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I finished my roundup of hackathons for the API Evangelist calendar this morning. It took me a large portion of yesterday to gather and do the data entry for all the hackathons. Something I should probably have someone else do, but I like being in tune with the different events.

I tracked on hackathons last year, but this year I’m spending time each week organizing into a calendar to share with my readers, publish a roundup on ProgrammableWeb each week, and plan which events I will be attending or sponsoring.

I’m impressed with the growth in the number of hackathons worldwide in 2012:

  • January 2012 - 35
  • February 2012 - 57
  • March 2012 - 68

That is 160 hackathons so far this year! Quite an impressive number. These hackathons are occurring in cities around the globe and on topics including music, mobile, civic, hardware, robotics, Heroku, node.js, art, science, Facebook, health, baseball, military vets, and the ubiquitous focus on building a start-up.

I attended nine hackathons in January and only three so far in February. I try to attend as wide variety of events as I can. I feel it it extremely healthy that the hackathon model is expanding into new areas and industries. I think this brings more problem owners to the table, and introduces the hacker way into mainstream society.

Though I enjoy Startup Weekend events, and feel they have a large role in spreading the hackathon model, it concerns me that their model is spreading as the primary definition of what a hackathon is. There are many reasons to put on a hackathon, and many outcomes, a start-up is only one possible reason or outcome. Of the 160 hackathons in 2012 so far, 68 were Startup Weekends, that is 42.5%, and I see their model applied at many other events.

Obviously the dream of having a start-up is prevalent amongst the young hacker community, and the Startup Weekend model speaks to the Silicon Valley version of American dream.  But I think there are a lot of other lessons that come from hackathons like innovation, collaboration, education, communication, and networking, with a start-up not always being a sensible outcome.

Again, I’m not saying the Startup Weekend model is bad, I just don’t want this to be the model applied to every industry or sector, where we need innovation, collaboration, education, communication and networking before we’d ever need to consider creating start-ups.

In my view, the hackathon model has potential to train up next generation of hackers across all industries and sectors, providing a framework for problem owners from all walks of life, to learn how to creatively use technology to solve problems they face in their every day lives or work place. I am very excited about the growth in number of hackathons in 2012, and I want to make sure we keep the model spreading in the healthiest way possible, and help introduce everyone to the hacker way of life, making hackathons an all inclusive environment.

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