Things I learned about organizing a hack day

Boston Music Hack Day is in the can.  I learned a lot over the last few days about what happens when you have 200+ programmers gather for a weekend.  Here’s some of the things I want to remember for next time:

  • Plan for no-shows – when the event is free,  there will be some people who sign up, but then, for whatever reason will not show up.  We had lots of people on the waiting list that could have attended if we had anticipated the no-shows.


    No-shows should be sitting in these empty seats

  • Buy Less Food – When people are up all night coding, they tend to skip breakfast.  We had breakfast for 250 on Sunday, we probably only needed breakfast for 100.
  • Late-night hacking with beer and music can be quite productive


    Late-night hacking at the Hack Nest

  • Have dueling projectors – when you have 35 demos to show, plug in time can add a half hour to a 2 hour demo session.  (By the way, thanks to the good Samaritan ubergeek who volunteered to help the presenters get the video (someone tell me who it was)).
  • Work with awesome people – Working Jon and Dave was great,  but there was also an incredible behind-the-scenes team making the Hack Day possible.  We had an awesome set of volunteers who gave their weekend to making the hack day possible.  Here are some of them:

See the guy in the back with the cap? That’s Matthew Santiago – he was a non-stop hack day machine – from moving food for 300, organizing registration,  handling and chauffeuring  the Echo Nestival talent. He worked from 7AM Saturday morning to 7PM Sunday evening with about an hour of sleep.

The secret weapon of the hack day was Elissa – Director of Stuff at the Echo Nest- she managed so many details  from booking the Echo Nestival, renting vans, carting food, finding volunteers, photoshopping badges, getting tee-shirts made, dealing  with press, photographers,  CEOs, and Founders, ordering tables and chairs for the Hack nest,  wrangling sponsors, picking  menus, ordering food,   getting swag, making extra bathroom keys, hand delivering the excess food to the local homeless shelter and so much more.  Elissa quietly managed all of the big and little details that I never would have thought of.   If you attended the hack day, be sure to give her some twitter love.

I learned a lot over the weekend about events and organizing.  I hope I get to be involved in more hack days in the future so I can use my new knowledge.

Photos by Dave Haynes


  1. #1 by tom on November 24, 2009 - 9:40 pm

    i think the person who helped with the projector in the beginning was timon from topspin.. might be wrong on that.

  2. #2 by Matthias on November 24, 2009 - 10:22 pm

    Thank you for a great conference! I attended two panels and had some very interesting discussions with people!

  3. #3 by ullrich on November 25, 2009 - 5:41 am

    about #1
    i liked the way the guys from barcamp london did it for bcl7.
    they asked all the attendees to confirm their participation like 1 week in advance. and everybody who didn’t confirm by then was one more person from the waiting list. it’s one easy thing to sign up in the first place to save the place, but confirming sorts out lots of the no-shows.

  1. Boston Music Hack Day is in the can. « Music Machinery
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