, or that everything they said made sense, and it wasn’t just the sleep deprivation talking.

This is absolutely the message that the event strived for, and I think it’s a testament to the ethos of all of the Tech Nottingham events that it was so completely embraced by those taking part.

The Creativity

The videos are on YouTube and tagged on Twitter, you can see for yourselves, the creativity that was produced in those 24 hours, the incredible work everyone did…it’s staggering.

Such clever ideas, so many unbelievably original concepts. I loved talking to people and finding out what they’d decided upon and every one was a “I would not have thought of that” moment, which was brilliant and exciting!

As it hit Saturday evening people were asking more regularly if I was going to be there “for the duration”, I couldn’t have not – I couldn’t hear all these amazing concepts and ideas and not applaud them at the end, win or not they deserved it.

Random thoughts

  • If I get to attend next year, I genuinely don’t know if I’d hack or volunteer. There is an appeal to me to challenge myself and see what I could do – but I really feel I’d be missing out on something special not putting on that red hoodie again.

  • My water bottle was my friend. As a self confessed caffeine addict, I’ve never been so hydrated. I had a few coffees, but I always had water and was constantly topping up.

  • I’m a little overwhelmed by the ideas that came out of it. There is part of me that wonders if I’d be able to do the challenges justice in the same way all the hackers there did.

  • The creative team stickers, the workshops, the fabulous hoodies, the food, the unicorn slippers, the hot chocolate…oh god that hot chocolate!…so many other parts of the event worth mentioning that are just jumbled up in this warm fuzzy feeling that is Hack24 for me now.

So yeah – there’s Hack24 for me in a random mess of writing.

I’m an introvert by nature. I dislike change and find fear in the thought of new situations where I am unfamiliar of the rules. It’s a struggle, and so many times I considered pulling out of the whole thing because I was so nervous. As I did when I attended my first Tech Nottingham meetup, when I did my first talk…and as with each of those decisions I have been happily proven wrong by the incredible tech community in this area. By wonderful friendly people who make every part of this worthwhile.

I am so pleased. I can’t describe just how much fun this all was.

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