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I’m working for a software company and am part of the committee organizing an internal hackathon. I’m not a manager. Ideas I suggest are discussed by the committee and if we agree they are good, we try to make them happen.

I am basically looking for advice on how to get people to participate in the hackathon.

The company isn’t very large: it consists of no more than 300 people spread geographically between several offices located in different countries. People are allowed to participate together regardless of their location or position in the company.

Participating in the hackathon is optional. Employees who choose not to participate will have a normal working day.

People have a month to think of ideas they’d like to see happen, and then take the initiative of finding other people to team up with. They register the ideas with the issue tracking system and we then display them on big screens in the office. We also host a weekly open-for-all lunch-provided meeting where employees can present their ideas.

We are trying to market the event as “Your opportunity to make the changes you’ve always wished to.” While one may limit themselves to something that only benefits the company, they may also suggest something that will also help others. Maybe we should try to put emphasis on the second option.

This isn’t part of the normal process because we work with external clients and basically do what they need. At the hackathon, everyone has the freedom to try out something new.

The hackathon itself is a 24-hour long event where people work to implement their suggestions and then voting takes place. It’s not mandatory to stay for all 24 hours: you may limit yourself to working hours only. However, our message so far has been to encourage them to stay. I don’t think we’d be able to compensate them for the night, but we’ll let them work on their projects in advance (if it doesn’t interfere with their regular work), so they don’t feel like they’re letting their team down for not working 24h straight.

Winners are determined after office-wide voting has taken place, once work has finished and teams have presented their projects. Voting is not a privilege limited to attendees only.

Winners don’t get a monetary price but small tokens of recognition such as wearables, coffee cups, etc. All prizes are branded to indicate they belong to the winners. All attendees get free stuff, like t-shirts. Winner’s wearables will be different to the participant ones, but we’ll try to keep the message more subtle, so it isn’t annoying.

Winning items or money might feel better, but we don’t want to introduce tension between teams. Since the voting afterwards will ultimately decide the winners, and everyone in the company will be able to do it, it really feels like it could ruin relationships, especially if the price is as big as a gaming computer. Raspberry Pis are a great idea as they are cheap, but not everyone participating will be a technical person. I like the idea that everyone gets a price.

The location is the company’s office, and the event takes place during working hours, except for the night. People can leave at any time. They could also participate from home if they find it more convenient.

We are trying to ensure that people are free of other tasks on the event day, so that we don’t have only people with nothing better to do attending. It won’t be possible for everyone, but most people will be able to join if they want.

We are currently facing several issues:

  • We can’t get enough people interested, hence there aren’t too many good ideas. We are creating buzz using email, company meetings and the managerial hierarchy.
  • Preview sessions where people present their ideas and try to find team mates don’t get enough attendees (and some people even come only for the food, at the end of the meeting(!), skipping the presentations).
  • This is the second year of the event; last year had only one successful project. The others were either unfinished, ditched, or were proposed to clients but they didn’t like them. This may be killing motivation. We obviously can’t guarantee that an idea would be used.

I have read several articles on the Internet regarding organizing such events, but most of them were focused at public ones where you are looking for outside people. They tend to talk about the venue, food and so on, and I have taken steps to make sure these aspects are addressed.

My questions are:

  • How can we resolve the above issues and motivate people to join?
  • Are the prizes we offer insufficient? We’re doing this mainly as a team building exercise and don’t want to offer monetary prices so no one gets angry they didn’t win. I’ve been wondering about alternative awards, like conference attendances, books, and the like, but maybe this can also create tension.
  • What other tips do you have regarding organizing a successful hackathon?

Current status

Thank you guys, I'm receiving a lot of useful input. The biggest issues you highlight seem to be the duration of the event and the personal effort we are trying to convince employees to invest. I'll see what part of your suggestions we can implement and edit the question with the outcome.

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    "Winners don’t get a monetary price" " I don’t think we’d be able to compensate them for the night" I read all of this like "please come up with great ideas the owners of the company can get wealthy off of and we want a time commitment beyond normal working hours but we're not going to pay you anything extra for the extra time you spend on these ideas we will almost definitely use to make money off of if they're good ones." Why would I want to get involved exactly? I don't need a new coffee mug, I don't even drink coffee. – Andrew Whatever Nov 13 '15 at 16:27
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    Are these people prepared to support the code they wrote after not sleeping for 22 hours? – corsiKa Nov 13 '15 at 23:12
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    @JohnSomeone "committee members insist on the 24-hour setting"... Why? Seems illogical by any standard, including employee productivity the next day. Is there any reason beyond "Someone read a book"? (If that?) – Basic Nov 14 '15 at 23:11
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    Disguising a request for unpaid overtime by making it look like a fun hip contest is fooling no one. If any of these ideas are actually good then why doesn't management make them bona fide projects and add them to the company project list in accordance with their value? – Tony Ennis Nov 15 '15 at 13:54
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    I'm starting to wonder if this is even legal. Can you really pressure your employees to work extra hours without pay? – Ypnypn Nov 15 '15 at 14:34

15 Answers 15

177

Don't make it a 24-hour event. Those kinds of events are fine for students and can work in startups or highly technical environments but most employees are just going to pass. It's simply too much of a time investment for anyone with a personal life. I also don't imagine the last 12 hours would be particularly productive anyway.

If you want to make this a team-building event, make it an 8-10 hour event on a regular, paid workday. That would probably get you around 80% participation. Any employees who don't want to spend a regular workday on writing a for-fun project with their colleagues and still get paid for it are employees you're not going to convince regardless of how you dress it up.

If you want to allow employees more time, do the event on a Friday and allow people to work as late as they want stressing that they don't have to. If they're truly excited about their project they're also free to work on it from home with a submission deadline on Sunday evening. This allows both highly motivated tech nuts and 9-to-5 programmers to participate.

The biggest barrier to entry is going to be the amount of personal time employees have to sacrifice. If you came to me with this event I wouldn't think "Cool, I've always wanted to try X.". I would think: "Great, they want me to put in 3 days' work but will only pay me for one and all I'll get in return is a lousy T-shirt."

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    Note that I deliberately only suggest one approach in my answer. There are other ways of increasing motivation for a 24-hour hackathon but reducing the hours is your best bet for massively boosting participation. – Lilienthal Nov 12 '15 at 16:55
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    Great, they want me to put in 3 days' work but will only pay me for one and all I'll get in return is a lousy T-shirt. - 100% agree with the sentiment. I like working on stuff, but not this much. I'd rather spend those other ~16 hours working on my own projects. – Seiyria Nov 12 '15 at 18:34
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    I can't think of anything I could endure for 24 hours, even something in my wildest fantasies. – camden_kid Nov 12 '15 at 19:54
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    You say that it's awkward for people with a personal life, and then suggest doing it on a Friday and letting people work late. Given that most people do most of their socializing on Friday and Saturday evenings, Friday sounds like the worst possible day. – David Richerby Nov 13 '15 at 0:32
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    Couldn't agree more with this. I love my job, I love developing software... but I have a house, family, friends, hobbies, errands, pets and a whole crapton of other things I've got to do, or would like to do, on my evening/weekend. Make it a one- or two-day in-work-hours event and you'll likely see much higher participation, particularly if you provide biscuits and sweets and mini competitions and make it into a "fun day". Otherwise it's just a "spend your free time being creative for the company for no good reason". I could have all the enthusiasm in the world, but I just don't have time – Jon Story Nov 13 '15 at 15:58
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My ~300-person company is currently in the midst of a hackathon, as it turns out, so here's what I've learned from that.

First, as others have said, that 24-hour commitment is going to be a deal-killer for some of your employees, especially if you aren't giving them other time off in exchange. Even with valuable prizes, that's going to rule some people out -- people with family or outside commitments, people who no longer have a college student's ability to just sit and code for a full day, and people who resent the demand without adequate compensation.

We run our hackathons (one or two per year) for a week during people's normal working hours. So you're there in the office with the usual people, but your project this week is your hackathon project instead of whatever you would have been doing otherwise. At the end of the week we have group presentations.

People are encouraged to work in self-selected groups but may work alone. We have a wiki page where we collect ideas, and as the hackathon approaches people are asked to sign up on the wiki saying what project they're doing and who's on the team. People can hack on anything they want that has any relationship at all to our regular work. As I write this, people are hacking on ideas for performance improvements, changes to our unit-test framework, better search in our online documentation, debugging tools, projects using our product (proofs of concept, possible future demos), setting up our product in a new, untested configuration to see what breaks, and prototypes of what could become new product features. We've found that people are more willing to hack on ideas that excite them.

Not all hacks come to fruition; sometimes an idea turns out to be bigger and harder than expected, or a key team member got pulled into a major customer issue, or it just doesn't work out. Do not penalize people for this. To improve adoption, reduce risk.

Scheduling is also important. We do our hackathons right after a release, before the next release has geared up too much. Even so, this limits the ability of some people to participate; when developers have the most free time is probably when the support people have the least. Try to find a time that's good for as many potential hackers as possible, but you probably won't get everybody. Decide where most of your hackers are going to come from and don't schedule it in a way that blocks them.

We don't give prizes, even token ones. We figure that anything we can actually afford to do isn't going to be enough to make the difference for someone, and anyway, we want people to do this because they want to. Quite a few product features started life as hackathon prototypes, and we've found that that is a bigger motivation than a mug or a t-shirt.

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    Comparing the OP's presented idea for a hackathon, and the one in your description above, I'd much rather attend the version in your company. I hope the OP has enough influence to help reconsider where his company is taking things. – Neil Slater Nov 12 '15 at 21:11
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    This is exactly the kind of hackathon I have participated in at work, and it really works to boost dev moral and is just fun. – adeady Nov 13 '15 at 0:39
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    @JohnSomeone: The two currently highest voted answers both suggest that the 24hr format is a big turn-off. Other than that, presentation and ease of access seem to be key (contrast signing up with an idea on a wiki with sending proposals to a committee to go on a ticketing system - the more formal you make the process, the less like a fun no-judgement event, and the more like free work for the corporation things start to look). – Neil Slater Nov 13 '15 at 8:48
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    I was hoping someone would suggest extending the number of available paid workdays as that would be the ideal solution to avoiding both the problem of a 24-hour workday and of a session that's only 8 hours long. The main problem is going to be the business cost and anyone suggesting this (especially the OP) will have to be able to defend the cost in regards to increased motivation, morale and the potential application of the created projects. I agree that prizes aren't necessary here, I would say that the chance to work on a (potentially useful) passion is its own reward. – Lilienthal Nov 13 '15 at 10:38
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    @JohnSomeone I cannot even imagine wanting to participate in the event you described in your question - all I see in your description is ways to massively repel people from it. This answer describes an event that sounds way more agreeable and fun. – xxbbcc Nov 13 '15 at 15:38
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While this may seem strange to someone fresh out of school, this is generally what life looks like to adults :

enter image description here

What you are proposing is the encroachment of Work's enormous green slice into the tiny little sliver of peaceful free personal leisure and development time that is left over in one's day after sleeping, eating, cleaning, laundry, yardwork, shopping, family caring, household finance logistics, other appointments, commitments, etc, are taken care of. This is extremely precious time.

Think about what you are asking them to give up to accomodate this event. A month of planning, extra work hours, organizing and managing teams and collaboration... in exchange for the little free time they have to do the things they actually enjoy? Displacing work hours they desperately need to actually get their real job done?

Believe me - your co-workers are probably more surprised that you think they'll attend than you are that they won't. You might get more takers if you pay them double time for their extra hours or give them a free three-day weekend or two.

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    2.5 hours leisure each day would be awesome. It's closer to 0.5 for me by the time all the house work is done... I haven't even touched my main home/leisure programming project in probably 10 months now (I just went to check GitHub to see when my last commit was, but it appears they're down at the moment). – Brian Knoblauch Nov 17 '15 at 13:53
  • @BrianKnoblauch ...and that's the thing about this 'average' dataset. The bit that eats up all the difference is largely that red slice. – J... Nov 17 '15 at 14:15
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    Damn I must be a glacially slow eater. – Todd Wilcox Jul 8 '17 at 18:39
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For myself, I would not be willing to sacrifice my personal time for any "work team-building exercise".

Since it is a 24 hour event, that seems to suggest that I would be committing my own time to this event. Anybody with families or other commitments may think they would be expected to stay longer than usual to help their team win, and so pass because they aren't able too.

In addition, there are more important business needs that presumably need to addressed regardless of whether I participate or not. If I do participate, even if I am not expected to stay longer for the event, I may end up having to stay longer some other time to make up for the work that I didn't do while this event was happening.


Taking that into account - here is my advice:

  • Consider hosting the event somewhere other than the workplace to get people out of "work mode". For a hackathon - this is very difficult because it requires your development machines, so I understand it might not be feasible in this case.

  • Make sure there are no imminent deadlines which require more attention than the event

  • Make sure its understood that there are no expectations to stay after work

  • Prizes can be fun, but most people aren't very interested in them unless you have a competitive company culture. Free food always gets some people to show up, but if it's available while skipping everything else those people will take advantage of that. Food, then remove food, and do preview session while everyone is still sitting down, (but hopefully have finished eating).

  • The event should be a "break" from work. As it seems now, it sounds like "more work disguised as a contest."

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So, I can work a normal work day, or I can work a 24-hour day. If I do the 24-hour day, I might get a small token of recognition, like a coffee cup. Oh, and a t-shirt. I have to do a bunch of work to get ready, along with all the other normal work I have to do. That sounds great! Count me in!

It's a lot of time and effort for almost no personal benefit, so I'm not surprised you can't get people to join. You need to add something of real value to make it worthwhile, and a t-shirt and coffee cup is not enough. There should be a decent cash prize or nice merchandise, and everyone who participates should get at least one day off. For 24-hours, make it two days off.

Your alternative award suggestions of conference attendances or books doesn't work. The reward for hard work should never be more work, and it should never be something work-related. It should be the opposite of work-related. Movie tickets. Restaurant gift cards. Tickets to concerts or sporting events. Everybody who participates gets those, by the way. Not just the winners.

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    If it was "winner gets two weeks paid leave, best 20% of the other entries get a week paid leave" it might work. You're gambling up to 24 hours for the prospect of 40. – Móż Nov 13 '15 at 2:53
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    @Mσᶎ which, unfortunately, still doesn't change the fact that I don't have 24 hours. Three days of 8 hours, maybe (well, 7.5, as I work a 37.5 hour week) – Jon Story Nov 13 '15 at 16:05
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I'm not even sure if a 24 hour block of time is humane or ethical. Sometime in one's 20s this becomes much more strenuous on both mind and body. I can think of at least one medical condition - bipolar disorder - where this type of sleep hygiene is very contraindicated, and I feel people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s could list myriad other quirks and ailments that make this event feel exclusionary.

It needs to respect normal working hours. Otherwise you are creating a free lunch for the employer to eat up more hours of the employees and they're smart enough to see what is going on. The company should pay for the employee time.

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    +1 for "The company should pay for the employee time." This is the way the world has worked, ever since they abolished slavery. – Ypnypn Nov 15 '15 at 20:58
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    Actually, in many countries working more than 16 hours in a single day is furthermore illegal and employers can be on the hook for severe penalties if employees are found to have suffered an injury, etc, while working more than the legal maximum number of hours. – J... Nov 16 '15 at 12:47
  • @Ypnypn - Doesn't the concept of a salaried employee go against that? I thought lots of people weren't paid (directly) for their time? – Rob P. Nov 16 '15 at 14:58
  • @RobP. True, but they're still paid indirectly for their time. If the employer increases the workload, the employee can normally expect a higher salary. – Ypnypn Nov 16 '15 at 19:06
  • @Ypnypn very idealistic worldview you have there. – user42272 Nov 16 '15 at 20:05
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At a previous employer I had the opportunity to take part in several hack-a-thon type internal events. I also talked to people who love them, and people who never participated. Here are some suggestions:

  • Have an idea sharing session. You mentioned doing this already, but I just want to stress how important it is that participants be able to share what they want to do before the event. A shared spreadsheet that people can add ideas is also a good idea
  • Do it during normal work hours. As others have said, this is work time, don't expect people to code 24/7. I would suggest either Thurs/Fri or Fri/Mon. That way, people who are motivated can work the weekend, but it is not expected. People actually campaigned to get ours moved close to a weekend instead of Mon/Tues.
  • Do not put it before major deadlines. Anyone with a manager at their neck about a delivery will not participate if it means working overtime the days following to catch up on their day job.
  • Do not do it when people are on vacation. Having a hack-a-thon as schools get off for the holidays is not going to get much participation.
  • Have management support. This is the support of people who assign work. The mantra has to be "We do not assign tasks these days." In agile this means these days are not part of a sprint, used in SLA calculations, etc. These are free days whether you take part or not. This removes any idea that this time might have to be made up at a later date.
  • Get shared space. Pile all participants into a conference room on site. Go somewhere offsite. If team building is the goal, get people together.
  • Open what can be worked on. Sounds like it is being focused on client projects. As a primary team building adventure, open up the possible projects to internal project and learning exercises. Several internal improvements came out of ours including build automation, people sharing TDD, learning tools and frameworks to do core business better. You never know what cool internal reporting tool you needed someone to hack up.
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The return is too small for participants

There's a lot of great answers here already so I'm not going to write too much.

The way I personally view this (as a development manager) is that you are generating a lot of intellectual property for the company without much upside for the participants. Personal recognition is great, but it's not even close to being worth 24 hours of time that I could spend with my family and friends.

How would I fix it?

Understandably all intellectual property is going to likely be owned by the companies so I would use this as a proving ground for ideas that could then be worked on further on company time.

If something is good enough to win, why not give that person the resources to develop the idea further on company time?

I'm also in strong agreement with other posters here - 24 hours is a ridiculous ask without fair compensation.

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    Not to mention this is intellectual property that the company would most likely want to generate anyway only middle management is in the way. – joojaa Nov 17 '15 at 8:37
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I think that having it on-site while normal work is continuing and making it only one day is contributing to the lack of success. If it must be one day, it should be off-site and treated like a conference or training class. Provide facilities and food. Management must support teams being unavailable for that day, so that normal work doesn't interfere.

I think a better approach would be to make the contest about ideas, and the prizes are some amount of funding from the company to turn the top ideas into reality. The winners are selected by management, but everyone gets the opportunity to vote on them and to commit to work on them. I would feel much more rewarded by an idea I liked actually getting implemented than by getting a tchotchke. This also gets around the burden of one person having to put together a team on their own.

I'm too old and busy to do an anything-athon ;) I do like working on projects to make things better though, and would be excited by the company offering tangible support for it.

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    +1 for "I'm too old and busy to do an anything-athon" - the only "athon" someone might talk me into is a marathon, and even then only if they're going on every training run with me. – alroc Nov 12 '15 at 19:28
  • Isn't it a bit silly that the main question implies you might have to do an "-athon" to be allowed to come up with ideas to improve your company's offerings. – TessellatingHeckler Nov 16 '15 at 19:12
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We do hackathons very differently... At the end of every sprint, we have one day where everybody is encouraged to come up with something new and start prototyping it to a demoable/PoC state. This can be individually or in groups but everyone participates. Most things are completed the same day, some do require a couple of hackathons to get something demoable.

At the end of every hackathon day, we record a webex where everyone with something to show does a quick 3-4 minute presentation. The video is made available for everyone in the company to watch (we post a link in Slack).

If ideas seem valuable to anyone, they're added to the normal sprint process and prioritised accordingly.

This means people are doing the hackathon instead of normal work and doesn't cost them any personal time. There are no issues with buy-in or IP as this is just a normal, paid work task. It's also a bit of fun and helps keep morale high.

While it does slightly reduce the number of story points we can get through in a sprint, it's also been the cause of some excellent features (and utils, and processes) which have both helped sell the product and reduce the friction of developing / supporting it.

We consider it well worth the slightly shorter sprints, as it has definitely saved time overall.

  • Hi Basic, and thanks for the answer. This seems great but unfortunately won't work in our case as our clients would need to agree - they are very involved in the scrum process. We've had some clients that insisted on having such initiatives though - just like what you describe, only not that often. It was entirely initiated by the client and with them paying for it, it was a different picture. – JohnSomeone Nov 14 '15 at 23:22
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    Interesting. We only need to give our clients an insight into each sprint, they're not involved in the process. That said, you may find them willing to accept one day/month (which could double for training/similar if needs be). Then it's ~every other sprint. Depends entirely on client expectations... It does sound like you'd benefit by distancing the client slightly. As described, you'll never be able to justify any time for product enhancement. – Basic Nov 14 '15 at 23:30
  • How long are your sprints? Just trying to get a sense of the ratio of regular-work time to hackathon time. – Monica Cellio Nov 15 '15 at 0:27
  • @MonicaCellio 3 Weeks. It's nominally ~ 16 days hackathon-ing/year after holiday etc.. We try to protect the time, but emergencies and hotfixes sometimes take priority. If so, we scrub the hackathon. – Basic Nov 15 '15 at 3:38
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I think you are completely wrong in your approach to prizes and awards. There are two very different problems with your logic. 1) If the company thinks my ideas are only worth a company branded tee-shirt, why exactly should work hard to convince you of the benefits? 2) If my idea saves/generates $10,000 for the company and all I get is a lousy tee-shirt and a pat on the back from a senior manager who doesn't actually know my name, then why should I, or anyone else, try to come up with new ideas?

I suggest you go the other extreme. Offer 10 or 20% of the estimated value of the idea as a cash prize (or even the full value - it will still be profitable!). If one employee gets a shiny new car or a dream holiday for having a good idea, you can be pretty sure that everyone else will be thinking hard about how to improve things. No hackathon required.

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    With a company size of 300 I don't think there is a large problem of senior management not at least recognizing everyone's name if not knowing more. – Joe W Nov 13 '15 at 18:44
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    you'd be surprised. – sevenseacat Nov 16 '15 at 4:31
3
  • 24h is too short and too long. Make it 2-3 normal work days, possibly over a week-end
  • Get something cool for the winner team. Cooler than a tee-shirt that says "I did a hackathon and all I got was this loosy tee-shirt"
  • Make it clear that all ideas are welcome, including those that do not bring anything to the company per se. It is the occasion for people to work with other teams, to learn new things, and to have fun
  • Organize an idea sharing session (1h or so) so people can throw ideas and see who would be interested to work with them
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    "possibly over a week-end" - wait, what? Are you actually suggesting that people should come Saturday-Sunday and work for free? – Davor Nov 14 '15 at 12:51
  • @Davor no. I am suggesting that the hackathon can be spread on friday and monday, so if people wish to work on it during the week-end, they can. That's obvsiouly to consider carefully, to make sure there is no pressure whatsoever to do so. – njzk2 Nov 14 '15 at 17:19
2

One issue that also plays up is determining the winner.

You say that it will be a company wide vote. This kind of voting system will not get you the best results because what will happen is that people will start rallying votes and instead of getting the best idea your contest will turn into a popularity contest.

An idea should stand on it's own and it shouldn't matter if you're introvert.

That is why you need to have a jury.

  • I agree with you on this and actually this was what happened last year - the project with most votes was for something already covered by another system. It was the team's speakers' charisma that won them the event, so to say. But with no significant prize and since non-winning projects would also be considered for use by the company/its clients, there's no much point of a jury. – JohnSomeone Nov 16 '15 at 10:00
1

As others have noted, money talks. Presumably, your company will adopt suggestions on the basis of some objective criteria. Something along the lines of "Adoption of this suggestion is estimated to increase corporate sales by X percent", or "This will cut costs by X dollars".

Why not allow the participants to share in this? Keep giving the free stuff to all participants, but give those whose implementations are adopted some percentage of the benefit expected to be gained. Like: "if your implementation is adopted, you will get 1% of the increased sales (or decreased costs) over the next quarter"

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    And for the non-winners... Well, they just get to work 24 hours for 8 hours' pay. Awesome. – David Richerby Nov 13 '15 at 0:36
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    @David Richerby, not for everyone, I know, but I would be willing to take that risk. Maybe my ego is getting the better of me but to risk 24 hours of my time for a chance to share in the profits my great idea will produce ... sign me up! – Michael J. Nov 13 '15 at 14:47
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    What happens if your idea is adopted but then sales decrease (or costs increase)? – Brandin Nov 16 '15 at 11:25
  • "if your implementation is adopted, you will get 1% of the increased sales (or decreased costs) over the next quarter". I came here to say that, but would not participate on those terms (I still upvoterd you though :-) Make it 5 to 10% of net profit forever and I might be interested. If not in the USA, I might prefer a side project & keeping all the profits, if in the USA, quit & form a startup. However, I do recognize that the company brings a lot to the table, in finance, marketing, etc, so would probably settle for 5 top 10% ---> – Mawg Aug 15 at 15:27
  • ---> A measly 1%, in the 1st quarter, when the product is just taking off, does not sounds enticing, and probably woudln't pay the 16 hours overtime that I put in. I wholeheartedly concur with your answer, we are just quibbling over figures. – Mawg Aug 15 at 15:28
0

Make it 100% clear that this concepts/ideas that are generated during the event remain the intellectual property of the employee

As your event is company related, but not a paid event, people may be worried that if they do something great it would become property of the company. As the company technically is paying for the "prizes" this could be compensation for the idea which would (depending on employment contracts) be a cause for intellectual property transfer.

Overall some people would not want to risk loss of intellectual property for a free event. By clarifying this it would possibly make more people join and prevent possible future IP disputes.

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    As reasonable as this is from an employees perspective, it really makes no sense for the company to do it. I might suggest bigger and better prizes for changes that make the company money, but it wouldn't make much sense, and probably wouldn't look very good, to have to license a part of the application to an individual, at least not for enterprise level products. – Sidney Nov 12 '15 at 21:03
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    It is standard in a contract that any ideas the employee has while on the job is the property of the company. That is what they are paying you for as a software developer. So this would not fly. Imagine coming up with a great idea at an internal hackathon, then trying to sell your idea back to your company. Not cool from the employer perspective. – adeady Nov 12 '15 at 23:32
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    @adeady, that makes sense if they're paying for the time at the hackathon. If you aren't compensating people for their time, yet you still want ownership of output produced... WTF? – Charles Duffy Nov 12 '15 at 23:41
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    @CharlesDuffy, If it is during a normal workday, even if it is not "work" they are paying for it. Also, I am speaking from a salaried point of view, where "on the clock" can become vague. If it is done on their equipment, in their building, and they hosted it, legally the intellectual property belongs to the company. It may suck that your ideas belong to the company, but that's currently how the corporate world works. – adeady Nov 13 '15 at 0:19
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    @adeady, but keeping it within the normal workday is not the proposal at hand (this would indeed be compensated time). Yes, company materials, so it's legal under any usual contract -- but that leaves us with the question of employee motivation. – Charles Duffy Nov 13 '15 at 0:23

protected by Jane S Nov 13 '15 at 12:50

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