Hacks / Products - A discussion on responsibility

<TL;DR>

Who is responsible for developing a hack beyond a hack day? Is it just the developer or should the sponsors and organisers be setting a right framework? If Open Sourcing a hack is not enough, what then? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

The problem

I was surprised to see the amount of criticism I was getting during the CharityHack 2012 (more about that and my hack soon) regarding my intensions of continuing development of my hack after the event.

See, Tom and I had made a nice hack that had gathered quite a bit of interest from people at CharityHack. Even before we finished the product quite a few people from charity related organisations had come up to me to ask/tell me:

They were baffled when I told them that I - as for that moment - had no intention of starting a company based on this hack. I already have a day job, I already have a startup, and I already am busier than I should be. I offered to put the code online, make it open source, allow anyone to work on it, but somehow that wasn’t enough.

And I can understand why: it’s hard to find developers with a passion for someone else’s idea. It also hurts to see an idea abandoned as quickly as it was created. But it made me think: who is responsible for these hacks after an event? Especially an event like CharityHack where the goal is most definitely something more noble than some of the other Hack Days.

Maybe the organisers (in this case PayPal) should be the ones to set a framework. I’ve seen quite a few Hack Days where the winners get some funding to continue the product. But often this funding is very low (funding 1 developer for about half a year max), and it fails to ask the question: does the developer even want any funding? And if so, can they actually find the time?

Solutions?

So are there any solutions to this? Last weekend at the Mozilla Festival I was talking to the people behind Hacks/Hackers and they seemed to have the same issues. I thought it might be handy to have some more regular events (every month or week) to keep ideas alive and show the progress achieved, but I was told that this was already tried without much success.

It was suggested that it would be cool to have some agency as a sponsor/host/participant that would provide X hours of development work on the product after the event to help bring the product to a real first version. This reminded me of the Think Big event I helped out with at Campus Party Berlin. Here it was Telefonica that offered a certain amount of hours to have an app concept worked out into a product, seeing as the idea creators weren’t actually developers themselves.

In the end I don’t know what the solution is though. I’ve always thought that “just open sourcing it” would be enough, but I have to admit that even I can see that that would just lead to more and more awesome but abandoned projects.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


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