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Matt Soucy

Hack Princeton: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

in life by Matt Soucy - Comments

Last Friday, I found myself walking across campus for a different purpose than usual. Typically, Friday mornings are devoted to Physics class, but this time I walked straight past the College of Science building, heading toward a particular bus stop. Once there, I met up with several of my friends, before boarding the bus to Princeton. What was the occasion? Hack Princeton, another hackathon.

We sat. We sat for hours. We took a tiny break for lunch, then we sat for several more hours. At last, we arrived, slightly later than anticipated, missing only the opening ceremonies and demonstrations.

This post isn't about what I did. It's about how it was run.

Hack Princeton was one of the more unusually-organized events I had been to. Hackers were spread out across a wide area, but we received constant email blasts about things like food, events, mentors, sponsors. However, there was one particular detail that caused no end of grief and grumbling: the sleeping conditions.

For the uninitiated, normal hackathons are 24 hours long, which is plenty of time to either pull an all-nighter or go take a little nap. Hack Princeton, however, is 48 hours long. This is extremely difficult to do without sleep. Normal hackathons are fine with providing couches, comfortable chairs, etc, or just letting hackers crash wherever they can. Hack Princeton had an unfortunate situation, where hackers were told, verbatim, "Please do not sleep horizontally", which involved organizers actually leading hackers a mile across campus to sleep in rooms that campus police wouldn't be checking. This separation of hackerspace and sleeping-space is a problem, since it means that hackers have 40 minutes of walking when they can't be working. Sleeping bags were specifically not allowed to be used in hacking areas.

Overall, the event was alright, but considering the big names involved (Princeton, Yahoo, Facebook), it could have been substantially more organized than it was.

In summary:

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