I had the profound honour of sitting on a panel with some of Nigeria’s technology industry greats last Monday to help decide which apps would emerge winners at the first Mobile Monday Hackathon, in collaboration with Vconnect.

The turn out was good. Nine teams, or thereabouts, of four people each coding their asses off for eight hours straight. From watching them while they worked and looking at their final demos — at least the kind that you can come up with in eight hours — I formed a number of opinions that I’d like to run by everyone. If any come across as stupid, please say so. Really.

First, I think we need to organize more developer training, disguised as hackathons, where the process is emphasised over the product. With lots of respect for all the hard work that people put into the hack on Monday, I saw a lot of crap, and developers that clearly still need to learn code and process…one team even needed to learn mobile fundamentals. Who’s gonna teach them? Maybe we could start with code parties?

I was a bit skeptical about a one-day hackathon, but maybe it works. Forces people to work. Parkinson’s law…work always expands to fill the time alloted to it. Reduce the time, and the work still gets done. Not long ago, we had three days to build LifeBankApp…not a simple undertaking, to be sure, and we coded to the very end of it. By comparison, the MoMo hackers had just eight short hours, and still they acquitted themselves well, to my surprise I must admit.

I might agree with one day, but I’ll never agree with having a hackathon on Monday. Perhaps we’ll allow it because the organisers are, well, Mobile Monday.

Developers need to learn to pitch. People were trying to impress with their backend tech stack. Whether this is a good or bad idea depends on your audience. In this case, the panel was made up of mostly non-coders, and backend tech stacks that didn’t have front-end implementations were obviously not going to cut it. I saw some good ideas that deserved a chance. Poor communication blew it for them. That’s why a tech muggle like me can just waltz in and scrape up their gravy with a pretty WordPress mockup I bought off themeforest. In fact, that probably happens a lot in real life.

I think I like the idea of everyone focused on one single idea/theme. Like a movie app, or a blood donation application, instead of working on a bunch of random ideas that are dreamt up right there and then, without previous context. Better for different people to grab different parts of one elephant and compare notes after…than for one person to grab a zebra haunch…another, a buffalo’s head. And not be able to learn from each other at the end of the day. Again, process over product, and the benefits of shared lessons over prize money come into play here.

The hackathon’s objective – to build apps that would “help users discover great locally available movies based on their existing location and friend recommendations”. The winning solutions would earn its makers a thirty-day development contract with Vconnect. I think Vconnect could have done better than $2000 for first prize.

There.

Good stuff overall. The developers accomplished a lot in the short time they had. The organisers outdid themselves, please don’t stop. We hope to see more companies like Vconnect engaging with the developer community. And of course, congrats to Constance Okoghenun and team for taking the day with the amazing product they built.

If you followed my tweets much later after the event had ended, you’ll notice that I’ve mostly plagiarised myself. Thought I’d put those thoughts out here for you all. Feedback, pushback, welcome.

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