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A Modest Proposal for a Waterfall Hackathon

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Hackathons are the new hot thing. We’ve done a few at General Assembly, and we’re planning to host more — such as Lean Startup Machine this April.

But there’s a gap in our hackanthology. Specifically, almost all of these hackathons employ “lean” or “agile” development tactics, a vague and unproven yet trendy fad. Thus, I make a modest proposal: that we may have a Waterfall Model hackathon, showcasing the best that 1960s-era manufacturing process theory has to offer.

Getting it together is simple enough. All you need is a group of consultants to come up with business ideas, a handful of business-oriented “product people” to design specs, a bunch of developers — but only for a few hours given our constrained development timeline — and an expert QA team. Here’s my proposed schedule:

Friday 6PM: Consultants assemble to brainstorm project ideas. Ideas are evaluated on size of market and apparent complexity of the end product. Consultants must have no prior relationship with anyone participating at any other stage in the process and only a rough, high-level understanding of the industry behind “hacked”.

Saturday 8AM: Business teams assemble. Projects are assigned to business teams through a process of drawing straws. For the next 12 hours, the business teams will begin the grueling process of writing and assembling spec docs. As with the consultants, business teams must have no prior relationships with the people involved at any other stage in the process, especially the previous day’s consultants. Preference is given to MBAs.

Saturday 8PM: Developer recruiting dinner. Business teams sit down with hackers over wine at a pricey yet mediocre Midtown steakhouse.

Saturday 11PM: Implementation phase unofficially begins. Although developers have five hours on Sunday (plenty of time) to complete the projects defined earlier in the weekend, no one will complain if they start work a bit early.

Sunday 9AM: Implementation phase officially begins.

Sunday 2PM: QA Handoff. Developers hand off their completed work to a crack QA team assembled of NYU students and the homeless.

Sunday 8PM: The main event! Final products are judged on the following criteria:

– Adherence to the spec document
– Apparent time it took to develop from the perspective of a non-technical person
– Number of lines of code
– Resumes of consultants who came up with the original idea

So who’s with me?

Written by Brad Hargreaves

March 28th, 2011 at 12:49 pm