Hacking and Making at Time-Bounded Events: Current Trends and Next Steps in Research and Event Design

A CHI 2018 workshop for researchers studying Hackathons, experienced event organizers, and participants interested in running their own events.

Workshop Tech Report Find out more


Time-bounded collaborative events in which teams work together under intense time pressure are becoming increasingly popular. In 2016, collegiate hackathons alone attracted over 65,000 participants across 200 events. While "hackathons", that is, competitive overnight coding events, are one of the more prevalent examples of this phenomenon, there are many more distinct event design variations for different audiences and with divergent aims:

  • "sprints" bring together existing communities to advance planned work,
  • "codefests" bring together related communities to encourage interoperability,
  • "hack-days" and "hack-weeks" teach hacking and making skills to diverse audiences without software backgrounds, like artists and scientists,
  • "edit-a-thons" support intensive co-generation of encyclopedia content, and so on.

Taken together, these events offer new opportunities and challenges for cooperative work by affording explicit, predictable, time-bounded spaces for interdependent work and access to new audiences of collaborators.

This one-day workshop will bring together:

  • researchers interested in the phenomenon,
  • experienced event organizers, and
  • participants interested in running their own events.

The workshop aims to facilitate consolidating existing research, sharing practical experiences, and understanding what benefits different events may offer, how they may be applied in other contexts, and how insights from studying these events may help position the CHI community to better study, plan and design hackathon-style events and/or collaborative systems that support new modes of production and collaboration.

Workshop Themes


Topics of interest for the workshop include, but are not limited to:

  • Design variations: What are the different variations in event design? How variations in design impact event success, participant satisfaction, and group processes, such as idea generation, prototyping, team formation, team dynamics, etc., and diversity and inclusion?
  • Short-term and long-term outcomes: How do event goals vary across contexts and designs? How do we measure success in achieving these goals? How do we support more long-term outcomes, such as building a long-term community by fostering engagement?
  • Practical support for event organizers: How do we design tools, processes, and workflows that support organizers and community managers, such as instruments to evaluate outcomes and assess community needs?
  • Applications: What are the possible application areas of hackathons beyond traditional contexts, e.g., learning environments, user-centered design and HCI research, and non-software engineering work in general? What are the success factors and lessons learned in each of these applications?
  • Mediated interactions and modality transitions: How are computer-mediated communication and collaborative tools used in augmenting time-bounded collaborative events? What collaboration structures support different event designs and outcomes? What opportunities and challenges do these tools introduce? How do we preserve group and work artefacts when we move from virtual to face-to-face spaces and vice versa?
  • Theoretical space of ‘hackathons’: Building theory around the ecology and etymology of ‘hacking’ to support a more generalized understanding of the opportunities for collaborative work, e.g., what is the boundary space for events to be considered “hackathons”, what are related activities that go by different names (e.g. Codefests, Sprints), how are they connected, and where does the family of events fit within the broader space of HCI research?


Montréal, Canada
Sunday, April 22nd, 2018


In conjuction with CHI 2018 - Engage with CHI: The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
(Registration for both the workshop and at least one day of CHI conference is required.)

Submission Details Download full proposal


Time Activity
09:00 AM Welcome
09:15 AM Keynote
Open Innovation
Dr Elizabeth Gerber, Northwestern University
10:00 AM 10-word introduction about your interest in Hackathons
10:30 AM Coffee break
11:00 AM Poster session

Engaging Time-Poor Designers in Philanthropic Activities
Bonnie E. John, Paddy O’Flaherty, Shahtab Wahid, and Anthony Viviano
Bloomberg L.P., New York, NY, USA.
Poster; Paper

Community Water Data Hackathons: Awareness + Participation + Engagement
John M. Carroll and Jordan Beck
Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.
Poster; Paper

Collaborative community events in open source biology research
Brad Chapman
Harvard Chan School Bioinformatics Core
Poster; Paper

You Hacked and Now What? – Exploring Outcomes of a Corporate Hackathon
Alexander Nolte, Ei Pa Pa Pe Than, and James D. Herbsleb, Institute for Software Research, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Anna Filippova, GitHub Inc., San Francisco, CA, USA.
Christian Bird, Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, USA.
Steve Scallen, Microsoft Garage, Redmond, WA, USA.
Poster; Paper

The Disappointing Adventures of HACKERGIRL_1852
Sian JM Brooke
Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.
Poster; Paper

Hacking Academia: How Academia Communities are Evolving a New Breed of Hackathon
Margaret Drouhard, Brittany Fiore-Gartland, and Anissa Tanweer
eScience Institute, Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.
Poster; Paper

Iterative Coordination in Organizational Search
Sourobh Ghosh and Andy Wu
Harvard Business School, Boston, MA, USA.

Organization for Human Brain Mapping Open Science Special Interest Group Accessible and Inclusive Neuroinformatics
Gregory Kiar et al.
McGill University, Montréal, QC Canada.
Poster; Paper

Hacking Creativity
Peter Müller
Technical University Munich, Munich, Germany.
Poster; Paper

Project Selection, Goal Setting, and Coordination of Teams in Short-term, Intensive Collocation
Ei Pa Pa Pe Than, Alexander Nolte, and James D. Herbsleb, Institute for Software Research, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Anna Filippova, GitHub Inc., San Francisco, CA, USA.
Christian Bird, Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, USA.
Steve Scallen, Microsoft Garage, Redmond, WA, USA.
Poster; Paper
12:00 PM Pitching ideas for breakout session
12:30 PM Lunch
01:30 PM Breakout session
Group 1: Organization of Hackathons
Group 2: Designing for Diversity and Inclusion
Group 3: Measurement of Hackathon outcomes
03:00 PM Coffee break
03:30 PM Plenary session
05:00 PM Closing remarks & Feedback


Submission Details:

Your submission should be a single PDF file between 2-4 pages in total, and include the following information:

  1. Your name, title, affiliation, and email.
  2. A description of one or more themes of particular interest to you that are related to the workshop topic. This may be presented as: an extended abstract summarizing a research idea, a recounting of an experience with a related event, or a story that draws from your own research or event experience.
  3. A short summary of your background, interest in this area, and motivations for participating in the workshop.
  4. If relevant, you may provide links to additional online materials in the PDF.

A title, short abstract (summary) and at least 3 keywords are required fields on the submission form. These are mainly used for easy classification and assignment.

We encouage authors to use the ACM SIGCHI Extended Abstract Format for their submissions.

Important Dates:

Paper submission deadline [Extended]: February 2, 2018 (11:59 pm EST)
Notification of acceptance: February 22, 2018

Submissions for position papers are now closed. However, there are still other ways to participat in our workshop. If you are interested, please contact us via e-mail and include:

  1. a brief overview of your background;
  2. your specific interests as they relate to one or more workshop themes outlined above; and
  3. and what you hope to achieve from the workshop.

The above information will help us make better suggestions about ways you may participate.


  • Applications will be peer reviewed by organizers, and where appropriate, external reviewers.
  • Successful applications will be selected based on their relevance to their workshop themes, fit with the program and background of applicants. A small number of successful submissions will be invited to present their accounts at the workshop.
  • Applications will NOT be penalized for lack of adherence to ACM formatting guidelines.

About the organizers


A little more about us!

Ei Pa Pa Pe Than (Primary contact)

Ei Pa Pa Pe Than is a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research focuses on understanding how technologies can help to create new forms of collaboration that foster engagement, productivity and outcome quality, by considering the interplay among technical, social and individual factors. She published her work in journals including Behaviour and Information Technology, Computers in Human Behavior, and Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, and presented at Annual Conference of ICA and ASIS&T. She was also a co-organizer of a special session on Human Computation at the 2013 International Conference on Active Media Technology.

James Herbsleb

James Herbsleb is a Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, where he serves as Director of the PhD program in Societal Computing. His research interests focus on global software development, open source, and more generally on collaboration and coordination in software projects. He was recently awarded the SIGSOFT Outstanding Research Award in 2016, and previously the Alan Newell Award for Research Excellence in 2014. He has served on the PC of several conferences, including ICSE and FSE, was cochair of CSCW 2004, and served as an associate editor of ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology.

Elizabeth Gerber

Elizabeth Gerber is an Associate Professor of Design at Northwestern University, where she leads the Design Research Cluster and directs the Delta Lab in the Design Institute. Her research focuses on crowdsourcing and the future of work. She currently serves as an associate editor of ACM Transactions on Social Computing.

Brad Chapman

Brad Chapman is a senior research scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He develops open source tools for analyzing biological data (http://bcb.io/), and organizes yearly Codefest working sessions for the open source bioinformatics community. This year’s Codefest was the 8th, with an increased focus on community building through engagement and training (https://www.openbio.org/wiki/Codefest_2017).

Brittany Fiore-Gartland

Brittany Fiore-Gartland is the Director of Data Science Ethnography at the eScience Institute and a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on the emerging cultures and practices of data science and the social and ethical implications of technological change.

Aurelia Moser

Aurelia Moser is a developer and curious cartographer building communities and fellowships around code at Mozilla. She volunteers as a Chapter Leader for the NYC Girl Develop It, teaches data visualization at the School of Visual Art, and writes about geospatial design and development. She's been working in the open tech and non-profit research space for a few years, and recent projects have had mapping sensor data to support agricultural security and sustainable apis ecosystems in the Global South.

Alexander Nolte

Alexander Nolte is a Lecturer of Information Systems at the Institute of Computer Science at the University of Tartu and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Insitute for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on understanding how information technology can be leveraged to support the sustained collaboration of individuals in organizational and volunteer contexts. His work has been published in multiple journals (e.g. DSS and JCSCW) and conferences (e.g. CSCW). He has organized multiple workshops in international conferences such as ECSCW and ITS and he has served on the program committee of several conferences including ACM GROUP and CAiSE.

Nancy Wilkins-Diehr

Nancy Wilkins-Diehr is an Associate Director at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. She directs the Science Gateways Community Institute. This institute, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, is designed to speed the development of sustainable, effective advanced web interfaces known as science gateways, science portals, virtual research environments and by many other names. She is interested in bringing learnings from well-run hackathons to the larger science gateway development community served by SGCI. She is also a co-PI on the NSF-funded XSEDE program where she codirects the Extended Collaborative Support Service, pairing cyberinfrastructure experts with researchers in all domains for in depth collaborations designed to accelerate research using high end cyberinfrastructure such as supercomputers.

Meg Drouhard

Meg Drouhard is a PhD candidate in the Department of Human-Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) at the University of Washington (UW). She works with Dr. Cecilia Aragon in the Human-Centered Data Science Lab, and her primary research focuses on opening up data exploration to non-data scientists through visualization. Meg also works with the ethnographic team and Data Science Studies Working Group at the eScience Institute at UW, studying the emerging practice and culture of data-intensive scientific research. As part of her ethnographic work, she has observed and participated in several academic and community-led hackathons.