API Contests and Hackathons are a Marketing Vehicle

As I'm identifying common building used by various API service providers to build their APIs and communities, there are two innovative tools Im seeing show up more often.

API contestsand hackathons.

API providers like Twilio and Netflix are using them to attract new users, and to generate buzz and innovation around their API.

When I'm out at events, educating business users about APIs, I often get asked about the viability of contests and hackathons to generate free code and applications for an API community.

I think there is a common misconception amongst the business community that API owners can get away with not paying developers to build code and applications, by just framing what they want in the form of a contest or hackathon, and developers will all rally, and work for free.

While you can potentially develop usable code and applications in this environment, its not always the case, and definitely should not be the focus of an event.

API contests and hackathons are purely a marketing vehicle for generating attention around an API. Sure there are some secondary effects, like innovative code, apps, ideas, and developer talent, but these aren't a given.

Focus on a healthy, innovative reason for your API contest or hackathon. Apply the resources to make the sure event gets heard about across all relevant developer circles, and when the event happens, make sure it is all about the developers.

Envision your API contest or hackathon as the marketing vehicle it is, and the rest take care of itself.