Unleashing variations on a theme through hackathons
Published Jun 13 2023 09:08 AM 1,168 Views

Recently, Anshika posted about OpenAI Hackathons at Microsoft, including some of the cool things they have produced, as well as some resources for running successful hackathons. I participated in these, and have seen a rise in my customers around building more intelligence into their apps and processes.



microsoft/hackathon-starter-kit: Hackathon Starter Kit - Resources to help you organize and facilita...


Specifically, the exploration of using Azure OpenAI and other AI capabilities like cognitive services is continuing to increase. Hackathons can bring together individuals with a shared passion for technology, encouraging them to tackle real-world problems. In this blog, we will delve into some key principles that can help participants make the most of their hackathon experience and achieve remarkable results.


Have a problem in mind

When engaging with leading-edge technology like Azure OpenAI, it can be tempting to dive in and poke at the tech without a specific goal in mind. However, the most fruitful approach is to identify a problem worth solving. By narrowing the focus and setting a clear objective, you can gain a deeper understanding of the technology and its potential applications. It is crucial to communicate this problem to your team, ensuring everyone is aligned and working towards a common concept.



Make an effort to quantify the impact of solving the problem (or a meaningful part of it). Try to use a specific metric, even if you’re not sure of the precise values yet. We’re trying to save X minutes every time this activity is done.


Be open to ideas

The true beauty of a hackathon lies in the diversity of its participants. People from various backgrounds and perspectives come together, fostering an environment rich in creative potential. Embrace this diversity and actively seek out ideas from others. Collaborating with individuals with different skill sets and viewpoints can lead to innovative breakthroughs and unexpected solutions. A willingness to listen, learn, and incorporate ideas from others can significantly enhance the overall outcome of your hackathon project.

I recently came across three great solutions to what is effectively the same problem: how do I help people troubleshoot errors so that they can unblock themselves more quickly? The approaches each focused on a different user experience:

  1. ChatGPT-like website – offering a dedicated place to go when you realize you have a problem
    1. Azure-Samples/cosmosdb-chatgpt: Sample application that combines Azure Cosmos DB with Azure OpenAI C...
  2. Teams Chat – leveraging an existing communication channel with a purpose-driven
    1. Azure OpenAI Assistance for Power Virtual Agents - Microsoft Community Hub
  3. Azure Dev Ops Issues – capitalizing on an existing intake (Issues) to improve triage and response
    1. Using Azure OpenAI and Logic Apps to Triage Bugs in Azure DevOps | Steve Says

I love to see this kind of variation and appreciate it. Heck, I wrote one of these, but there’s an elegance to each of the others as well to fit to purpose. Keep an open mind!


Solve the problem, don't seek the perfect solution

In the fast-paced environment of a hackathon, time is of the essence. The primary objective is to generate ideas and quickly bring them to life. It's important to remember that perfection is not the ultimate goal at this stage. Instead, focus on solving the identified problem in a feasible and efficient manner.



Embrace the spirit of experimentation, iterate rapidly, and prioritize functionality over polished perfection. A working prototype that addresses the core issue will often be more valuable than an overly complex solution that remains incomplete.



By starting with a clear problem statement, embracing the diverse perspectives of your teammates, and prioritizing solutions over perfection, you will unlock your creativity and pave the way for groundbreaking innovation. The hackathon environment is an opportunity to push boundaries, learn, and collaborate with like-minded individuals, and by adhering to these principles, you will be well on your way to success. Let your imagination soar and let Azure OpenAI be a catalyst that turns your ideas into reality. Good luck, and happy hacking!

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