As a DAO, you may be looking for ways to build your community, make connections with other organizations in the ecosystem, and get builders using your product or protocol. Hackathons are a great way to do this!
In this article, we’ll dive into what a hackathon is, how your DAO can participate, and how to create great bounties that stand out!
Hackathons are competitions for developers. A hackathon is when sponsors—typically companies, projects, or DAOs—interested in having developers build on or with their products post bounties with prize money that teams can compete for. Bounties can range from a broad generalization, such as “Most creative use of Aragon OSx,” to a specific directive, such as “build a financial plugin on Aragon OSx.” They have standards that you need to meet, such as “share your Github repo and a short demo video.”
The sponsors typically award prizes to the winners of those bounties. Prize money for bounties varies greatly, from as low as $100 to upwards of $10,000 for the winning team.
Hackathons typically occur over a set period of time, ranging from one weekend to one month or longer. Typically the goal is to build something fast over a short time, rather than build something perfect over a long period of time. Often, hackathons occur at a venue in-person, which makes it easy for developers to ask questions and interact with people from the developer team. But they can also occur online, like the DAO Global Hackathon we hosted in spring 2023.
One key aspect of hackathons is that the sponsors’ software is open source. This means that anyone can build with or on the products. If the software wasn’t open source, it would be more challenging to have a hackathon. That’s why hackathons are so popular in web3—most projects are open source and transparent, so building together and in the open is core to the ecosystem.
There are three ways to participate in a hackathon:
Required: skills to build a product (development, design, project management), time to work on bounties
You could gather a team to compete for prize money at a hackathon. You’ll need a small team of developers that can set aside time to compete. You can also participate in hackathons as an individual.
Required: prize money, prompt idea, can have software for developers to build with
If your DAO builds or manages a protocol or product that is open-source, it might make sense to post a bounty! That’s why projects like Uniswap, Lens, and Aragon often participate in hackathons: they manage open-source software that can be built on top of.
To post a bounty, come up with a prompt that will spark developers’ imaginations and encourage them to compete for prize money. Follow the guidelines put forward by the hackathon organizers. Try to make your bounty stand out, whether through a unique concept or high amount of prize money, so devs are willing to compete for it. Sometimes, sponsors choose to award multiple prizes—like first, second, and third place—for a single bounty.
Required: Resources to market, plan, and deliver the event; (optional) resources to create your own bounties
Hosting a hackathon involves gathering sponsors and developers, planning the event, and marketing the hackathon to make sure you have a high turnout of developers competing for prizes. If your organization also wants to post bounties, you will want to set aside prize money as well.
Hackathons are often paired with an event, because there will be sponsors and developers there already. For example, EthDenver hosts a hackathon the week before the event. You can also follow companies that put on hackathons around the world, like EthGlobal.
Hackathons in web3 are often announced on Twitter, so following the accounts of large projects that often participate in hackathons can help surface news in your feed.
Take the time to create great bounties: Don’t just find a generic bounty online—take the time to create a unique, eye-catching bounty that developers will want to build on. We’ll share tips on how exactly to create a great bounty below.
Marketing is key: You want the most developers possible to find your bounties, so you get a lot of great submissions. Marketing consistently across all your organization’s platforms is very important.
Set a metric for success: To know if your bounties were successful, set a metric for success, such as number of projects built or getting one high-quality, long-term project created.
Make an effort to invite developers in your community and in others: Developers have tons of information coming in. A personalized invitation to developers in your community who you think would like to participate can go a long way.
Bounties shouldn’t be too large or small in scope: developers only have a short time to build, so be mindful of the ask. You don’t want to create a bounty that is so broad and challenging that devs are intimidated to take it on, but you also want to avoid putting so many constraints on it that devs are bored or can’t let their imaginations run.
Bounties should be feasible: the topic should have been previously researched by a developer so you know it’s feasible. This ensures your bounty actually gets built and isn’t left by the wayside.
Bounties should leave the door open for creativity: although you want to provide insights on what the dev should build, leaving some space for creativity also allows innovation to take magical turns. Developers could build something you never would have imagined!
When possible, join with a partner: double the fun, double the audience, double the reward. Joining with a partner means you can pool prize money to make your bounty more attractive, and create connections with another team.
Think creatively. The catchier the title, the more likely devs will dive into it.
Detail the pain point you’re trying to solve and why the bounty proposed is a good solution for that objective. This is where you provide the narrative around why you want to have this bounty built and get the dev excited about what they’re building and its use cases.
Detail the prize and currency that this bounty is worth - how much will the developer receive after completion of a successful bounty?
The criteria used to determine whether this bounty is a winner - this should include:
Share some resources to help the dev get started quicker. This can be a developer portal to the toolset, a video tutorial you think is useful, a list of links or ideas, or anything you think could help them start building faster.
We used this bounty at EthDenver 2022. The winning team continued building their project beyond the hackathon, which you can check out here.
Title: AI proposal summarization for Aragon DAOs
Number of Bounties: 1
In order to make decision-making easier for DAO members, we want to bring in AI models to summarize proposals and forum discussions. Use a tool, like the OpenAI API or others, to summarize proposals and turn long texts into concise bullet points of the most important, contentious points in the proposal. The goal is not to provide a biased opinion on what the proposal outcome should be, but rather an objective summarized account of the text itself.
Create an app that fetches proposals published by Aragon DAOs and outputs a clear summary using AI technology.
Bonus points if it also summarizes comments from the forum.
Here’s an idea of how you can plan out your marketing calendar for bounties that you posted at a hackathon.
1 month before
1 month before the hackathon, you want people to get the date on their calendar and start planning ahead. Share on your channels (social media, email, blog) that you will be posting bounties at this hackathon.
1 week before
Now, you want people to actually register for the hackathon so they can participate in it and compete for your bounties. Share the details on your bounties, including the prize pool, to get developers excited about building on your stack!
During the hackathon
Developers are busy building their projects, and you want to make sure they can get help if they need it. Make it easy for them to find support through methods like Discord channels, videos, documentation, and Q&A sessions.
After the hackathon
Now that the hackathon is complete, you want to celebrate the amazing work done by the winners. Share their projects on your channels and make sure to keep in touch with the most promising builders who want to continue leveraging your stack!
Curious about hackathons, building on open source software, and more developer content? Join our developer community newsletter to stay up to date on DAO tooling. Or, explore our developer portal to build a custom DAO or plugin on Aragon OSx.
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