Last updated 5 days ago

One day, a random thought popped into my head, “If there was an interaction-design hackathon, it’d be funny if it was called interhackt


There is always a story behind every idea, the series of events leading up to a moment of inspiration. And of course, I’d love to tell a grand narrative for why I decided to run Interhackt — but really, the story is quite simple: it all started with the name. You know how sometimes a word will just pop into your head without any explanation — breaking through the wall of your consciousness like some kind of linguistic kool-aid man? One night, just as I was falling asleep, the word “interhackt” suddenly barged its way into my mind, and I thought, “hey, that would be the perfect name for an interaction design hackathon…” and then I fell asleep.

There was something quite intriguing to me about an interaction design hackathonWhich I later began to refer to as a “designathon”

. Many communities have large events to bring them together, whether game jams, hackathons, conferences, or meetups. There didn’t feel to be such a community around the particular strain of interaction design characterized by pushing the boundaries and exploring future possibilities for how we interact with technology. And while hackathons are frequented by coders and computer science students, it is rather difficult to participate if you don’t have coding experience — which shuts out a wide range of people and perspectives. However, a designathon could be a more open experience that not only brings together this community but also is open to participants of all disciplines and skill levels.

Over the next couple months, the idea of interhackt kept bubbling up in thoughts, in conversations, and one day while brainstorming around collaborative authorship with my friend Jonathan Borichevskiy, we decided to finally make it a reality, decided on a date, and set off organizing the first-ever interaction design hackathon. And I have to say, the week of the designathon was the most intense and exhausting week of my life. What follows is an attempt to document and capture the story of that week.


Most hackathons and game jamsCompetitions to make an entire video game in a short period of time, usually with a theme provided that the game must somehow be centred around; for example Ludum Dare or the Global Game Jam. These competitions were a big source of inspiration for me, having participated very actively in game jams many years ago.


Drowning is the best time to learn to swim

Looking back through my notebook I come across a line, “drowning is the best time to learn to swim.” It was written at approximately 2am some point halfway through the designathon when I realized the immensity of the task we had taken upon ourselves as organizers. We were not just organizing a hackathon but also running an entire conference and building a social network on the side.

Running a single event in a normal week, I might’ve spent a few days thinking about and consciously preparing — but this was not a normal week! As I sat down in front of my laptop on Thursday morning only five minutes before a talk I was about to give, I felt a sort of cathartic confidence. I felt like I had blindly hurled myself into the deep end; there was no time to think or meticulously plan every movement. Yet somehow, amid all the tumble and chaos, I had managed to surface.

Five minutes? Hah, that’s more than enough time to scrawl a couple talking points on the back of an index card!

What’s next

I would love to run Interhackt again someday and continue fleshing out this format of week-long designathon. It was a lot of effort though and left me burnt out on running social events for quite a while.

Currently however, my focus lies in exploring smaller learning groups and how to foster more spontaneously-forming generative spaces where people can explore new territory of ideas with like-minded peers. The dream eventually is that I may build a community (or a platform) where events like interhackt emerge naturally from the community simply by the system and culture in place.