November 20, 2013
Software developers who are entering a software competition or hackathon powered by ChallengePost: we’ve put together a list of suggestions to help you create a compelling video to bolster your submission. Read on!
Aside from your app, your video is one of the most important things you’ll include in your submission. In fact, it’s often one of the first things that judges review.
Although they are encouraged to, judges are not required to test each and every app, so it’s extremely important to demonstrate your app’s functionality. That means carefully walking through features and showing how each one works.
You’ve already dedicated significant resources to developing a great app, now show it off.
Tips on making a great video
Use an emulator or create a screencast. Since judges aren’t required to test each and every app, it’s to your advantage to include a step-by-step demo. (Snazzy marketing videos are nice for promotional purposes, but they don’t help judges understand and evaluate your app.)
What’s your elevator pitch? Explain why your app is valuable and useful in the first few seconds. You can get into the details of how it works immediately after, but treat the opening seconds as you would a movie trailer or TV ad: pique your audience’s interest.
Keep it short & simple. Videos should be no longer than five minutes. You won’t be disqualified if yours is, but judges will likely stop watching after the five-minute mark. Think of it this way, a standard movie trailer is 2.5 minutes. Convey your key value proposition concisely before your audience loses interest.
Don’t wait until the last minute to upload your video. The time it takes to process a video on YouTube or Vimeo varies greatly depending on format, file size, upload traffic and Internet connection speed, and could take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours or more. Don’t procrastinate!
Edit. Cut out the messy stuff, show only the best parts, and do multiple takes.
Get organized. Write out a script of what you’ll say/show, rehearse it before recording and keep in mind all of the above.
Don’t know much about recording videos? Check out these helpful screencasting tips.
October 23, 2013
Tens of thousands of projects are created at hackathons each year, but what happens to them after the weekend’s over? Prior to now, organizers and participants had no high-quality and cost-efficient way of showing them off. This is about to change.
We’re thrilled to announce that starting today, ChallengePost will offer our beautifully designed and secure platform to hackathon organizers everywhere for free. Using ChallengePost, organizations can easily post hackathons to drive innovation and build developer community, and software makers can upload hacks to earn exposure and recognition.
We look forward to supporting all types of hackathons. These include but are not limited to: hackathons for operating systems, programming languages, application programming interfaces (APIs), and other software and hardware development tools; hackathons for big data; hackathons for open source projects; hackathons for communities and causes; hackathons for internal teams and consumers of brands; hackathons for open data; hackathons for government; hackathons for developing a single app; and more!
Our free service is off to a great start. In a few short months, 2,500 software makers from around the world have posted over 1,000 hacks on ChallengePost. Earlier this fall, three mega college hackathons, each with over 1,000 coders and featuring participants from more than 150 universities, used ChallengePost to give exposure to a spectrum of new technologies. See the amazing hacks that came out of PennApps at the University of Pennsylvania, MHacks at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and HackMIT at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
ChallengePost’s mission is firmly rooted in the belief that technology can bring about important change and improve lives. We want to challenge software makers and technologists everywhere to solve problems and build awesome software. Hackathons provide a phenomenal opportunity for makers to do so, and we’re proud to help accelerate their success and impact.
ChallengePost has powered over 500 online competitions and is the leading software competition platform trusted by Samsung, Ford, Eli Lilly, the Federal Government and others. Learn more about us at http://challengepost.com.
October 17, 2013
In celebration of the awesome hackathons and challenges we’ve powered with Samsung, you’re invited to join us at its first ever annual developer conference in San Francisco October 27–29.
Get an exclusive first look at the latest tools, SDKs, and emerging platforms for Samsung devices, and connect with industry visionaries, fellow developers, and Samsung tech leads and executives. Like most developer conferences, it’s not free, but we’ve heard from sources that it will be well worth it.
Samsung and ChallengePost together have been a phenomenal force in forging closer relationships with the developer community in the past few years. It all began with the first Free the TV Challenge in 2010, when developers were invited to create connected TV apps with its SmartTV SDK.
First-prize winner MOVL, then a social TV startup, went on to be featured as a development resource to participants in 2011’s Free The TV Challenge, and eventually acquired by Samsung Electronics earlier this year.
When the Galaxy Note blasted onto the scene, dozens of creative applications vied for the Best S Pen-integrated App title and $205,000 in prizes in the Galaxy Note S Pen App Challenge.
Most recently, ChallengePost powered the Samsung Hackathon @ PayPal event featuring Samsung’s Chord SDK. Again, dozens of hacks were created. (The winners will demo their apps at a special happy hour we’re throwing during the conference!)
There’s a lot in store for ChallengePost + Samsung. Come hang out with us at Samsung Developers Conference for the next installment.
October 16, 2013
This is the ninth in a series of posts for stakeholders and organizations interested in running software challenges. If you’re a software developer who’s looking to enter an app contest, check out our latest challenges.
Developer programs: if you’re considering running a contest in order to boost the ecosystem of developers and businesses utilizing your company’s software tools and data, congratulations — you’re on the right path.
App challenges are a commitment of time, resources, and energy though. So if you’re going to do it, make sure you do it right. How? Get off to a strong start by using a robust platform (like ours at ChallengePost!) that helps eschew the common pitfalls of app contest sites, such as these:
Throwing money at the problem
Many app contest sites put too much emphasis on monetary prizes, and fail to stress the general awesomeness of the tools being featured. Moreover, non-monetary prizes — such as exclusive access to people, places, or events — can be bigger motivators than cold, hard cash. Simply put, developers aren’t just in it for the money.
Forgetting about long-term value
Without a gallery that lives on beyond the competition, the whole experience becomes a one-time thing that dies shortly after the dust has settled. Yet many app contests aren’t set up to be a showcase for participants’ work. The challenge site should live on to help promote and distribute the apps built during the competition.
All surface, no substance
Running a smooth software contest entails many moving parts. The needs of participating developers (and their teammates!), contest administrators, and judges all need to be thoroughly considered. This means tools have to be in place for vetting apps, communicating with submitters, and ensuring a fair and transparent judging process. A landing page won’t cut it.
Not vetting votes properly
Public voting’s awesome… until you get a million votes from fake princes. Offering a “Popular Choice” or “Fan’s Choice” prize determined by public votes can be a great way to encourage viral sharing and generate buzz. But the sad fact is that as much as we want to believe that people will always act honestly, offering these prizes can tempt unscrupulous people to attempt to scam the system in their favor. You need systems in place to validate voting and make the process fair to everyone.
Focusing solely on developers, and developers alone
Much like public voting — which can engage a much larger audience — discussion forums and social media outreach for non-developers to contribute ideas can be quite useful. Think through ways that people without coding chops can spread the word.
Not doing due diligence
Some people get so excited about running an app competition that they overlook establishing legitimate rules for the contest. That opens the door for potentially hairy legal situations. Because app challenges are skill-based, public competitions, there are strict regulations for running them. Keep in mind that contest rules are different from Terms of Service documents, so it’s important to know how to approach them. (We know, it’s all fun and games until lawyers get involved… )
Throwing up www.LongContestURLNooneWillRemember…
This should be obvious (but you’d be surprised how often it’s not). Some contest sites make it unnecessarily difficult for potential participants to find and remember the contest URL, which decreases the likelihood for re-visits. Don’t hide.
The moral of the story is this: if you’re going to hold an app competition, make sure you use a platform that can execute it well. Five hundred plus challenges later, ChallengePost has built a platform and team that can do all these things and more. But if for some crazy reason you decide to go it alone, take our word for it and don’t do what we just outlined above.
If we can help you get started, give us a ring, or write us at email@example.com.
October 8, 2013
T-minus 36 Hours: The beginning
“Dude, whatcha gonna build?”
“No clue, but it’ll be awesome.”
This was the first conversation I heard upon arriving at the brainy basement stronghold of Ann Arbor entrepreneurship, TechArb, on the Friday afternoon before MHacks officially kicked off. A group of Penn State engineering students had just shuffled in off their seven-hour bus ride, and their tone mirrored the room’s chaotic anticipation of what lay ahead.
As 1,200+ hackers from 100+ universities collected their access bracelets and sponsor swag upon checking in at the Crisler Center, the word “epic” bombarded all senses into agreement. This was going to be BIG (house) — Michigan Stadium, a.k.a. “The Big House,” is the football stadium for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and has a capacity of 82,000; the Crisler Center’s been home to countless Big Ten sports championships.
Per standard hackathon operating procedure on a grand scale, organizers pumped up the crowd and sponsors demoed their APIs on stadium monitors in hopes of seeing some fresh new use cases during the expo on Sunday. They wouldn’t be disappointed.
As soon as demos finished, base camps formed. Hacker refugees were adopted based on skill set (or eagerness), and hives began to buzz about what they’d create in the next 36 hours.
T-minus 24 Hours: The Dreaded Pivot
No matter how much you plan ahead, there’s simply never enough power plugs or wifi bandwidth at a hackathon. Friday night blearily bled into Saturday morning as networking contractors patched up the inundated UM network.
After a surge of sunrise productivity — lit by an inspiring view looking down on the nation’s largest football stadium empty on a crisp Fall morning — and an afternoon of inspiring tech talks, some hackers faced the grim reality that their projects wouldn’t be as simple or useful as they’d hoped. It was time to “pivot.”
Luckily for them, the university had granted all MHacks participants full run of the football field for a morning jaunt. Footballs, frisbees, UFOs, and freewheeling product discussions flew around with abandon in a welcome break from keyboards. Lack of showers aside, it was a blast. And a privilege that would again be granted in the evening for an even more necessary twilight field takeover (complete with t-shirt cannons!).
T-minus 12 Hours: The Long Haul
Saturday night. The long haul. Running on nothing but Red Bull fumes and hope, it becomes apparent that some projects simply won’t come together for demos the next morning. Most teams, however, get their first glimmers of success. But whether it’ll all come together in the end is to be seen. All the while, a dream team of developer evangelists scrambled through the night to aid all those in need of help using their tools, and recruiters chatted up the best and brightest burgeoning software makers in the country.
T-Minus 2 Hours: The Homestretch
Photo credit: Nicole Moore for University of Michigan
Sunday morning’s spectacle of anxiety and exhaustion defies adequate description. Frankly, it looked (and smelled) like the aftermath of the smartest fraternity party bender in history. Delirious coders squinted at their screens and made final tweaks to connected hardware. Then it was time to finish their submissions on ChallengePost, making sure that all teammates were included and boxes were checked for all appropriate sponsor prizes. Time’s up.
T-Minus 0: An Epic Close
Back in the basketball arena, 247 teams plugged into impressively laid out routers and power plugs to show off their creations. Sponsors and judges made their rounds, thrilling at the ingenuity and enthusiasm on display. Peers marveled at each other’s work, and shared war stories on what it took to accomplish so much in short order. The demo fair was truly remarkable to behold. It’s something any hackathon skeptic needs to see to understand what events like MHacks are all about.
Once judges had gone about the difficult task of identifying their top ten and sponsors picked their winners, it was back to the bleachers for demos and award announcements. The organizers expressed sincere appreciation for everyone’s help making MHacks exceed all expectations.
Sponsors gave out 20 prizes amidst an impressive slew of live demos — there were prizes for most technically impressive, best use of select APIs/platforms/services, a Thiel Fellowship Prize for the best hack by a team where all members are under 20, and more.
The top three prizes went to Green Can, a hardware hack that auto-sorts recyclables from trash; Save My Glass, which projects a car’s dashboard info through Google Glass and vibrates in your ear if you fall asleep at the wheel; and Tabbr, a search engine for tabs.
Winners congratulated each other while sponsors, judges, and hackers traded contact information to continue their collaborations. It was all suddenly over, as buses and airports filled with students worn out and invigorated from the experience.
In 36 hours, 1,200+ engineering talent learned, collaborated, and created brilliant hacks. (They also sang “99 bottles of beer” in binary; played football; and made not one, but two Harlem Shake videos.) Most inspiring of all, they had fun while innovating their hearts out. Epic indeed.
More about MHacks:
MHacks: The Trailer [MHacks]
Recyclables sorter wins top prize at record-setting MHacks event [University Record]
Check out a ‘smart trashcan’ and other top inventions from MHacks Hackathon [mlive]