(Photo by Christopher Wink)
Hackathons are great for creativity and energy and community building, but they aren’t always known for ideas that get finished and create impact.
But that’s not to say it doesn’t happen, particularly with the new trend of ‘finishathons,’ in which teams get together after weekend coding and software programming marathons to finish these projects, often with a civic-minded mission.
Here are five local hackathon projects that have found users and some stability.
- Ad Hawk — the mobile app that identifies political ads and offers context and background was led by Bob Lannon from a Hacks/Hackers meetup to a December 2011 Random Hacks of Kindness. It landed him a job with the Sunlight Foundation and a permanent home for Ad Hawk.
- LaunchRock — Spun out of a February 2011 Startup Weekend, then Philly Startup Leaders president Jameson Detweiler took his idea for product pages that encourage viral social sharing to national tech press and an invested business — too bad he moved to San Francisco to do it.
- StateRep.Me — The dashboard tracking state legislators online wasn’t called one of the three best projects to come out of the September 2012 Hacks for Democracy held by Azavea, but it has easily had the longest, strongest life since then. It represents that other big sustainable success of hackathons: it brought together a team that has worked together on other projects since then.
- PageVamp — After winning second place at the largest undergraduate hackathon in the free world in fall 2012, the PennApps project that creates sleek mobile friendly websites from Facebook pages has kept a trio of Penn seniors focused on building out the product.
- PhillyAddress.com — Good hackathon projects often come when a subject-matter expert shares a problem with an interested technologist. At the BarCamp NewsInnovation Hackathon in April 2011, reporter Patrick Kerkstra wanted a tool that would allow him to search for property owners by name, rather than only address, allowing him to track property tax deadbeats. A team of coders delivered, and member Tim Wisniewski has made sure the tool is still a good resource for community groups and activists.