Devpost offers several project management services which include the creation of rules specifically designed for your hackathon. These rules protect you as a sponsor while ensuring the hackathon is completely fair and governed by the correct laws. Email us to learn more.
Every hackathon has different rules and all hackathon managers should be well versed in your own hackathon rule details. Below we will cover some tips for creating rules for your hackathon and what the differences are for in-person and online hackathons.
PLEASE NOTE: Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice from Devpost nor is it intended as a substitute for using an attorney.
For online hackathons
You should absolutely work with a qualified attorney to create a set of Official Rules for your competition. Hackathons are contests of skill and have legal requirements which vary by state and country. You should also involve your attorney if you have questions during the competition about updating, clarifying or interpreting your Official Rules.
Below are some things to consider when working with your attorney to create the Official Rules and when applying the rules. These have been put together based on our experience powering hundreds of challenges.
You will want to make sure the Official Rules include clear and compliant language around the following basic areas:
Dates. What are the key dates & times for your hackathon? These dates should be set on your hackathon site and include important dates such as the deadline for submissions and the announcement date for winners. Here is an article on how to set dates on your hackathon site.
Eligibility. Who can participate? You should highlight any restrictions such as allowing teams, individuals or organization, minimum age, team or organization limitations, residency or location requirements etc. Here is an article on how to set eligibility requirements on your hackathon site.
Submission Requirements. What do contestants need to create and provide in their submission to be eligible for prizes? This should include details around what requirements are necessary to create an eligible project along with what submission assets are needed for judges to properly access and assess their project. Be sure to make these requirements clear and concise on your overview page text around Requirements.
Prizes & Winner Selection. What are the prizes and how will the winners of those prizes be chosen? Be sure to include any judging criteria or specific eligibility requirements for your prizes. Important: Be sure that the hackathon rules are fair and not disadvantageous to participants in any way, otherwise, you risk not having ample registrations or submissions.
Below are some things to cover with software submission requirements:
- Functioning App. Does the project need to be fully functioning? If so, how is that defined for the competition? If not, what is required (e.g. design, clickable prototype, video of an app on a simulator)?
- Specific Tools. Is the project required to use an API, SDK, or data set?
- Topic / Categories. Are there any category requirements, content, or specific challenges the app must focus on?
- Platform. What operating systems or devices can the project run on?
- New vs. Existing. Do projects need to be new for the competition? Are existing projects eligible? Do existing projects need to be modified or include new functionality?
- App Store. Do projects need to be up on a mobile app store? If not, do they need to be submitted to an app store or marketplace before the submission deadline and how will you assess this is completed? If the app is not publicly available, what is required for testing?
- What to enter. Aside from a link to the project, what else are you requiring contestants to submit to describe or demonstrate their project and/or make it available for testing?
- Video. The Devpost platform accepts links to YouTube, Vimeo or Youku. Are you requiring a video? Does it need to include a demonstration of the project? Are there any limits or suggestions on length?
- File Upload. The platform allows submitters to upload one file, though they can combine files into a single ZIP file. Are you requiring any file uploads, such as installation files?
- Other. The platform requires contestants to enter an entry name and description. Include any specific instructions for these and any custom fields we’ve created for you in your rules.
- Multiple Apps. Can contestants submit more than one project?
It’s important that the requirements above aren’t just buried in the Official Rules! You want visitors to your hackathon site to learn quickly whether they are eligible and what they need to create. We recommend repeating and summarizing key requirements in other places. Here are some help articles for those areas:
Updating Hackathon Rules
We recommend avoiding updates or changes to your rules after the competition launches unless absolutely necessary. If you think it is necessary, you should consult your attorney. Here are a few practical suggestions to consider in addition to the advice from your attorney:
Don’t disadvantage anyone. Contestants may have started work based on the rules in place at launch. Avoid changes that could put them at a disadvantage or make them wish they had started in a different direction.
Don’t do it last minute. Don’t change dates at the last minute! Contestants who worked hard at the end may be unhappy with a last minute extension of the submission deadline or winner announcement date.
Update everywhere. If the rules change, be sure to update any related language elsewhere on the site, such as the Enter a Submission page, How to Enter, and FAQ.
Communicate. Communicate important changes to the rules using the communications features in the Devpost manage area. Consider sending:
- a message to anyone who has submitted already
- a message to anyone who has created a draft
- an update to people who have registered for your challenge (or include information about rules changes in your next general update)
Applying and Interpreting Hackathon Rules
Follow your own rules closely!
Contestants will hold you to them. Don’t allow submissions that are missing a requirement or that include something prohibited. If your rules say a submission “must” (vs. “should”) include or do something, then it must. For example, if you require open source projects, the projects must be open source, you will likely need to disqualify submissions that haven’t added the correct open source license.
If the rules leave room for discretion or interpretation, check with your attorney and make sure to apply the rules consistently to everyone participating in the challenge. Remember, disqualifying a project because of a rule you wish you had is not fair and is not sufficient.
Respond to questions about your rules posted on the Discussion forum.
Make sure everyone gets the same info
If you receive questions via email about your rules, post your answers to the Discussion forum as well, so everyone benefits equally from any clarification.