Full Stack Hack: Great People + Great Tools = Joy

It has been almost ten years since I was last involved in organising a hackathon and that was at BarCamp Cork II. I wasn’t even sure Hackathons were still a thing. So I was intrigued when the Joe Drumgoole of MongoDB, who is both an old friend of mine and of nearForm, contacted us to see if we’d be interested in helping to support Full Stack Hack in London.

Joe’s enthusiasm for all things developer-related is infectious and we were onboard immediately, along with Confluent of Apache Kafka fame.

Our tireless events manager Cliona reached out to nearFormer and LNUG/London Node User Group organiser, Adam Davis to join us, along with our renowned Graphic Designer, Agata Surgot.

The prep meeting with some of the teams on Thursday evening was well-attended and the project ideas all sounded useful and valuable. The following morning, things kicked off at 9 am and we were thrilled to have a full-house of teams eager to build apps with Node.js, MongoDB and Kafka.

The day flew, as the teams built out their concepts and got up to speed on the bits that were new to them. I was thrilled that some of them followed my recommendations to try out nearFormer Open Source projects like Fastify.

Demo time arrived and we had a range of project successes and honourable failures. The demo gods were not kind in some cases and very benevolent in others 🙂

The winning team created an IoT-centric system using all of the recommended tools and also a React front-end with very cool visualisations.

I learned some important lessons on the day:

  • Developer Experience and Developer On-boarding are absolutely key to having a successful product for that market. If you can make developers more productive more quickly, they’ll love you.
  • Whilst the combo of Node.js + React + MongoDB + Kafka is incredibly powerful, every developers’ life would be a lot easier if we create some common reusable patterns for this stack.
  • I should have pushed containerization more than I did in the prep meeting. I think the days of trying to cobble together localhost demos are coming to an end. Your first step on any project like this should be to create a config based around Docker/Kubernetes/OpenShift/MiniShift. Then it should be easy to switch between running locally and running in a public cloud. Note that we have a blog post coming very soon on running Node.js apps easily on Microsoft AKS. Also, check out our updated post on MiniShift.
  • Despite the multitude of developers and startups in the world, people are still coming up with useful interesting ideas every day. And a Hackathon is the perfect venue to get together with some like-minded people to build an MVP over the course of a day to test those ideas.

Roll on Full Stack Hack II.

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