Computer hacking gets a bum rap. When you see hackers in movies, they are rebellious social outcasts who dress slovenly and have a grudge against somebody or something that has done them wrong. Sometimes the hacker is portrayed as an upscale hipster who hacks for financial gain. Other times, the hacker is merely a terrorist with a high IQ and the ability to crash any government system with a line of code and the push of a button. Maybe that’s why I get such odd looks from people when I tell them that my newest obsession is participating in Hackathons.
The Urban Dictionary explains that the act of hacking can also be a positive thing.
“Hack: To program a computer in a clever, virtuosic, and wizardly manner. Ordinary computer jockeys merely write programs; hacking is the domain of digital poets. Hacking is a subtle and arguably mystical art, equal parts wit and technical ability, that is rarely appreciated by non-hackers.”
UD goes on to explain that there are three classifications of hackers: “White-hat (hacking for the enjoyment of exploration); Black-hat (hacking to find exploits and system weaknesses); and Grey-hat (someone who is a little of both).
Hackathons focus on White-hat hackers. Sponsor companies lift the veil of secrecy to share their Application Programming Interface (API) code with independent developers who may be the key to innovation in the specific topics featured at each hackathon. In other words, the same code that powers Google maps could be incorporated into an app developed by two kids from Boyle Heights to create a mobile tool that is useful to individuals or a community at large.
Read more here.