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HackBackBetter 2023

Ruien Luo, Tue Feb 07 2023 • Tags: hackathon

It's one of those things that you never really know how bad, cursed, horrible, no-good, terrible it is until you do it. The hackathon, I mean, although life comes in a close second1.

How did I even get here???

It was a day in October (of 2022). Just a normal day right after school ended. Not too cold, too warm, nor was it one of those isekai story days where everything's going a little too well and then the protag gets smacked by truck-kun. I (or, rather, my college counselor) had the bright idea that I should do something as a capstone project for high school. Y'know, something like making a groundbreaking research discovery or winning #0 in a intergalactic competition. I, of course, wasn't very interested in making antimatter or the Kessel Run in 10 parsecs2. No, I was going to do something much more... ordinary3. Hosting a hackathon. I had no idea what I had signed myself up for. The suffering was just beginning.

The suffering starts

Venue troubles

First was a venue. While I would have absolutely loved for money to fall from the sky and a venue to just appear out of thin air, that wasn't going to happen any time soon[Citation needed]. Thankfully though, I knew a professor at a local university that was willing to help out... or so I thought. While they did initially book us access to the venue/university building, miscommunications about the number of people attending made them eventually withdraw their support. We had to switch to our backup venue (South Bay Yacht Club) and start looking into other venues.

The Sponsor Games

Much like a bloody fest of people all trying to murderize each other for some money and the right to live, I got to experience this for myself, except I was trying to beg sponsors for money and getting either ghosted or denied (not naming names, but you know who you are). No protagonist luck would be helping me here - the exact opposite, in fact. My luck was absolutely horrific in getting responses. Maybe that was because nobody reads email anymore, or maybe it was because I was just cursed. Who knows.

The Website

Building a website was like a jalapeno-flavored frosting topping on top of the multilayered cake from hell. Initially I just built a static website with HTML, CSS, and JS that looked ugly (but at least it was quick to make). Eventually I got sick of the website looking like absolute shit5 and decided to nab a website from HackOC (opens in a new tab), who helpfully made their amazing site open source. That doesn't mean I didn't do any work though6. We rebuilt some of the website styling and built an api site to send out mail and handle ticketing.

The suffering continues

Sponsorship money finally started to flow in - it wasn't particularly fast or really in large amounts, but you know the saying7. Registrations were also slowly coming in. At this point, it was basically March. Of course, we did finally get some good news: We'd have a willing venue from Hacker Dojo8

Fast forward to the day of the event (after going through purchasing hell and renting a u-haul to move all the supplies there)

Event in a Van


1: No, I'm not depressed. Go away and let me suffer in peace.

2: Reference to Star Wars, if you've been living under a rock.

3: Disclaimer: Many of you who are reading this will either agree or call me insane for calling hosting a hackathon "ordinary." Compared to the alternatives, I'd say this definitely counts as ordinary.

[Citation needed]: XKCD #285 (opens in a new tab)

5: Source: trust me bro.

6: Not being defensive or anything...

7: Size doesn't matter

8: Hacker Dojo (opens in a new tab)