Build for a better world at the DeveloperWeek SF 2020 Hackathon

This weekend, The DocuSign Developer team will be attending, sponsoring, and supporting DeveloperWeek’s San Francisco Hackathon. The DeveloperWeek Hackathon brings together an eclectic group of bright, ambitious hackers to create impactful, diverse, and innovative projects. For 36 hours, attendees will be tasked with solving a variety of technical challenges, many of which are tied to pertinent real-world issues. Our team is especially excited to promote integration of our Agreement Cloud Platform alongside a brand new hackathon challenge type.

Challenges and prizes

For this particular event, we decided to shift our strategy from a traditional, open-ended take on hackathon challenges to a more novel, charitable one. Having attended and sponsored a variety of hackathons myself, I've historically structured open-ended “best use” challenges, as they seem to maximize developer ingenuity. However, this style of challenge has a few areas for improvement. For instance, participants dislike the lack of direct social impact their work has at the close of the hacking events. Some cheerfully affirm that they will continue working on the project, but the reality is most of those repositories will never be utilized again ?.

Why have open-ended challenges been the norm? Typically the rationale was as follows: Many developers haven’t liked the idea of use-case-specific challenges. Once inputs, constraints, and an expected output are specified, the exercise no longer feels like a true hackathon. Instead, it feels almost transactional in nature: Implement this feature for company X. Solve this customer problem for company Y. Hackathon developers want free rein to implement their ideas, no matter how crazy or impractical they are. Without some thematic guidance, however, it can be overwhelming to identify a problem and produce a solution that utilizes sponsor technologies in creative, novel ways (in under 24 hours).

As a result, we will be experimenting with a new hackathon theme and challenge/prize model, the latter of which I casually refer to as, “Give a prize. Get a prize.” With the DocuSign “Best Disaster Preparedness and Relief Solution,” hackers will identify key areas of inefficiency in emergency processes and build an application using our Agreement Cloud APIs to better prepare or relieve victims of natural disasters or epidemics. We’ve encouraged attendees to leverage public data sets from the United Nations, Red Cross, and CDC to best demonstrate the value of their apps. The DocuSign developer team will not only award winners a hefty cash prize, but also donate the same amount to an approved charity of the team’s choice!

Judging criteria

How will we be evaluating our submissions? Our volunteer judges will be ranking projects based on the following considerations:

  • Code-complete Is the project finished? We will only judge projects which have successfully used our APIs.
  • Technically impressive How well does the project express the core ideals of the challenge? Is it an impressive work given the time permitted?
  • Product-market fit Does this hack fix a real customer problem, or is it a “nice to have”?
  • Innovative Does the project use the DocuSign APIs in a novel way? Or does it just copy something that has already been done many times before?
  • Well designed Does the project include appropriate style and branding? How would you evaluate the overall user experience?

Getting started

On Saturday, I will be giving a workshop entitled, “Introduction to the DocuSign Agreement Cloud Platform,” which will give an overview of the most common use cases of our eSignature API, including, but not limited to, requesting signatures via email from multiple recipients.

If you want to get a head start on your competition or are unable to make it to this weekend’s hackathon, head over to the DocuSign Developer Center to check out the content beforehand!

Want to attend the DeveloperWeek SF hackathon? Register at the official DeveloperWeekSF Hackathon event page. If you want to read more about sponsor challenges, prizes, and other hackathon logistics, check out the Devpost page.

Matthew Roknich is a Developer Evangelist and a lifelong problem solver. His current projects outside of DocuSign involve advanced IoT and sustainability. He can be found on a soapbox talking about the Agreement Cloud APIs at a variety of developer conferences, hackathons, and meetups.

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