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Microsoft will release its hackathon help tool to the world

Blair Hanley Frank | Sept. 4, 2015
It was used to manage Microsoft's internal Oneweek hackathon and is slated for release next year.

Microsoft's internal hackathon tool
A screenshot of the main page of Microsoft's Hackathon interactive project site. Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is planning to bring its internal tool for running hackathons to the public next year, starting by allowing a few select colleges to test drive it at their own events.

It's part of a plan by the company's Garage division to help other organizations get better at handling the administrative side of organizing marathon hack sessions like the three-day-long bonanza Microsoft held in July as part of its Oneweek employee team-building session. Known inside Microsoft as the "Hackathon interactive project site," it was built to help 13,000 employees and interns work on 1,700 projects during the Oneweek hackathon.

onenote for learning hackathon tool
A screenshot of the OneNote for Learning project's page in Microsoft's Hackathon interactive project site. Microsoft.

Now, Microsoft wants to make it available more widely to provide other hackathon organizers with the same tools it uses. The interactive project site gives hackathon participants several useful tools: They can search for projects to join, search for other people to work with, and share code from the projects they're working on. Once they're done, it serves as a showcase for projects that people have completed so that other participants can see what their peers have been up to.

Hackathons -- marathon sessions where groups of people work on projects that are usually technical in nature -- have become popular ways for people to get together and try out interesting concepts. At Microsoft, the Garage runs a number of hackathons every year around different themes, including its massive Oneweek session.

Those hackathons are important tools for Microsoft's internal development efforts. Project teams from the Oneweek hackathon will be meeting with engineering teams around the company who are interested in the technology they're working on so they can talk about potentially integrating the projects into Microsoft's products.

Microsoft's Deep Vision team
Team Deep Vision worked during the Oneweek hackathon to create a machine vision system that uses an Android phone and two Microsoft Bands to help blind people navigate. Credit: Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures

Garage Senior Director Jeff Ramos said Microsoft also expects to get 275 patents out of the Oneweek hackathon projects, which included a system for helping blind people navigate and a system to improve hydroponic lettuce growing on the company's campus.

Microsoft's tool was created to make it easy for people to get together and work on a project. Users can search for fellow hackers based on the skills those people have outlined in a personal profile. The site allows searches by both technical skills and non-technical skills, so hackers can find C# programmers, database engineers, graphic designers, marketers and everyone in between.

 

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