Online hackathon vs onsite hackathon - comparison

Jun 11, 2018

coding programmers on hackathon while solving challenge

Hackathons had been organized for years and were always an unmatched way to test programmers’ skills in a unique, competitive environment. This formula is still being used, and for good reasons, but now, aside from the regular, tried onsite format a new way of carrying out those events had emerged. Online hackathons and challenges have been in operation for quite some time now, but, in opinion of some, they still don’t get the love they deserve. This piece will be particularly useful for beginners who are yet to take part in one such event.

Participate in hackathons onsite

This is the most traditional, tried and true form of programming challenges. Chances are your university, high school, or a community of programmers are organizing one such event. For beginners this is a perfect opportunity to test the waters in such environment. Having a chance to experience first-hand a hackathon among familiar faces will allow you to get comfortable and, hopefully, think of “joy” and “good time” when you hear the words hackathon onsite, or online for that matter. But what are the stationary hackathons actually about? Glad you asked! Onsite programming challenges are usually held over weekends and require taking advantage of the duration of the event to its fullest. This often means skipping sleep and working on the project overnight instead. To make up for undeniably demanding form of participation organizers usually provide the contestants with food like pizza, soft drinks, maybe some video games to unwind and let go of the stress. Considering the fact that the duration of a competition is anything between 10 all the way up to 72 hours in some rare cases, when talking about hackathons onsite the rules often allow for some form of preparation. Starting to lay down the groundwork beforehand is surely a headstart, but when all participants are given the chance to take advantage of it nobody is being left behind. In general, this form of programming contests is very fast-paced, exhausting, yet, at the same time, extremely rewarding.

Participate in hackathons online

How about we take look at the younger sibling of hackathons now? Hackathons online are the new big thing in the world of competitive programming, a formula of events focused more on sophisticated solutions and comfort of work. Alright, maybe they’re not that new, but certainly a newer convention than the other option. So what exactly is there to know about those contests? First of all, as mentioned previously, convenience. All your work can be done from the comfort of your workspace. Are you participating in an online challenge with your university colleagues? There’s definitely a room for you on the campus to work on the project. The registration process is handled online on various recruitment platforms, like so you don’t even have to walk a minute to get it done. Oh, you prefer to be busy within the walls of your lovely home? Sure, that’s also a possibility. You know what else is comfortable? Being able to work on your project for an extended period of time. Depending on a given event you will have anywhere from a week to even 3 months to come up with an idea, lay down the plan of action, and carefully develop your project. Sure, it’s not always a bed of roses, problems will arise, but that’s the nature of working on any kind of project. You can read more on that in our previous article.

Got any examples of onsite hackathons?

Glad you asked, there have been quite a lot of those actually, and we’re happy to give you a little rundown.

bankITup - Data Rules

This event, as the name would suggest, was focused on data, more accurately, data analysis. Participants were faced with a challenge of creating an algorithm, a model, or a tool used to identify companies with biggest investment and development potential. The hackathon took place between 14th and 15th of April 2018, and 109 people have signed up for it. What’s most interesting to you, probably, is the prize pool of 43.000 PLN, which is just over $11.500.

Lion's Den ING Modeling Challenge

Taking place between 16th and 17th of May 2018 the Lion’s Den challenge was focused on risk modeling. Accurate financial forecasting is crucial for any growing business. There were 14 projects submitted to this hackathon that were set out to solve those issues, and 4 of those won. The prize pool of 25.000 PLN (just under $7.000) was complemented by travel reimbursement. We’ve had a lot of fun meeting all the participants!

How about online hackathons?

Worry not, we’ve got you covered here as well. Those events have been getting progressively more popular among the developer community in the recent years, so your attention should also be on those.

NVIDIA® Jetson™ Developer Challenge

AI is the best invention since sliced bread, or so they say. NVIDIA organized a hackathon that challenged the programming community to develop projects utilizing Machine Learning algorithms in everyday-life solutions. AI-powered drone? A virtual environment-training system for robots? You name it! The prize pool was $42.789, and because of that it shouldn’t come as a surprise 2270 participants from 80 have submitted 114 projects! It was one of the biggest challenge on our platform that truly put us to the test, and we couldn’t be happier to have been a part of it.

Anita's Moonshot Codeathon

This one is quite interesting, because it’s most probably the only hackathon that didn’t require any prior coding skills to participate. The main goal of the challenge was to enable all those who identify as woman to become a part of STEM fields through creative programming contest. 883 participants from 93 countries took part in this amazing hackathon and submitted 75 projects. The duration of the contest was 3 months, which allowed participants to really smooth things out and present a very complex, complete solutions.

We asked Tomasz Florczak, co-founder, to give his thoughts on the topic:

“Ever since the inception of we knew that limiting ourselves to either online or onsite hackathons would be a mistake, we had to cover both of those areas in unison as the demand is equal. Despite onsite hackathon format being the tried and true one, by no means does it mean it’s an obsolete formula for such challenge. Likewise, online hackathons might be the newer way of testing developers’ skills, but that doesn’t mean it’s an untested area of uncertain future.

But wait, there’s more!

While it’s not the main juice of this article it is still important to point out that there are also live coding challenges. Those are quite unique in their own respect, they take place on platforms like, but there’s no prior preparation involved. The challenge is scheduled to start at a given time and the task is revealed to all of the contestants at the same time. Everything lasts even as little as 3 hours to complete, after that the submission window closes. It’s a fun way to engage the programming community in more spontaneous events that doesn’t interfere with daily routines as much as the other two, as it can be taken part in an afternoon. Stick around as those will come to our platform very soon!

Now it’s time for you to test yourself!

By now you should have at least some idea of which type of programming challenges fits better your way of thinking. If you’re still undecided worry not, there’s nothing stopping you from taking part in both of those! Just take a look at our list of hackathons and challenges and pick one for yourself.