By Stefany Barker

​Here’s a quick view of what it was like to participate in the #VersusVirus hackathon this weekend and what you can expect of hackathons in general. Or go straight to our project pitch video (2 minutes 40 seconds long) to discover what we work on.

PS. Also posted my first TikTok this weekend, quite the highlight too 🤪


It’s chaos: embrace it, work through it.

If you can’t make sense of chaos, then a hackathon isn’t for you. Any hackathon is chaotic, by nature, since it’s a new challenge, new people and very little time when it comes down to it. The usual chaos was amplified at the #VersusVirus hackathon with 6000+ participants collaborating remotely to make the world a better place. The amazing thing is, at the end of the hackathon you have this neat pitch and product– you get to see how resilient your team was to the chaos and to create something meaningful.


It’s the epitome of tech culture.

Social scientists have long studied the culture of developers and our “open source” mindset. It’s perplexing, at first: why are people putting in hours and days of work for free towards a common project that doesn’t extrinsically benefit the contributors? There is an element of altruism (“I want to help society fight to pandemic”) but also an element of intrinsic value (learning new skills, working with cool tech, meeting new people) to hackathons that comes from tech culture. What I love the most is how hackathon participants self-selected for real self-starters. It’s what I love about my employer culture at Palantir. You don’t need to tell people what to do, you give them a goal– a challenge in the case of hackathons– and you trust them to self-organise towards a solution.


It’s the perfect example of how tech will save us

Coordinating 6000 people dotted across the world while in confinement would have been impossible without tech. Slack, Zoom, YouTube, Devpost were among the critical tools of #VersusVirus. Our team’s solution and I’d guess all other solutions relied on tech too. Ours relies on a WhatsApp chatbot, for example. If you’re not in tech yet and needed a society-saving reason to join, well this is it. If you’re already in tech: you should be proud of yourself and our dear colleagues for being the backbone of social connection despite social distancing, for MedTech-ers creating technology like respirators, and for tech companies getting into gear to do good for the world at this time (for example, Google allocating $250MM to WHO ads, Facebook making location data available etc).

Check out our hackathon submission here

1 minute pitch video
Bot demo

And my very first TikTok!! Wanna hear what we think about TikTok? Comment below!