hackcincy

Guest Post | A Survival Guide to HackCincy

This week, Cintrifuse welcomes Guest Blogger, Kevin Mulcrone, to share his thoughts on #StartupCincy’s first HackCincy hackathon and what it was like being on the hacking floor.

This past weekend Mulcrone and Michael Reeder won the HackCincy for their project Terrapin Ticketing. Terrapin is a live event ticketing platform that leverages the Ethereum blockchain to issue, buy, sell, transfer, and verify ticket authenticity and ownership.

HackCincy was a hackathon hosted at Union Hall and organized by employees of some of Cincinnati’s most established startups and BigCos that focuses on technical creativity. Teams of up to five developers had 24 hours to work on a project to be judged on its technical creativity.

To see more blogging from Mulcrone, check out his page on Medium. This is where you can also see his original HackCincy post.


I have never attended a hackathon before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at HackCincy on Saturday morning except that it would be an excellent opportunity to build and demo an idea that Michael and I have been thinking about for the past few months.

This is what we learned:

The Basics

Be Prepared

Make sure to bring not only a laptop and charger but also headphones, a hoodie, beer (if you’re into that), and probably a blanket/pillow (more on that later). We realized that we only had one pair of headphones an hour and a half into coding, which was a bummer.

It was important to be prepared mentally too. We came into HackCincy with an idea for a project that we wanted to work on which allowed us to plan out how to build it while some teams were still brainstorming project ideas. I would also say that it helped going into the weekend with a team with experience working together in the past.

Take Breaks

I think we got caught up on the fact that we only had 24 hours to work on the project, so we didn’t want to waste a lot of time doing “nothing.” If we could do it over again, we’d be more conscious of the last time we stepped away from our computers.

One valuable use of time away from the computer was talking with other people who are taking a break, see what they are working on, and see if there are any roadblocks that you can help them get through. Taking breaks provided opportunities to meet other developers and reset our thought process by focusing on something else.

Another team building a blockchain application approached us at one point in the evening with a few questions about how they’d implement a blockchain in their project. We were able to explain a few things to steer them in the right direction and give them some documentation and tools to read through. Explaining concepts to someone else was also an excellent way to gauge what we did and didn’t know about Ethereum and how it works.

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

We came into the hackathon with a pretty ambitious goal: we were going to build a complete MVP for Terrapin Ticketing. That meant allowing users to create an account on our web app, generating a unique Ethereum wallet for their account, enabling them to login, publish events to the Ethereum blockchain, let them to buy tickets from events, view tickets, and transfer tickets between accounts. Looking back on it, that’s impossible to do in a 24 hour period with two people.

We realized when it took us seven hours to get a few events made via a startup script in Truffle to show up on the web interface that we weren’t going to hit our initial goal.

Because we didn’t want to end up with several partial working pieces of Terrapin that wouldn’t be able to interact with one another (and wouldn’t be able to be shown in our four minute demo), we focused being able to add Ether (ETH) to a user’s account balance and display it in the web app instead of continuing to focus on buying and transferring functionality of the event and ticket pages. If we had extra time at the end, we could tack on this feature since all the necessary pieces would be in place.

Realizing that we weren’t going to meet our initial goal was bad for our overall morale and our excitement about making something that would impress people. We instead had to focus on making something that would be coherent to the judges. Shooting lower would have let us take more breaks, help out other teams, adding more complex styling and tests to our project, be less stressful…oh, and give us more time for sleep.

Sleep

Just because a hackathon is 24 hours long doesn’t mean that you should be coding for that full 24 hours. Around 2am, we started to realize that we were making silly mistakes, putting code in the wrong spots, and losing focus on our work. So we decided to call it a night at 2:30am, go home, sleep for a few hours, and work again in the morning. I’d say we got more done in the three hours the next morning than we would have gotten in the eight hours we could have worked on it had we not gone to sleep.

Conclusion

We want to thank all of the people who helped organize HackCincy this year, the sponsors who provided the (delicious) food and snacks throughout the weekend, and Union Hall for letting us use their awesome space!

Our goal going into HackCincy was to work on the Terrapin Ticketing idea that we have been developing for the past few months, sit down and build a working prototype, and gather feedback from other developers and the #StartupCincy community about it.

We think we succeeded in the first part of that goal, but we would love any feedback you may have about our idea. You can reach me via email at KayBeSee@gmail.com or on Twitter at @KayBeSee.

I intend on writing a more in-depth blog post soon about what is wrong with the current state of live event ticketing and how it can be solved using blockchain technology. Be on the look out for that in the coming month!

If you are a developer and want to learn what technical aspects we learned, check out my post “What We Learned from Our First Ethereum Project.”

Thank you for a great time!
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