Authors: Alexander Nolte, Linda Bailey Hayden, James D. Herbsleb
Abstract: Time-bounded events such as hackathons have become a global phenomenon. Scientific communities in particular show growing interest in organizing them to attract newcomers and develop technical artifacts to expand their code base. Current hackathon approaches presume that participants have sufficient expertise to work on projects on their own. They only provide occasional support by domain experts serving as mentors which might not be sufficient for newcomers. Drawing from work on workplace and educational mentoring, we developed and evaluated an approach where each hackathon team is supported by a community member who serves in a mentor role that goes beyond providing occasional support. Evaluating this approach, we found that teams who took ownership of their projects, set achievable goals early while building social ties with their mentor and receiving learning-oriented support reported positive perceptions related to their project and an increased interest in the scientific community that organized the hackathon. Our work thus contributes to our understanding of mentoring in hackathons, an area which has not been extensively studied. It also proposes a feasible approach for scientific communities to attract and integrate newcomers which is crucial for their long-term survival.